Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"YA" Boy Books: A Boy's Perspective

Still have intermittent access, but had to post on the reboiled hot button topic of last week (alerted to me by The Medicine Woman): the dearth of YA boy books.

Last week author Hannah Moskovitz's spirited post on the lack of YA boy books drew some strong attention within the Bransfordian writing community. This isn't the first time an author or WannAuthor has dressed down writers, publishers, etc, though it is probably one of the more well-constructed posts/rants on the topic.

While I believe Hannah's  (and others') points are well made, my take's a little different.

Boys, for the most part, do not want books that help them cope with their feelings, relate to the real world, etc. (i.e., much of the YA purview). At least not directly. We want escapism. We want to be the hero, save the world, blow up shit (lots of it - just ask Michael Bay). Sure, it's cool if the hero's got dyslexia and comes from a broken home (i.e., something we might be able to relate to), but that's secondary to story.

There are plenty of MG books geared toward boys, particularly in the fantasy (hero) arena, so why aren't there more YA "boy" books, at least in the world of make-believe? Um, there are. Just check out any ole Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror section. Chock full of books that would satisfy a large group of any-age boys. Some of us boys might grow up a bit faster and want those 'feeling' books where boy-centric 'YA' would definitely have a niche before we move onto the heavy hitters (Emerson, Thoreau, Joyce, and others beyond this dog's comprehension), but many of us don't want to explore our inner darkness just yet... or ever (I know, shocking). Lots of us will play video games til we're 50 and laugh at fart jokes til we die. Be glad if we learn to put the toilet seat down.

Anecdote: After I finished reading The Chronicles of Narnia in 3rd grade for the second or third time, I skipped right over the "YA" books to the "Adult" books. And while some of them truly were more adult (e.g., Duncton Wood), most of them were "kid" books.

Terry Brooks? David Eddings? Robert Jordan?... YA fantasy authors. Michael Crichton? Orson Scott Card? Yep, YA sci-fi. You want to label 'em, go ahead. Nothing like putting things in a box, right? But do that, and perhaps you don't go after the books next door by George R. R. Martin... definitely not kid books, but better written than many - more dynamic, more 3D characters (10 year olds and 80 year olds, males and females, all fucked up and human as can be).

Guess it comes down to do we want to protect our children or allow them to decide for themselves during their "YA" years? If the latter, stop wanting to label shit so damn narrowly. Yeah, the publishing industry wants to label everything YA (for girls) like the MPAA wants to make everything PG-13 (for boys), so we're confined to the game a bit, but let's not try to make everyone the quarterback.


Rick Daley said...

Ha ha! You said fart!

L. T. Host said...

Great points, Bane. I didn't see the original rant or the backlash (my blogging has been sporadic at best lately), but I think every point you made sums it up nicely and trumps them all.

dolorah said...

I know; I've got a 12 year old I have a hard time interesting in reading. Unfortunately, he doesn't go for fantasy. I've managed to find a couple books he'll read - when he has book reports due - but I hand't thought of Orson Scott Card. Hmm, I read Ender's Game and found it a bit too YA for my taste.

Thanks for the tip; I'll go pull it off for him.


Adam Heine said...

I'm totally on board with this one. I think Hannah makes a lot of good points, and maybe she's even right, but when I was a boy (and still now) all I really wanted was a fun action story.

So note to self: add more fart jokes.

Jess said...

Great post from the guy perspective! PS--girls like fart jokes too...just not jokes about their own farts.