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Snobby boys- no girls allowed

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rbt

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 :yay Hey everybody! It's been a while since I've been here and I'm glad to drop in as always. I've been very busy. Anyhow I just had a question. I read somewhere that boy readers wont give a book with a heroine protagonist a chance. I guess because of the whole boy/girl pride thing. The writer said that boys were snobs when it comes to this and snub good books because of it. It makes since, I mean it sounds like the reasoning of a 8-12 yr old boy, but is this true? I guess they may not identify with a girl. I guess girls are use to seeing male protagonist as primary MCs so it's easy for them to adapt. Are boys macho like their older counterparts? What do you guys think the success of the Harry Potter books would have been had harry been a girl? If boys dont identify with a girl protagonist, what's the remedy? How can we make them see past gender and embrace character and story?
#1 - June 25, 2010, 10:13 PM

Hi rbt, love your avatar. Cheese! Dear lactose-intolerant cheese!

Anyway, my 8 y.o. son will not pick up a book with a girl on its cover. He is deeply embarrassed. The social structure at school is divided boys/girls with little crossover. To him, girls have cooties. The boys are pretty unified in boy-centric activites, and have a pack mentality. (this is 2nd grade, maybe they evolve as they age?)
#2 - June 26, 2010, 05:27 AM
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kadje70

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My 15 yr old son will not read a book in which a girl is the main character. He will read a book that has a strong female protagonist as long as she's paired up with a strong male (ie. Incarceron). So would he have read Harriet Potter? No. Watched the movies maybe...

As to my 13 yr old daughter? She used to read books with male 'leads', but the older she gets, the more she prefers books with strong girls, adventure, and romance. She read a couple Harry Potters but didn't get into them nearly as much as my son.

I don't know if this is something that can be changed or necessarily should be. While I hope my kids develop an appreciation for good writing in all genres, I know they'll have their preferences just like I do. I think we all enjoy the books we connect with - the books which we can place ourselves in the pages, the books that have characters we'd like to be friends with, with places we'd like to escape to. So I can totally understand why my son will probably never read Twilight and my daughter isn't interested in The Ranger's Apprentice. And it's okay with me, both as a writer and a mom. 
#3 - June 26, 2010, 06:35 AM

Okay, my sons are picky about book covers, especially the son you see in my avatar. If the book cover is "lame", he won't read it unless he has to. However, among the few novels assigned in middle school, he's liked the ones with adventurous girl protagonists, like Charlotte Doyle. Also, the boys enjoyed my reading them a novel with a spunky, smart girl protagonist like STAR OF KAZAN or SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT.

(I had to use past tense, 'cuz now they're teens and mostly into sports, and I haven't read to them in a while. And unfortunately, the assigned 8th gr. novels like STAR GIRL did not win over my son.)

The key is if the protagonist is someone (girl or boy) that most boys can relate to, and if the plot has the kind of tension and suspense and intrigue that pull boys into the story.
#4 - June 26, 2010, 08:47 AM

Liz
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I think to some degree this has been true through through the ages...

I remember as a child reading everything I could get my hands on, even books with boys as the main characters - I also remeber getting upset with some of the older books on how they treated most girls. 

I had all the Trixie Beldon books (up through 16) and I loved these books.  I had a male cousin who was the same age who also liked these books, he hid under my bed to read them so that his twin brother did not discover what he was doing.  Who would have in turn eventually told their father who would have pitched a fit.  Eventually his younger sister soon owned the complete set and he was able to read it at home without discovery.  But those first couple of books, we did such elaborate plans so he could read them.
#5 - June 26, 2010, 11:54 AM
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Cheri

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My son was seventeen before he would consider a book with a girl protag. I don't know any mg boys that will touch.
#6 - June 26, 2010, 01:59 PM

I was shocked with my 14 y.o. son told me there were a lot of guys reading Twilight at his 5-8th grade middle school (mostly the 7th and 8th graders and the "emo" kids--his words). He thought it was crazy but they were reading it. Contrary to his viewpoint, of the moms told me her rather macho son had gotten her into the series. Shocking to me. Wouldn't happen at my house. My younger son (9) would not have idependently read Clementine in third grade but loved it as a read aloud before bed. I think as a rule boys read boy protags but not exclusively (and vice versa). As far as girls being more used to reading boy protags--I would argue there are a lot of books with female protags and a few very popular ones with boys. I think if the book is one that "everyone" is reading or has a book to movie connection, boys and girls may be more likely to check it out regardless of the sex of the MC.
#7 - June 26, 2010, 03:12 PM

Kurtis

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Well, I generally don't like blanket statements about what boys like/are like, but it's probably true that most won't read a lot of "girl" books; even if they wanted to they would be nagged or teased for doing so. That being said, while I think James Patterson is overrated even for a hack, the Max Ride series is quite popular with boys and features a female protagonist.
#8 - June 26, 2010, 03:38 PM

HJV

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My son loves Winn Dixie, but other than that one, no he won't read a book with a female protagonist.
#9 - June 26, 2010, 03:48 PM

is kooky.
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My son would read anything in those years as long as it was a kick butt fantasy, but I think that had more to do with genre than the boy/girl factor. He still wouldn't have been caught dead with a pink cover.
#10 - June 26, 2010, 07:13 PM
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My boys (9 and 12) don't seem to be put off by a girl MC. But then again, I tend to read them books where there's lots of action and adventure and humour. So, if it does have a girl protag, she's usually not overly girlie.

Hope that helps!

