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!