comScore
  1. Mediaite
  2. Gossip Cop
  3. Geekosystem
  4. Styleite
  5. SportsGrid
  6. The Mary Sue
  7. The Maude
  8. The Braiser

What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Essay

NY Times to YA Publishing: Stop Being So Girly


Presumably discontent with having an entertainment industry that is primarily focused on men, the NY Times lashed out at the Young Adult publishing industry Friday for having too many girl books.

Yes, you heard that right. In an article entitled “Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?” author Robert Lipsyte speaks about the publishing industry’s desire to “demystify to the overwhelmingly female audience the testosterone code that would get teenage boys reading,” and says that in order to get boys to read, they need to “be approached individually with books about their fears, choices, possibilities and relationships — the kind of reading that will prick their dormant empathy, involve them with fictional characters and lead them into deeper engagement with their own lives. This is what turns boys into readers.”

Because apparently what turns girls into readers is passing around copies of Twilight in between nail-painting sessions at fifth-grade slumber parties. Or something.

Lipsyte goes on to opine vague and unsourced “statistics” that say that boys don’t read, and states that teachers “don’t always know what’s out there for boys,” despite the fact that the vast majority of books taught in public school systems are written by men. Certainly when I tutored students, testosterone-coded writers like Walter Dean Myers and Chris Crutcher topped the list of reading assignments. But it’s not just teachers who are to blame for the gap in boys’ education–the publishing industry has apparently fallen down on the job by producing books targeted at young women. In the meantime, boys “don’t have enough positive male role models for literacy.” Someone alert David Levithan.

Lipsyte insists that boys are somehow shut out of the current boom in YA fiction because the industry is currently focused on writing books for–gasp–young women, a demographic that has historically been frequently overlooked by the publishing industry at large. Lipsyte’s distress comes despite a recent study which found that not only are the vast majority of young adult novels male-centric, but YA books have actually become more male-dominated in the last 100 years, not less. With only 31% of all children’s books published even having main characters that are female, this argument should be completely moot. Alas, Lipsyte’s just getting started.

Lipsyte ignores the undeniable fact that most books contain male characters, and instead lambastes the publishing industry for actively promoting girl stories: “at the 2007 A.L.A. conference, a Harper executive said at least three-­quarters of her target audience were girls, and they wanted to read about mean girls, gossip girls, frenemies and vampires.” Note that 2007 was in the middle of the glut of paranormal romance brought on by the success of Twilight, which most industry insiders agree is now winding down. And given that the publishing industry is notoriously unable to predict what the next big trend in reading will be until it hits, it’s difficult to take this claim from 4 years ago seriously, considering that just in the four years since we’ve seen The Hunger Games, zombies, and the continued success of male writers like John Green and Cory Doctorow–none of which screams “girls only” to anyone with a brain.

Also, let’s remember that “chick lit” as a genre didn’t even exist until Bridget Jones’ Diary alerted the world that there might be room on shelves for stories about modern women dealing with modern issues that didn’t slot neatly into “romance” or “adult literature.” But chick lit, or its more industry-friendly title, “women’s fiction,” also cycled through its period of popularity, the way all breakout genres eventually do. Only one thing has remained consistent, and that is that books about men continue to sell.

Lipsyte has the audacity to whip out the tired and much-used argument that “it’s a cliché but mostly true that while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters.” Hollywood has been using this line for years to promote the systemic exclusion of female characters from cinematic narratives, and it’s as untrue now as it ever was. The danger of this line of thinking is that it creates a negative feedback loop that allows the industry to continue claiming that men don’t go see movies about women–because the industry won’t make movies about women for them to go see. The truth is that audiences want good stories, regardless of whether they have men or women at the center: or did the huge success of last year’s Alice in Wonderland not drive that point home?

