Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Where are all the BOYS?

I have an AMAZING (and hilarious) guest post today from friend and author Bryan Bliss. Enjoy!

My wife introduced me to Young Adult fiction. Of course, at first I was like, “Um... yeah. I’m all stocked up on my Sweet Valley High quotient for, like, ever.” I was a serious, literary writer, okay? And there was no way I was ever going to read something about some damn sparkly vampire and his girlfriend. Sorry.

But my wife kept pushing this particular book she was reading. From across the living room, she’d be laughing. Then came the tears. Then it was back to laughter. You know I was thinking: “What? Did the Babysitter’s Club get a new member or something?” When she finished the book, she was at it again.

“You have to read this book. I really think you’re going to like it. Read it, or we’re over.”

So I was all, “Woman, I got all kinds of ladies waiting for this.”

I started reading the book that night.

My initial reaction to Looking for Alaska by John Green was, “Wow, I didn’t know you could say Fuck in young adult literature.” My second? “What a great book.” I tore through it, read An Abundance of Katherines next and started trolling the YA section at the library and book store.

Herein lies the problem.

You get strange looks being a 30-something, bald dude in the teen section of the library. Moms start pulling their kids away like you’re wearing a trench coat and mumbling to yourself, All the pretty children... hmm.. yeah... Stroking the book covers gently.

Seriously. Being a male YA fan is hard. There are the mocking comments by co-workers: “Hey, Bryan - Are you Team Edward or Team Gay?” There’s the suspect looks from teenagers in the book store when you run up to them and say, “Have you read The Hunger Games? O.M.G! Peeta 4 eva!!!”

That, specifically, has never happened. Really.

As hard as being a YA reader is, sometimes being a YA writer is even more difficult.

I forgot to mention that bit. After reading Looking for Alaska, I re-wrote my book for young adults, found an agent, and am currently making plans for literary domination. Oh, I bought my wife a really nice present too.

The YA field seems - at times - estrogenized. Yeah, I made that word up. It’s how I roll.

Some would disagree, but when I look at the books, the readers, the moms wearing their Twilight shirts, I see one thing: the X chromosome. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I get it. Many boys/men/dudes don’t read. The market is decidedly female.

But ladies, please allow me to clue you in on something very important. Guys never - and I really, really mean never - do any of the following:
- Snap their fingers and do a head bob to make a point.
- Swipe their feathered bangs gently, like the wind.
- Have delicate hands that remind one of porcelain
- Say things like, “Girl, you so crazy!!!” Unless it’s ironic, of course.
- think of a girl and use the word ‘willowy.’

I don’t want to come across as sounding like some cranky asshole (or worse, a misogynist) because I really enjoy many female authors. Recently, I’ve read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, and (obviously) The Naughty List by Suzanne Young. (Have you ever heard of her? She’s brilliant.)

Of course, there are many female writers who write boy protagonists. L.K. Madigan’s Flash Burnout is a great example of a female author who nailed the (elusive?) boy voice. There are many others.

I think everyone can agree that having more boy readers would be a great thing. To do this, I think we need to write believable boys. Make them more than just dirty and fans of football. Make them inconvenient. Make them more than a simple foil for your snarky female protagonist. And please, never let them wear capri pants.

Bryan is currently represented by the fabulous Michael Bourret, so clearly his world domination is getting close. Be afraid, my friends. Be very afraid. And be sure to visit his blog HERE!


Casey McCormick said...

Awesome, awesome guest post! I'm trying to get my husband to read some YA books. I think I'll have him read this post. : ) Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts. I agree, we need more male protagonists.

Marquita Hockaday said...

LOL- Really awesome post! Glad to hear this from a male perspective. I agree with everything stated and that is why in my WIP, I have a male protagonist who isn't a dirty football player/watcher and he also never says willowy :) However, as a female, I am a little afraid that I don't fully understand the male voice. I hope I am doing it right. WHEN my book gets published I would love it if you could personally judge the male voice and let me know what you think. Great post!

Suzanne Young said...

Casey, It was so refreshing, right? I'll have my hubby read it too. He doesn't say this stuff outloud, but I bet he's thinking it.

Thanks, Bryan! You just totally outed him!

Steve Brezenoff said...

Word, Bryan. Word.

Carl said...

I know what you mean, Bryan. It's even worse being in the teen section when you are a 40-something bald dude!

I mostly read MG, but I'm trying to read more YA. I think I will stick to purchasing those books online, though.

paulgreci said...

Thanks for this interview Bryan and Suzanne. I can relate. I'm the only guy in YA section of our library, too! And now I'm writing YA. I love it!!

Candyland said...

Funny! I love a male's POV. It's not common enough.

Kristi Helvig said...

This was a refreshing - and hilarious - point of view. It also explains why our YA blog has like 2 male followers. Well, another male joined today, so it might be 3 now! :)

Erica Chapman said...

Great post - you had me laughing out loud! I agree with Kristi, it was refreshing. Thanks for sharing, and Suzanne for posting ;o)

Lisa said...

Great post. Laughing my ass off at the "girl you so crazy" comment. Very fun!

Erika Parker Price said...

Thanks for sharing Suzanne. I left the conference all excited to dig in on my 1st YA novel, but am now working on trying to nail the right teen boy voice. Thanks for the good suggestions! I promise no capri pants - my husband made me promise him the same after we went to Europe and I pointed out they were all the rage for men over there.

Bryan B. said...

Thanks everyone! It was fun to write. Now's the time when I'd give you the buy my book pitch, right? Well, that hasn't happened yet... so just send me $15 and we'll call it even.

Candace said...

OMG! That's hilarious! I enjoyed my dose of laughter for the day! Thanks for that!

Larissa said...

Bryan, you are awesome. :)

Thanks, Suzanne!

Kelly said...

Bryan is hilarious!

Deb Markanton said...

Hilarious! So good and accurate. Right on, Bryan!

~The Book Pixie said...

OMG, that was absolutely hi-freakin-larious! I would definitely read a YA book by him and he's right, the YA genre of books is...how'd he put it again...'estrogenized'. Not only do we have more female main characters but we also have way more female authors when it comes to YA. It's kind of like a nasty cycle, guys don't read cause there aren't many YA books they are interested in; authors don't gear as many books towards guys because most their readers are girls. I think the world would really be a better place if guys read more and had more to choose from. Of course, I find it interesting how many more girls will read books about guys than guys who will read books about girls. Just sayin.

Anyway, excellent guest post! I really enjoyed reading this. :D


Jonathon Arntson said...

It may be odd, but LOOKING FOR ALASKA being your YA catalyst makes me like you so much more.

Your wife, Bryan, is a good person.

bookaholic said...

This was so funny and so boys!!

lkmadigan said...

Ahh, Bryan.

I can't WAIT to read your book.

Thanks for the shout out -


Kristopher and Crew said...

Bryan, I was a fan of yours back before you were all hoity-toity, guest blogging your butt around and being super agented and what not. But you were pretty damn funny back then too. Great post, and Suzanne, your blog is sweet too, count another male amongst your readers, though I have to adjust the colors on my monitor when I read it so that it doesn't look too pink. Some of the guys I know may be willowy, but their all too masculine knuckles feel like thick porcelain against my trembling lower jaw.

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

Ha ha ha, I love it. I solemnly swear never to have a boy use the word willowy and they won't have porcelain anything.

I wish you the best of luck with world domination. ;)

Wyman Stewart said...

I'm taking my willowy frame and porcelain hands to Rodney Dangerfield's Blog. "I don't get no respect."

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

I just took my capris off. Damn you, Brian.