I think I have a niche, which is something that I would never want to admit. All my favorite books seem to have the same basic elements.
- Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
- I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
- Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- Winger by Andrew Smith
And if you haven’t noticed the trends yet, I’ll point them out to you.
- Written by guys
- Written about guys
- First person
- Mundane settings but original perspectives
- Focus on thoughts rather than events
The thing that kills me about these trends are the first two. It’s agonizing. I’m feeding into the patriarchy! Where’s my feminist punch? I can’t help which books I like…. But I did come up with a theory of why this happens.
Alright, here comes a nice little rant.
So books had a long period of segregation that still has remnants in today’s society. Girl vs. guy books. Mostly, though, it was a one way street. Girls can read guy books, but guys could not read girl books. If the protagonist was female, they were not having any of that. Yet could you blame them? Female protagonists implied domestic family problems and romance while guy books could range from self realization to destroying alien planets. Nobody saw any girls developing themselves individually or saving worlds.
And thus the dystopian fad was born.
Female authors put on their big girl pants and decided their female protagonists were going to fight evil in fiction world and bring down the patriarchy in reality with girls who can pack a punch. She can do anything guys can do… but better. Now girls have overrun the action world in young adult literature and have successfully beaten out male dominance in this genre. Except for one crutch that remains. The boyfriend.
The boyfriend is the dreaded subplot that threatens to overthrow the actual issues in these books every single time. Sometimes it succeeds (ehm, Hunger Games), but sometimes it remains to be just a beautiful little subplot to keep readers blushing and hearts fluttering.
But here’s the thing. When a male author is writing for a male audience with a male protagonist in an action book, he doesn’t need a romance. When a female author is writing for a female audience with a female protagonist in an action book, she doesn’t need a romance. But there is the inevitable placement of a romance for the appeasement of the teen girls reading the book and the stereotype that goes along with what they like and don’t like. It’s the shreds of bookish segregation that persists into present day. Female protagonists have yet to shake the shackles of their ancestors in that respect. Because now teenage girls can appreciate a powerful heroine, but of course they still want the beautiful romance as well.
Then there’s me who resents this trend. Don’t get me wrong, I love romance as much as anybody and I am all for girl power, but these just aren’t my favorite things to read. I appreciate a good world and valiant fight scenes, but my favorite books are ones that I can quote. Books that have more than excitement and romance. All my top choices may not be the most action packed or creative, but they’re original. They have meaning and characters with realistic dimension.
But I hate it. I hate the fact that none of these characters are females! Or written by women! It kills me every time and I sit here and try to shove a book with a female protagonist into nabbing a spot on my list, but it never happens. And there’s my theory on why. Male authors have nothing to prove with their male characters, while female authors have to break stereotypes and make sure their girls are independent and self sufficient. Guys just seem to have more openings available and have no needs for the boy/girlfriend crutch.
Rant over. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for books in my niche written by and about females, and hopefully one that interests me pops up soon. And hopefully the boyfriend subplot is nonexistent or subtle at most.