Not for Lipsyte, apparently, who claims that “children’s literature didn’t always bear this overwhelmingly female imprint.” Leaving aside the question of what an “overwhelmingly female imprint” looks like, the truth is that children’s literature, more so than any other publishing genre aside from romance, has historically made room for female authors at times when they would have had to use a male pseudonym to have a writing career. Certainly female authors from Beatrix Potter to Beverly Cleary found a voice in children’s and YA lit long before it became acceptable for women to publish under their own names in other genres. And even so, literary giants like S.E. Hinton and J.K. Rowling were published under gender-nebulous initials, because the stigma against women writing about boys was so strong. Teens to this day still react in surprise when they learn that the author of the gritty, male-centric The Outsiders was a woman.

In an epic moment of point-missing, according to Lipsyte the success of those initial-only authors proves that women can succeed writing about men, after all; without acknowledging that it may instead be evidence to prove that publishing, just like every other industry, is harder to break into if you’re a woman, and twice as hard if you’re a woman who wants to write female characters.

Lipsyte longs for the days when female writers “wrote well about both genders.” (Has he read any books by women lately, we must wonder?) He lists Judy Blume as an example, ignoring the fact that most of her books addressed important isssues that many girls faced but no one talked about: periods, bra sizes, teen pregnancy, and female adolescence are hardly “non-gender-specific.”  Somehow Blume passes Lipsyte’s nebulous de-gendered test, as does S.E. Hinton. He goes on to list Robert Cormier as an example of “what’s currently missing,” without considering that perhaps the reason no one is trying to be the next Robert Cormier is because students are still reading Robert Cormier.

Lipsyte doesn’t say whether, in the middle of this rosy time when the Paul Zindels (and Cynthia Voigts) of the world were writing acceptable books, he ever presented his son with Jerry Spinelli‘s Stargirl, a classic YA whose titular character unites an entire school for a temporary celebration of nonconformity. Granted, Stargirl was arguably one of the first manic pixie dreamgirls, and Lipsyte’s preference for Cormier’s non-redemptive writing means he probably tossed Spinelli’s humanist desert fairytale into the DNW pile. But Stargirl‘s enduring popularity proves that if nothing else, men can write strong female characters, and those books can find a place on the shelves of boys and girls alike. Much more recently, China Mieville‘s Un Lun Dun proved that a respected male sci-fi author can not only cross over into the dreaded all-female young adult category, but can successfully write about female characters saving the world. It’s not that hard, guys.

>>> Next Page: Thirteen Reasons Why, “Gendered” Stories, and After School Specials

TAGS: | | | | | |


  • http://profiles.google.com/thegneech John Robey

    NOTE: “Page 2″ link appears to be broken.

    Beyond that, good article. :) I just wonder now if I’ve read the whole thing!

    -The Gneech

  • http://twitter.com/Menshevixen DH

    Wow. WOW. I really have no words for this. 

  • Anonymous

    Fixed now, totally my fault. Enjoy!

  • Anonymous

    Awesome analysis of a crappy article.  It felt like he got mad that books like Twilight and its endless spawn are so popular instead of whatever edgy stuff he’s writing, and decided to make up some excuses about how “the industry” (and all those female librarians!) is to blame.  Once I finished feeling indignant I just felt bored.  The whole “oh noes, boys aren’t dominating everything anymore” thing has been floating around for more than a decade now. I get that it’s tempting to blame it on the women-folk, but maybe someone could come up with something more interesting?  And maybe supported by data instead of anecdotes?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R2FMHKH5PXMKNIJ5PDG37N4SVQ Erin

    Hm, the guy who wrote the article you’ve analyzed so wonderfully sounds like a bitter douchebag.  Yay.  Anyway, another fantastic example of a man writing fabulous female characters: The “Abhorsen” series by Garth Nix.  How anyone could not love Sabriel and Lireal is a mystery.  And if anyone here hasn’t read “Sabriel,” “Lirael,” and “Abhorsen,” go read them right now!  Now, I say! Seriously. They’re amazing. :D

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Poor old patriarchy!  We have it SOOooooo tough, us white males.

  • Lucy Woodhull

    If only boys could enjoy books and movies about girls.  But nah, that could never happen!  Girls suck, yo.  It practically tuns a straight, healthy boy gay to read about a female protagonist.  That’s not me saying that – it’s science!
    /sarcasm.

