|the only thing relevant here is that this dog is a boy|
Kurtis @kurtisscaletta @kurtisscaletta @sbrezenoff @SaundraMitchell @jonnyskov Like a lot of ppl writing about YA as a tourist, did not talk to a librarian. Retweeted by Saundra Mitchell
Dear YA Tourists,
You do yourself a disservice. Not only are you blatantly disregarding what has become the most varied, sophisticated and heartfelt groups of writings out there today—writings which break identity barriers, question social mores and, in the process, tell stories of exceptional quality and beauty— and the most sophisticated group of readers out there (see, for example, teens up in arms over whitewashed covers, etc.) you are introducing yourself to the YA and kidlit world as yet another redundant critic of something you don’t understand. We YA authors and readers are sharp. And, more than any other group of people, see bullshit for exactly what it is.
But enough of the attack. What I would really like to do is help you. As a fellow woman wanting social equality for all—men, women, nongender—I worry that the way you’ve pigeonholed the meaning of “Man” is dangerous for all young generations working so hard to break free of the outdated norms the generations before them were assigned. One of the loveliest things YA fiction has taken upon itself is to question rigid gender roles that minimize how fully a person of any gender can be true to themselves.
No other genre or age group of fiction can question gender norms as well as YA. Why? Because one of the very definitions of YA fiction is that it explores the self and coming of age in the greater context of society. YA novels question the very nature of who a character was (under the close eye of authority), who the character is now (as s/he pulls away from authoritarian forces) and, most notably, who on earth s/he is going to become, outwith the forces of authority and in the presence of a changed world.
Teen boys today are in a unique position to come of age in a time when they can find representation of themselves and who they want to be, in every possible form, in YA fiction. Putting aside the problems inherent in whining about not being able to find white, middle-class boy books when, in our society, theirs is already the dominant narrative, I would argue that wonderful boy YA novels are all around us. From the traditional tortured hero on a quest in fantasy (not usually shelved as YA, alas, thanks to gender barriers that YA Tourists insist on perpetuating); to straight, white, upper middle class males questioning the privileges that benefit them, but hurt those they care about; to gay and questioning-gender boys trying to sort out how to be male vs. how to fit in the narrow confines of “Man;” to boys of color navigating social, cultural and educational barriers; to boys questioning the role of the military on their personal values; to rural boys, suburban boys, city boys, athletic boys, nerds, lovers and friends, boy characters in YA run the gamut.
Those who take the time to talk to a librarian or source material themselves will find that YA is rife with boys who fit every possible model of manhood out there, including new ones that, sadly, YA Tourists are too drenched in fear to accept. I’m not sorry to be the one to break it to you Tourists, but the world is changing and the range of which teen boys can read about and consequently find references to their own experiences is broadening. Thank goodness. The more we, as YA authors and readers, can normalize boy experiences that don’t fit with antiquated ideals of what it means to be a “Man,” the better off we’ll all be.
In the interest of not just critiquing YA Tourists' thoughts on YA, I wanted to offer, with all the hippie love in my soul, a source for them to find what they're looking for so that they can work for a real change of opinion and come to respect YA as much as millions of readers have. There are "boy YA" lists elsewhere, but here is yet another one. Any others to add, dear readers? Leave us a comment!
YA with a focus on male protagonists:
My Name Is Not Easy - Debby Dahl Edwardson
Charm and Strange - Stephanie Kuehn
Knights of the Hill Country - Tim Tharpe
Mexican WhiteBoy - Matt de la Peña
Marcelo In The Real World - Francisco X. Stork
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chobosky
Flight - Sherman Alexie
Going Bovine - Libba Bray
Where She Went - Gayle Forman
You Against Me - Jenny Downham
Ashfall - Mike Mullin
Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley
Nobody But Us - Kristin Halbrook
The Brothers Torres - Coert Voorhees
Will Grayson, Will Grayson - Green and Leviathan
Something Like Normal - Trish Doller
47 - Walter Mosley
The Marbury Lens - Andrew Smith
Monster - Walter Dean Myers
The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta
The God Box - Alex Sanchez (or any Sanchez)
Boy 21 - Matthew Quick
Insignia - S.J. Kincaid
The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater
A Confusion of Princes - Garth Nix
Wheel of Time series - Robert Jordan (all about Rand learning how to be a man)
Of Monsters and Men series - Patrick Ness
Finnikin of the Rock - Melina Marchetta