Friday, July 23, 2010

Boy Book versus Girl Book

Welcome to my post. It's going to be a bit of a ramble but that's okay. It was until I started watching the chats on twitter for yalitchat and askagent that I heard the topic of boy books. Some talk about how there need to be more boy books in YA, while others have posted their own opinions on the boy book topic in their blogs or on twitter. Here is a good example of the topic: The Boy Problem

So, I've decided to add my opinion and discuss some differences between "boy books" and "girl books". I could be wrong on some of it, but that's why it's my opinion and not fact. I'm going to discuss a few different elements that can distinguish the two types from each other. They are main character, book cover, and content (aka story/plot).

Main Character
While this isn't always the case, some times the gender of the main character is part of what makes a book appeal to boys or to girls. In the discussion on yalitchat, for example, boy books are often described as having boy main characters. Now, I haven't done the research but I'm sure there are some boys that read girl main character books. But sometimes it's understandable to want to read about characters that they relate to easier (boys). When I was in junior high most of my personal reading had female main characters because I could relate to them (characters like Alanna and Juniper). But I also read books with male main characters, such as The Giver(Loved It), The Outsiders, and Amee-Nah. Then I switched to mostly adult fantasy for high school, with more often than not, male main characters. Cause I like elves and mages. But let's consider the main character's gender as a possible portion of the Boy Book/Girl Book discussion. I'm going to do this by sharing books I'd read in junior high/high school, though some may be from 6th grade.

Girl Main Character Books: Katherine Called Birdy, Juniper, Wisechild, Alanna series(Tamora Pierce, Daine series(Tamore Pierce), Julie of the Wolves, The Midwife's Apprentice, Flowers in the Attic.

Of Two Minds has a male pov but it's about the girl and her world created from her gift(and her mind).
Juniper Game is from male as well, and he focuses on Juniper and the telepathic game she's using him and his drawing skills for so it reads like a girl book, or from what I can remember. Still a great book.

Boy Main Character Books: The Giver, Catcher in the Rye, The Outsiders, A Separate Peace, The Wheel of Times (books 1-3), Dragonlance (Autumn, Winter, Spring), Street Lawyer, The Testament.

Most of the boy ones were either assigned at school, or not YA. *shrugs* Another thing to consider is how the character develops and what they go through. In Alanna's series, she's training to be a knight while in the start of the series hiding that she's a girl. One thing she goes through that many books don't talk about is menstruation, and that is something girls will relate to and boys won't. It's a good example of how some books, YA in particular, may have certain character developments/situations that are associated with one sex and not the other.

Book Cover
Consider the following 2 book covers. Both were bought on the same day from Waldenbooks in Casper, Wyoming. Both are from the Young Adult section of the book store. They are very different as is obvious by the covers. Would you consider one of these a boy book and one a girl book based on the cover? If so, which?  (Nothing against the authors. Both covers are neat in their own ways. I look forward to reading both books in the future.)


Book 1 has a pretty cover. The girl is pretty and the red with the flowing and swirls, just awesome. Some might say "But boys like to look at girls and girls like to look at boys!" (Forgetting that stereotypes and leaves out certain orientations. But consider this. Look at a girl magazine. What has always amazed me, even as a girl with an ex-girlfriend, is how many pictures of females are in those magazines. But that's a little off track. The cover in general, is a bit girlish (though not in the glittery pink laden kind of way, thank the penguins!).  If I had to judge the book by the cover (Yes, people do judge books by their covers), then I would say this is potentially (unverified but possible) a girl book.

Book 2 has explosions and a guy running. It says "hi, I have action, read me". Okay, I don't normally read action adventure unless there are fantasy elements or maybe sci-fi, though I prefer fantasy. But this book caught my attention and made me curious. Also, it looks (to me) like a boy book. I mean, Title in big letters with hug clouds of smoke behind them that are probably from an explosion. Almost leans into stereotypical boy book. A boy should have no problem picking up this book and having others see the purchase (for those that are self-conscious and such over books they are seen purchasing). And it has a male main character shown on the cover.

Content aka Plot (and Genre)

The story is the main factor as to what counts as a boy or girl book, in my mind. While the cover affects what people buy, the actual reading is the big event of the whole situation. Although it is possible, more often if the focus of the plot is a romance, it's going to be a girl book. Not usually the type of girl book that I'd read since I'm more for girl saving world or discovering herself with maybe a minor plot of romance. But still, romance is the well known topic in books that is deemed for girls. Boys can take it, but there are other plots that should be important (so I've heard). The truth is the content can be a bit mixed when it comes to boy or girl books. My best friend from high school, who is female, loved listening to Stephen King (it's hard to find fiction books in braille). Not YA, but the point of bringing that up is that certain types, such as horror, may be seen as more an interest to one gender but the readers will vary. Science fiction used to be stereotyped as a more male dominant genre for males, particularly the socially awkward ones.