  • Lucy Woodhull

    If only boys could enjoy books and movies about girls.  But nah, that could never happen!  Girls suck, yo.  It practically tuns a straight, healthy boy gay to read about a female protagonist.  That’s not me saying that – it’s science!
    /sarcasm.

  • http://twitter.com/shuttercatt Ema

    If they are seriously that worried about boys reading, maybe start trying to get them read at an early age, regardless of the characters. My mom has an extensive library of Sci-fi and Fantasy novels, which both myself and my brother and sister picked from as we grew up. Now my brother has his own collection, and he reads every night before bed…. and in the bathroom.

    That’s it! Problem solved. Books in the bathroom. (within arms reach of course)

  • http://www.genreville.com/ Josh Jasper

    The NYTRoB has a hard time understanding anything that’s not Rushdie or Lethem.  I sometimes feel it’s unfair criticizing them on their take on anything outside of bestselling mainstream fic/nonfic, because they suffer from a crippling inability to understand any of the world outside of that specific sandbox.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IGRK4BKTKC5RGO56RXTUEVFJSM ainok

    It’s pretty much a universal fact that the more privileged a group happens to be, the more entitled they feel, and the more they whine. Excuse me while I just go dig up the world’s tiniest violin….

  • http://kellybarnhill.wordpress.com/ Kelly Barnhill

    Fantastic and measured response to a total bullshit article. I don’t know what was worse about the NYT article – his endless whine about publishing’s LADY CONSPIRACY, his backhanded swipe about shouldn’t those women be writing perfectly nice mid-list fiction and quit their queerification of our Nation’s Boyhood, or the fact that he insisted on using his tired generalizations without even once backing up his claims with facts, numbers or statistics. 

    In the end, we all know that the purpose of reading is to break barriers, not to build them. We need books that speak to the experience of boyhood and the experience of girlhood, without asserting that these books are FOR boys or FOR girls. Books are for everyone; we seek to see ourselves reflected and the Other illuminated. We read to enlarge ourselves, deepen our understanding and broaden our world. Why on earth would we want to limit that?

  • Life Lessons

    Sorry to be so crass but people whining about YA material being for girls only can take that sexist BS and  –

    Well you know the rest.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, this article is dumb. The publishing industry is an industry and not a very clever one at that. I get that it seems like the YA section of Borders is just mean girls books and sexxxy vampire books, but talk to a bookseller and they can ususally recommend something good.

    I think it also goes farther than just there aren’t any books for boys, I think boys are discouraged from reading. I think it’s seen as “uncool” and even “girly.” Reading is something the smart kids in class do, you’re assigned reading for HW and then these smart kids go home and do some of it on their free time. It’s like doing math for fun. Because of that I think reading gets a negative connotation for certain kids. I also think that boys are almost expected to act out. It’s another extension of gender stereotypes. Boys are agressive (and active) they like sports, they act out in class they’re expected to be explorers and push boundaries. Girls are passive, they stay at home, they aren’t supposed to spend that time becoming powerful or doing exercise so they read, (usually about frivoulous topics). Just like boys get to act out, girls are expected to follow, we’re not leaders. Girls are the “good” ones because we seek that approval. The reason we’re seeing kids do things like this is because they are reacting to gender norms as they see them and are exposed to them. Kids are simple, you put something in and you get it right back. If your kid is saying weird things, it’s probably because they’re hearing it somewhere.

    anyway, end rant

  • http://www.facebook.com/katryngeane Katryn Geane

    I can think of a bunch of male-protagonist YA novels off the top of my head right now (Todd from “The Knife of Never Letting Go”; Quentin from “Paper Towns”; Nailer from “Ship Breaker”; Jimmy and Duncan from “Wide Awake”; Nobody from “The Graveyard Book”)… so there are plenty of male characters out there.

    In my experience, sometimes encouraging young people–girls, boys, whoever–to read not only takes subject matter they like and characters they can relate to, but also someone to encourage the habit of reading and prove it can be as fun as video games or texting. The best recommendations come from friends and teachers, and for some young people unless they are actively encouraged to pick up a book and try it out it’s one of the last things they’ll do.

