It feels like there are a lot of conversations going on out in the blogosphere about boys and books in the last couple of weeks. Over at The Diamond in the Window, a question about boy and girl who needed book recommendations prompted a post about boys and books and some discussion, some of which was contributed by me. At Fonograms, the author, who also has an amazing series of lectures posted about boy books blogged about how just because the main character is a boy doesn’t make the book a “boy book.” Then, over at YA author Hannah Moskowitz’s blog, Invincible Summer, she ranted about the boy problem in YA fiction and made what I thought were some amazing points, such as about how YA books have empowered girls by disempowering boys.
There are a lot of strands to this. First off, while I think the boy book thing is an issue, I don’t think the situation is as dire as some might say. There are lots of boy books across the board in children’s literature, in my opinion. I got frustrated recently by the lack of boy books in the early chapter book aisles, but then I went out and found some so while I’m still a little overwhelmed by all the pink sparkles in that section, I’m feeling better about what there is. YA also has a lot of great boy titles so while I get that there are a lot more sparkly vampire romances, I don’t see the dearth of options that everyone seems so keen to point out. There should be more and we should think about how to bring boys to those titles, but they are there. When the Invincible Summer blog entry asked when since Eragon boys were last allowed to save the world, I thought, well, Alex Rider did that in Crocodile Tears just last year. I would also argue that Libba Bray’s amazing Printz award winner from last year, Going Bovine, is a boy-friendly title, with it’s trippy philosophical journey and slacker protagonist.
Also, I think there are larger issues at play here. Girls will read books with male protagonists, but there is an expectation that boys won’t read books with a female protagonist and I think this is part of a larger problem our society has with gender conformity and stigmatizing boys who show any interest in anything even remotely associated with girls. How much of this is about the books and how much is about wider questions about gender? Do boys read differently than girls? If so, why?
Anyway, just some thoughts to chew on.