I recently watched a discussion, and then online hate pile on author Shaun David Hutchinson after he tweeted that currently the YA market is dominated by books targeted towards female readers. Which is true – mainly because the biggest market share is female. You don’t see as many boys reading for recreation in the tween and teen years.
When I was in my teen years, there was no YA, so we just had to flounder around the libraries and book shops and find our own way. Boys reading were seen as geeks and nerds and socially shunned. It was the boys who rough-housed and played sports who were the most influential members of the scholastic microcosm. But granted, back then there was little representation of girls in literature.
In recent years with the popularity of YA and a surge in representation of strong female characters – and female authors breaking into what was (and in some places still is) an ‘old-white-man’ dominated industry. Finally feminine voices are thriving in literature. But has the pendulum swung too far?
The heated responses I saw as I fell down the twitter black hole were mostly about how the publishing industry was gatekeeping women out for so long, and now they have their moment in the sun and you want to wind back the clock? Which is obviously not what Shaun David Hutchinson was saying. He merely commented on a current market trend – and has seen firsthand through the experience in publishing – and things like school visits, that after middle grade titles, the young adult market has a majority of female led protagonists. Which means there aren’t a lot of books for boy to identify with.
I don’t see anything wrong with that statement, and not overly bothered with the publishing landscape because it ebbs and flows with trends and marketing gimmicks. I love the current upward tick in diverse books and socially aware characters. It’s adding some fresh blood and perspectives to literature – and reflecting the interests of the next generation.
And at the end of the day – if you look hard enough, you can find plenty of novels that fit your interest.
Looking at YA today – a genre that been around since the 1800’s but came into popularity in the 1970-80’s (remember the ‘choose your own adventure’ books?) In the late 90’s the Harry Potter franchise started to move publishers towards marketing young adult as a genre and we started seeing sections appear in book stores – separate from children’s or younger readers. Following that with the success of Twilight, Divergent, and the like – we get a surge of female-led young adult titles dominating the market. And since 2017 we are starting to see an explosion of diversity in this category. So it’s easy to see every 10 or so years the publishing landscape shifts and we see popularity in a different genre or style. It’s a little awkward at the moment where there is a growing number of diverse titles hitting the shelves – but that is coinciding with the number of books getting added to ban lists. (I can’t wait to see how that turns out!) I still think there are plenty of titles out there with male protagonists in the YA market and I don’t necessarily believe this is a gatekeeping thing from the publishers, it’s simply a fashionable trend. Plus I think this is more a social issue relating to values placed on reading in childhood. There are so many gender stereotypes enforced – girls should be seen and not heard, boys will be boys… I think there is more blame to place there for lower engagement of younger male readers. How many families encourage boys to read recreationally? How many younger boys have access to reading? It’s a much bigger social quagmire.
What’s your take on this issue?
© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.