  • http://twitter.com/Sarah_Nicolas Sarah Nicolas

    I hope you don’t think this too forward, Aja, but I love you.

    What I would like to see is more male READING role models. Think about it: Every time I see someone reading fiction in public, it’s a woman. If a guy has the audacity to read a book that’s not about sports or stocks in public, he gets made fun of. I see it almost every day at work. It’s a societal thing that’s not going to be easy to overcome.

    That’s why I love these posters in libraries that have famous figures declaring their love of books; I think it’s a good start. The problem with those, though? They’re only in libraries.

  • http://twitter.com/Sarah_Nicolas Sarah Nicolas

    I hope you don’t think this too forward, Aja, but I love you.

    What I would like to see is more male READING role models. Think about it: Every time I see someone reading fiction in public, it’s a woman. If a guy has the audacity to read a book that’s not about sports or stocks in public, he gets made fun of. I see it almost every day at work. It’s a societal thing that’s not going to be easy to overcome.

    That’s why I love these posters in libraries that have famous figures declaring their love of books; I think it’s a good start. The problem with those, though? They’re only in libraries.

  • http://twitter.com/jswayne702 J.S. Wayne

    This has got to be some of the worst-written drivel since that talking head from Salt Lake City said that romance is somehow comparable to porn. And like most drivel of this type, it shares common characteristics: poorly or completely unresearched statistics, wild-eyed accusations that are designed only to support the author’s premise, and an unbelievably condescending tone of literary scorn.
    I am a published author who started out reading books at a fourth grade level thanks to my mother. While kids in my class wrestled with Beverly Cleary, I was reading Louisa May Alcott, Beowulf, and Roland and Oliver. Oh, did I mention Le Morte D’Arthur?
    In middle school, salted in among comic books, Dean Koontz, and various authors in the Tom Clancy vein, I discovered YA. I read it as I did everything else: voraciously, devouring titles by both men and women, talking about both boys and girls. Although it’s regrettably true that my reading habit made me a target for bullies, I’m richer for the experience and stand to make a great deal more over my lifetime than the semi-literate mouth-breathing Neanderthals with whom I was cursed to share classroom space.
    This fallacious tripe has got to stop. Isn’t there some kind of regulatory body that oversees truth in article writing? Even as opinion, this falls down, because opinions and thinly-camouflaged scorn are given stage time as ineluctable fact. Research and facts are kind of important. I wish that more authors would look into using them before they wade into an arena with an ax to grind.

  • http://twitter.com/elsajeni Elsajeni

    Wait, he cites The Outsiders and The Chocolate War as good examples of non-gender-specific books? I… really? I mean, they’re both fine books and just as readable by girls as by boys — in fact, I am a lady and reading The Outsiders as a teenager changed my life and I still cannot talk about the end without weeping — but you know another thing those two books have in common? They are noted for having ABSOLUTELY NO GIRLS in them. This is a real funny definition of “non-gender-specific”.

    (Okay: there are, technically, two girls in The Outsiders, Cherry and Cherry’s Friend. But there are no girls with personalities.)

  • Anonymous

    Yes, there is a severe lack of male protagonists and role models in children’s literature. You just have to pick a random book at the bookstore and it is most certainly going to be about a girl protagonist and all her girl friends. Oh, wait…

    Whining about boys not reading has nothing to do with the books available. That is what happens when parents fall for the ‘but boys will be boys’ and just let them play video games or sports instead of adding a book to the list of presents their kid gets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Holland-Dougherty/100001887054498 Holland Dougherty

    It was so hard for me to find good female protagonists growing up, especially in fantasy/science fiction.  I was lucky to find Tamora Pierce, Diane Duane, Ursula K LeGuin, and Octavia Butler.  Later, I found Phil & Kaja Foglio.  And you know what?  Boys like those!  (well, my boyfriend does)  It’s still hard to find female scientists in fiction that are protagonists/well-rounded/not a sidekick.
    Anyone looking for female protagonists should check out http://www.girlgeniusonline.com  There’s a comic and a novel and both are chock full of strong females, both protagonists and antagonists.  And it’s written by a married couple, both of which have a history of strong female characters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ernesto-Jose-Narvaez-Osorio/100000325861618 Ernesto Jose Narvaez Osorio

    I LOVED THIS ARTICLE! OH. SO. VERY. MUCH! What was that guy thinking!?