Rue

P.S. I will admit, though, that I gave my WIP a male MC because otherwise I didn't think any boys would pick up a book about a rabbit. ;)
#11 - June 26, 2010, 07:42 PM
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I've been tutoring 8 to 10 year-old boys for the last year and a half.  They're struggling readers who are still mostly reading picture books, but I've been surprised that quite a few of them are willing to read books with girl main characters.  They definitely go more for stereotypically boyish stuff--cars, superheroes, Bob the Builder--but several of them really like some books with girl protagonists.  They won't touch glittery rainbow-colored books about fairies or anything, but they're happy to read real-life or adventure stories about girls, even if there are no boys in the stories at all.

It interests me that some people have mentioned that boys "won't be seen" reading books about girls, or don't want their dads to know they read "girl" books, or feel some kind of pressure from kids at school.  I can't imagine boys would reject books about girls entirely if they didn't feel some pressure of that kind.  I think there are always be some personality differences and taste differences between boys and girls, though. 
#12 - June 27, 2010, 02:00 AM
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RyanBruner

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While there will definitely be exceptions, my observations have been that this is true.  Boys tend to avoid books with female protagonists.  In fact, boys will often avoid books with female authors, although that is becoming less the case.  But it was the reason Rowling wrote as J. K. and not using her actual name.

I've convinced my oldest son to read several books with female protagonists, and I've loved many myself.  But, generally speaking, I prefer books with male protags over female. I can relate to them more, usually.  Interestingly, one of my favorite female protags, Tally Youngblood, was written by a male author.  (Of course, I also love Anne Shirley!)

Part of my problem is that when I read modern books with female protags written by women, the protags tend to be too feminist for my liking.  That turns me off.  It often reads as a book trying to convince the reader that girls are just as <whatever> as boys.  Frankly, that's annoying.  Because you'll never see a book that does the same in reverse.  I didn't mind The Hunger Games, however, because the author didn't do that.  Katniss was simply who she was without trying to make her want to be "boylike". 

I don't subscribe to the notion that boys are merely socialized into not wanting to associate with "girl" things.  I think it is natural and healthy.  What isn't healthy is to push boys to read girl books when they don't want to. 
#13 - June 28, 2010, 05:16 AM

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While there will definitely be exceptions, my observations have been that this is true.  Boys tend to avoid books with female protagonists.  In fact, boys will often avoid books with female authors, although that is becoming less the case.  But it was the reason Rowling wrote as J. K. and not using her actual name.

I don't subscribe to the notion that boys are merely socialized into not wanting to associate with "girl" things.  I think it is natural and healthy.  What isn't healthy is to push boys to read girl books when they don't want to. 

Yes.

When children are around 8 and 9 they prefer the company of their own sex. This is not a matter of snobbishness; it is merely developmental. I also agree that the tone and content of a story are as important to its acceptance as the male/female MC issue. It does not surprise me that a boy teen would be interested in Twilight. Edward, an exceedingly cool vampire, is as much a part of the story as Bella and probably plays into as many male fantasies as Bella plays into female fantasies.

Laurel
#14 - June 29, 2010, 10:04 AM

balletluvr

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Part of my problem is that when I read modern books with female protags written by women, the protags tend to be too feminist for my liking.  That turns me off.  It often reads as a book trying to convince the reader that girls are just as <whatever> as boys.  Frankly, that's annoying.

Ryan,

I totally agree. I'm soooo tired of the woman warrior protagonists we're seeing in movies, TV and books. They're so male-like that they repel me. But I'm probably not the intended audience.

Of course, then there's the women protagonists in the comics or graphic novels and animated shows. My goodness, they're so assertive and bold with their fighting and skimpy clothes. (How do they keep their br**ts inside those scraps of fabric?)

This is off topic, so I'll stop.

#15 - July 05, 2010, 12:02 AM

dianebailey

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I think my sons (older one in particular) gravitate toward boy MCs because they want the role model, but they don't rule out books with girls. There's this series, Twilight (some of you may have heard of it): I had to go and buy all the books because a certain person wanted them ALL, IMMEDIATELY. He didn't care that they starred a girl.

#16 - July 05, 2010, 07:04 AM

RJ_Anderson

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My 8 yo son just read THE MOUSEHUNTER books by Alex Milway and ALEX AND THE IRONIC GENTLEMAN by Adrienne Kress and loved them -- both books have young girl protagonists. But they also have very adventure-oriented, non-girly covers and plenty of active boy and man characters.

The UK editions of my faery books have plenty of boy readers -- even older teen boys -- but that's because the covers are nothing that a boy would be embarrassed to be seen with, even if they do have female faeries on the cover. And they have titles like KNIFE and REBEL that sound tough and cool.

I think that many boys will happily read books with girl MC's so long as those books don't LOOK girly on the outside and also feature things like pirates, savage creatures, swords and guns, and blowing things up. Or in my case, deadly aerial knife-fights with crows. :)
#17 - July 05, 2010, 10:16 AM

My sons were (and still are) voracious readers. They would read anything. A book with a girl on the cover might not have been their first choice, but when one was left lying around the house, they'd pick it up and read it, pink cover or not.
#18 - July 05, 2010, 08:32 PM

HJV

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My sons were (and still are) voracious readers. They would read anything.

Lucky! Getting my kid to read is like pulling teeth.
#19 - July 08, 2010, 03:51 PM

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Both my kids love to read, but around age 8 or so (as Pons observed), they are definitely more attracted to books that feature their own sex. My son loved the HP books. My daughter also, but less so. She has not finished the series, but my son has read them over and over again. There's definitely less material for boys than for girls ... thankfully, there's tons of nonfiction out there as well to keep my son reading. And I allow him to read some adult books. He's 11, btw.

Vijaya
#20 - July 08, 2010, 07:00 PM
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