I can’t stop my mind from churning. If you read my recent post, then you might know why my brain has been so active. At the time, I also read a post by the AH-Mazing Shannon Hale.
I have been following her on Twitter so I had some exposure to this post, but one afternoon, I sat down and really thought about it.
The Scholastic Reading Reports do report that girls read more than boys as they age. But as Hale points out, we give books to boys with the qualifier of “it’s a girl book.” Her story of the third-grade boy afraid to ask aloud for a copy of The Princess in Black broke my heart.
Take a look at your bookshelves. If they are like mine, you will notice that a lot of the YA books are making a shift. I went to a lecture three years ago where a cover designer said that every YA book had to have a girl in a big poofy dress (she was discussing the current state of design elements, not saying it was actually necessary). But as I look at the books I have on my nightstand right now, I am seeing a shift. Yes, some of the books still have girls on them, but a lot of them are starting to have more artistic renderings.
Think about all the big bestsellers, for example: Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, Hunger Games, and Twilight.
Something most people won’t notice about all of these books is that they all lack a character on the cover. In fact, all the books rally around a symbol or typography (type face like in Twilight). These books for all their content don’t make a “girl” book or “boy” book cover.
Hale’s book, by the nature of the age group she writes for, does have a character on the cover. But I agree the nature of conversation about books needs to change. We tell boys that this is a “girl” book. The school administration assumes boys won’t be interested in what a female writer has to say. With the “gate-keepers” making those types of decisions and statements, is it any wonder that boys believe it?
I believe there are things that both sides can do to help eliminate “girl” and “boy” books. With YA, we are seeing a shift in design. I need more research to make a point on middle grade covers. But if cover designs are shifting, why then do we still feel the need to qualify a book?
Good writing is good writing. Say, “This book is something you might like. Let me know how you find it.” Start a dialog instead of shutting it down.