  • http://twitter.com/Kirstizoe Kirsten Zoe

    Everyone should read Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi. Scalzi, an amazing writer to begin with nails the voice of a teenage girl SO WELL, its a little scary. And he does it without making her a cliche. As a writer myself, I have to say good writing takes the author outside of what they know and understand on a daily bases to stretch their creative process. As writers and readers we should be pushing down gender barriers to read stories for their human value rather than gender related biases. 

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/2df4ccp

  • http://lizzy-someone.livejournal.com/ Guest

    Adding to the list of widely successful books with female protagonists: His Dark Materials!

    Wonderful post, though one quibble:
    “He lists Judy Blume as an example, ignoring the fact that most of her books addressed important isssues that all girls faced but no one talked about: periods, bra sizes, teen pregnancy, and female adolescence are hardly ‘non-gender-specific.’”

    Not every girl has periods, bras, or any possibility of getting pregnant or getting their sexual partners pregnant. 

  • Anonymous

    LOL His ignorance is a thing of wonder. And a clear sign that his ass can’t read. Basically you’re trying to convince me that the many multitude of class-assigned books from my elementary/middle school youth (AKA – The good old days of non-gender-specified children’s reading) were for girls *and* boys?? Books like The Red Badge of Courage, Hatchet, Bridge to Terabithia, The Cay, Where The Red Fern Grows, Huckleberry Finn, Ole Yeller, The Chocolate War, The Pigman, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in The Rye, The Giver, Tears of a Tiger, The Outsiders, Fallen Angels, Heart of Darkness, Othello, The Pearl, Johnny Tremain, Frankenstein, Monster and more were GENDER-NEUTRAL? XDDD GTFO you lying liar

  • http://twitter.com/ajafair Aja

    Thank you for pointing this out. I apologize for the wording of that
    sentence and have edited the article to correct this. You’re absolutely right that it should be “many,” but
    definitely not “all.”

  • http://twitter.com/YAwriterRIP Jon Ripslinger

    Lots of women writers write from a mail point of view

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OD35QQZNBPZJXWTCBY7N4EE7VY Sarah

    Postcards from the Edge, for example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kimberly-Farley/6018811 Kimberly Farley

    I love how there is a graph in the Lipsyte article’s first page (left side)… that is unlabeled and completely unexplained in the text.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article, but I’ve got one nitpick: every single poster I saw for last year’s Alice in Wonderland movie had Johnny Depp (as the Hatter) front and center.  Since I didn’t actually see the movie, I don’t even know what their Alice looked like.  I do love Johnny Depp, and this is more about Hollywood than the publishing industry, but I think that production is not exactly great proof about the commercial success of female-driven movies for kids. (Now, when Pixar’s Brave comes out..)

    Actually, if anything, I’d say maybe this is proof that the publishing industry only seems female-dominated compared to Hollywood.

  • Anonymous

    “while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters”

    I’ll never understand this argument. If this is the case, why are we not doing something to encourage young men and boys to read books about young women and girls? Why are we not examining the deeper issues that lead young men and boys to see stories by and/or about lady characters as somehow “less than”?

    What do I know though? I’m a feminist. AND a lady. AND work in a library. Clearly I don’t want boys to read and I want the publishing industry to only EVER publish girly books about girls being girly. *eyeroll*

  • http://capacioushandbag.blogspot.com MissPrism

    I often winer if the reason why OMG ONLY GURLS READ is that it gives them a break from the blanket blokeyness of films and TV. In which case, if we want equality in reading, we want more women on telly.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    “The truth is that audiences want good stories, regardless of whether they have men or women at the center: or did the huge success of last year’s Alice in Wonderland not drive that point home?”
    Wait, the same Alice in Wonderland that a Disney executive cited as an example of a movie with a crap story that succeeded based on spectacle alone?