Okay. Enough rambling for one post. On to some questions...

What do you think about the difference between boy books and girl books?
Do you consider whether your books are geared towards males or females?

My personal question on the topic: Can gay boy books count as boy books, or are they just considered gay books? (If the plot isn't about their sexual orientation.)


Francine said...


Seeing as we're talking personal POV: at a quick glance the red cover (girl) and title (not knowing content) smacks paranormal to me so I might think twice about picking it up. Not that I haven't read paranormal, I just need to be pretty desperate to read one - like I've read everything else readily to hand. I have eclectic taste in reading so pretty much anything gets read that makes me wanna keep turning the page.

The other cover says "action" and again not knowing content I'd pick up and read the blurb, and if that implied good read I'd probably browse the first couple of pages.

Getting to difference boy girl reading: it's a known fact women read more novels than men, and are more prone to genre hopping across the board!

A greater percentage of men/boys prefer graphics/magazines to that of novels. Those who do read books tend to go for Sci-Fi/crime/thrillers/action hero, and those who genre hop will lie about reading womens' fiction/sagas/romance. ;)

True or false guys?


Dawn Embers said...

Hi F - Thanks for the response. I don't often read paranormal or action either but the action book intrigued since I've heard so much about "boy books". I've been reading blogs about the Soul Screamers series, which is why I picked up that book.

Most the males I have talked books about read epic fantasy. My boyfriend likes epic fantasy and some paranormal. He also used to read stuff like Anne Rice, cause he loves vampires. Not the sparkly romance laden ones though.

My stepdad loved Harry Potter, but right now he's reading military fiction. He has read probably 15 books or more by the same author. Oddly, my mom doesn't read much at all.

L'Aussie said...

Hi Dawn. From experience of teaching boys and girls for many years, the boys in high school always choose books with a male MC without fail. Girls may be attracted to female MCs but will still go for a male MC. I can understand this choice as they are certainly different in their mindsets at this age.

Interesting response from Francine as always too.

Great post. Thank you..:)

Dawn Embers said...

Thanks for the comment L'Aussie. I wonder when that comes into play. I did reading tutor for grades 1-3 and when we did reading comprehension practices, I was surprised. I thought they would assume the main character was their gender or base on the type of story. But it seemed almost random as to whether they said it was a boy or a girl (both boys and girls).

Tamora Pierce said...

You're right about the covers: swirly art, pretty colors, female image, "artistic" lettering = books for girls/women. Covers with bold, sharp colors, explosions/lightning/weapons, male image, squared-off lettering or computer-ish lettering = books for boys/men. And the main character dictates the readership generally, though it's a well-known factoid in the book business that boys generally read books with male characters, while girls will read anything. Make of that what you will.

While I like to think that anyone can read my books, unless they are forced to read them by female friends or family, or pick up the bug by having them read to them, boys generally don't come to my books because I write adventure fantasy with female heroes. There are plenty of guys in my books, and often my female heroes are working in traditionally masculine fields, but only the guys who read my books know this. My lone male hero, Briar, one of the four Circle kids, is one of my most popular characters, if not the most popular, and I suspect it's because he's a guy, albeit one surrounded by girls. We'll see if I'm right with my next book, which features Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy, and with the book after that, the first of two about Numair. I suspect they are going to do very well indeed.

Gay boy books, in my view, are still boy books, though more girls read them than boys. They are still dealing with boy issues when they aren't dealing with their sexuality. Try Perry Moore's HERO and you'll see what I mean, or Brent Hartinger's THE ORDER OF THE POISON OAK, in which the main character, who came out in the previous book, is just trying to live his life.

Dawn Embers said...

Tamora Pierce - Thank you so much for the response. I read the post you made on the topic as well, and it was well articulated as one could expect from you. I have heard that girls will read any main character and boys tend to read male ones.

I do have Hero in my stack of books to read but I hadn't heard of Brent Hartinger's. Will have to check that one out. I was thinking the books might qualify as a boy book but I'm still new to the concept and admittedly didn't think about that when starting.

Thanks again for the comment and visiting my blog.