  • Anonymous

    My family was similar.  Also, we ALL read in the bathroom, and there was only one bathroom.  Definitely caused problems.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000169734997 Jackie Snyder

    I am actually bothered by THIS article rather than the one it is targeted at. I am a fifteen year old girl and I almost exclusively read teen fiction about boys. If you really believe the things you wrote in this article, you have obviously never tried to find a decent book in the “Teen” section. 

    Most books nowadays in said section are targeted at girls around my age. They are not targeted at girls like me, the kind of girls who are interested in geek culture. The ridiculous surplus of books about being fat, bitching out your friends and having sex with vampires continues and shows no signs of stopping. Any real bookworm knows that the books being lauded right now in the teen section, things like The Hunger Games and Thirteen Reasons Why, don’t come close to being real literature. 

    If you really believe what you wrote is correct, then you need to take a walk through a bookstore. Yes, classic literature is based mostly around males — that’s just a simple matter of history. Women got married and did dishes. Men had adventures. But if you think that’s insulting, take one peek in a YA book. These girls want to be sexy and have sexy sex. They have no self respect and they will do anything for any boy. I don’t care what your gender is — if you read real books, you’re better off outside of the teen section. 

    My personal recommendations for strong female leads : Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men, Joss Whedon’s Fray (a comic book), Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim (I read a lot of comic books), anything by John Green (strong and realistic male AND female leads), Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, Dianna Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle.

    I’m not a professional writer and I’m sure my argument has some holes, but what I am trying to get across here is that YA writing really does exclude boys, and even girls with boyish tendencies. Everything revolves around relationships, girly issues like body insecurities, and paranormal lovin’. It’s wrong and gross and I don’t like it one bit. That will be all.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, classic literature is based mostly around males — that’s just a
    simple matter of history. Women got married and did dishes. Men had
    adventures.

    You are fucking breaking my heart here.  That isn’t history.  That’s propaganda.  Women of all nations and of all economic strata had lots of adventures long before they had any legal rights in the Western world.

    Moving along to the critique of the article itself: Did you really read this article carefully?  Did you note the specific examples of the deified male YA writers, like Robert Cormier and John Knowles (and John Steinbeck and William Faulkner, not mentioned here, but cursed by generations of honors English students), who are the core of school curricula?  Did you follow the link to the study that showed that male protagonists overwhelmingly dominate at every level of literature for readers under 18, from picture books to YA?  That’s not an opinion, that’s a statistical analysis.

    Here’s something you implied with which I totally agree: Gossip Girl and its ilk, and Twilight and its ilk, are sending pretty crap messages about what is important in girls’ and women’s lives.  But it was ever thus.  The thing is that novels like those, and all the novels about how the most important thing is to catch a boy and/or to be super-hot and wear designer whatever?  THOSE AREN’T PRODUCTS OF FEMINISM.  Those are products of sexism and misogyny.

    The YA publishing industry isn’t too feminist.  The YA publishing industry isn’t feminist enough.  Maybe if the YA publishing industry got a little feminism into its bloodstream, young women like you wouldn’t be classifying liking science fiction as “boyish” and having body insecurity as “girlish”?  Maybe young women like you wouldn’t think that crap books about stalking-as-romance and shopping-as-self-expression were a sign of an industry catering too much to girls, but rather as a sign of an industry stuck in outmoded gender essentialist nonsense?

    I mean, it seems like you’re in a space at the moment when you’re tagging everything you don’t like as “girly” (and body insecurities and relationships are actually really important to teens of all genders, btw) and everything you like as “boyish”.  I know a bunch of women who were in a similar space as part of their rejecting the pop-culture Barbie doll image.  The thing is that trying to fit in in boyzones by scorning girl culture isn’t a good or effective path to happiness, whereas feminism is.

    I agree with you about Tiffany Aching being the compleat bomb diggity.  She’s a great character.  But so is Katniss Everdeen, even though I don’t love everything about the Hunger Games books.  As a “real bookworm” (i.e., a professional writer, book reviewer, and former college teacher of English), I can assure you that there isn’t some litmus test for what is and isn’t “real literature.” 

    So boys and young men feel neglected if they “only” make up 70% of the protagonists?  Someone needs an attitude adjustment, and it’s not the publishing industry.

  • tortietabbie

    Wasn’t there recently an uproar over YA because it was “too” dark and violent? And now it’s “too” girly? Jeez. It feels like The Adults just know there’s SOMETHING wrong but they can’t put their big adult fingers on it…! 

  • http://ladymercury-10.livejournal.com/ Maiasaura

    Oh my goodness.  Does this guy seriously have the gall to complain about “too many girl books” in a world where “girl books” are still in the minority?  What are we supposed to do, stop reading so that boys can have all the books?  Not exist?  

    Besides, if we can read boy books, they can read girl books.  It’s an exercise in developing empathy to identify with protagonists who are different from you.  

  • Anonymous

    This really annoyed me too. 

    Bbdoodle’s list above pretty much says it all.

    I’m waiting for them to publish a similar op-ed explaining that publishers are giving too much attention to minorities and white children are no longer finding books that appeal to them.  I posted my own rant on this article last week: http://www.lbgale.com/2011/08/23/boys-books-vs-girls-books/

  • http://twitter.com/HeadacheSlayer The Crafty Angel

    As the mother of a boy (9) and a girl (16) it has been more difficult to get my son to read. But I offer him all types of books, not just “boy-centric”. He’s in gifted which strongly encourages reading (yay!). And while he is gifted he reads slowly so that also presents a challenge.

    I think when kids see their parents read (I’m an avid reader and book reviewer, and I always buy books as gifts) they are more likely to read. Period. I also don’t care what my kids read–whether it’s magazines, graphic novels, nonfiction encyclopedias about reptiles, whatever. And with so many books being made into movies, I find that another incentive for my son–he loves to compare them.

    If a teacher says she can’t find info on boy books in 2011, shame on them. Are they locked in a one-room school house with oil lamps too?

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/2df4ccp

  • http://abookishlibraria.blogspot.com/ Deborah/TheBookishDame

    OMG, are you seriously living in the 21st century?  Times have changed on the “gender stereotypes,” Friend.  You’re pulling down all that women have worked for for 100s of years just by making the ridiculous statements you made.  Please…  I think you meant well, but I’m not even sure of that!!!

  • http://abookishlibraria.blogspot.com/ Deborah/TheBookishDame

    Here, here!  As a mom of sons who read voraciously and still received varsity letters in football and lacrosse, I can only agree with you that early reading and examples of reading make it possible for children of both genders to feel free about the materials they choose.  In our house, reading was just a “given” and since there were more books than anything else in huge quantities, and each child was given a beautiful bookcase of his and her own, there were really no discussions about whether reading was nerdy or not.  In fact, when other kids would stay over with my children, one of the first things they wanted to do was go to the bookstore…in their football uniforms.

  • http://abookishlibraria.blogspot.com/ Deborah/TheBookishDame

    Perhaps the sum and total of that article really is that women writers of girl-centered, YA fiction are just gettin’ too “uppity.”  And, they should step back and get back in their places.  Right? 

    Further, they’re making way too much money with these books, and are probably out-selling other genre.  So, let’s all go back to the “good ol’ boy” networking system where books about boys, for boys, written by big boys and published by the Big boys are predominant. 

    Give me a break.  :P    Women, it’s good to be on top!!

  • Asta Martin

    Great article! I will say one thing that will sound like a bit of a defence for Lipsyte’s argument, though.  Publishers need to stop making the COVERS of their YA books, whether they have female protagonists or not, look so girly. I purchase hundreds of YA books for my Teen collection, and so many of them are covered in swooning girls, lost-looking girls, nearly kissing girls, etc, that it’s hard to imagine a guy being comfortable reading it in public. Even books that are similar in theme and action to Hunger Games (popular with both genders) are nearly inaccessible to boys if they’re in a sparkly-looking jacket–which they often are! Can you imagine boys reading Hunger Games if the cover had depicted an angsty-looking triangle of Katniss, Gale and Peeta? 

    Also, has this guy never read Rick Yancey? Monstrumologist? Yeesh.

  • Anonymous

    Truly masculine YA fiction for boys (who want to be men when they grow up, not “guys”) haven’t been around since the 60s. No fighting pirates with swords, no slaying of monsters, just a bunch of cartoon magic and pseudo esoteric gobbledy gook. The modern boys-to-men
    are the arch-types of what *females* want boys to be, and not the men boys want to become.
    These pansies summon silly magic spells to battle representations of what insecure girls fear boys may become: men with the power to shape things to their *own liking*, which certainly doesn’t sit well with the neurotic, Establishment-conditioned paranoids a large segment of the female population has become.

    Even the most “male oriented” YA fiction is written to satisfy and meet the approval of females, and you couldn’t point out one title published in the last forty of fifty years that doesn’t fall in line with your own ideas of social right and wrong.

    Unless you learn to socialize with the other sex in a productive and empathetic (as opposed to combative and suspicious) manner you will probably die alone and miserable, increasingly shut inside the house, pecking away at a keyboard to express your anger at a world you neither understand nor are capable of interacting with to suit your own desires, which are ultimately those of happiness.
    You have to learn to socialize with men (which doesn’t mean always guiding conversation into an argument) and stop seeing some power game or attempt to “oppress” you in every little thing.

    Or continue to suffer, it’s really your choice.

  • Jikayaki

    I don’t see the need to jump on the feminist bandwagon and dispute this issue. Boys do tend to read less or stop ready altogether. There of course is a lot of material for boys of specific ages to about the end of middle school. In regards to older teenage boys the amount of novels specifically targeting this group greatly decreases in variety and quantity in comparison to material written for female readers.

    I admit there is a variety of classic novels for this age group, but search the young adult sections on popular online book stores the majority of the stories are female focused romances. The paranormal romance genre specifically dominate the lists of young adult fiction on these sites. Finding appropriate material for boys 14-18 is significantly harder than finding books for girls in the same age group.

    Twilight and similar genre novels for girls far out weigh listed novels for boys. These novels can hardly be called cases of sexism and misogyny. The authors are quite often female. One can hate the implied messages of such novels towards girls such as finding a boyfriend, being popular, and being hot are all that’s important this doesn’t change that this genre has exploded in popularity with girls. Its rather shallow to say all novels in the genre are of this nature as geek and unpopular leads aren’t uncommon. There is a variety in protagonists in these novels to some extent.

    Back on point to find novels for boys I often have to look for novels not specifically targeting the group, but aren’t inappropriate for the age group. There are a variety of good novels specifically targeting the audience, but compared to novels for girls as far as I can see they aren’t nearly as wide spread.

  • Jikayaki

    I’d argue it has everything to do with what material is available. There is an element of not encouraging boys to read, but lack of engaging material for boys can’t be ruled out. The lack of material for boys of specific ages naturally leads to decreases in boys reading. If there isn’t anything engaging and relevant for the audience its only natural that this specific target audience won’t read as many books or as often as target audiences more heavily cultivated.

  • Saurabh Kudterkar

    All I know is that I can barely find a single recent young adult science fiction without a female protagonist who is obsessing over her feelings for some generic run of the mill bad boy or Edward Cullen type perfect guy who just happens to be hot, handsome, sexy, charming, romantic, madly in love with the girl. It literally makes me bang my head on a wall with the sheer cheesiness of it, and that is even before I head to goodreads and read the reviews by all the female readers OMGing over the supposedly ‘perfect’ couple and the oh-so-dreamy shiver inducing guy, with nary a mention of the quality of the plot other than the romance aspect. Twilight did it, Mortal Instruments did it, Vampire Academy did it.

    I kid you not, its enough to make a guy want to hurl.