I was recently reading, and disliking, a book. Now, I’d been looking forward to reading this book for several months. I was excited. But there was a big, huge glaring issue that I couldn’t get past.
Let me explain. First, you need to know that I’m a boy. Second, you need to know that the premise of the book was fantastic, but the main character was…not. The main character was also a girl. It was one of those instances where she was just not believable. I could understand some parts of this girl’s life, but not the girl herself. Also keep in mind that many people LOVE this book (and I understand why) – but I’m just not one of them. However the book isn’t the point of this blog post.
When I was talking about the book with some friends, and specifically why I didn’t like it, someone said “well, it’s a girl book.” End of story. A sweeping statement essentially negating all the reasons I disliked this character. But this comment of “well, it’s a girl book” stuck with me. Like the book is only appropriate for one gender, and I’m anatomically predisposed to hating it.
This isn’t something new. I’ve heard the “it’s a girl book” excuse before. I think it’s a viewpoint that gets thrown around casually. Lots of people use it, and the underlying view is “well, you can’t relate because you’re not a girl.” Especially if you didn’t like a girl book – regardless of your reason. I can say I didn’t like this book because of X, Y, or Z, but because it’s a “girl book” my opinion isn’t valid. Or a girl’s opinion of the book is MORE valid somehow. Yes, there are more books out there geared towards a female market, but just because girls read doesn’t mean boys should be excluded from it too, right?
Being a guy, and writing YA, it’s not like I can avoid the “girl books.” They’re out there, and no matter how much I try to avoid them, they’re going to come at me. Not to mention the fact that there are a lot more girl MCs than boy MCs in YA (specifically urban fantasy, which is what I usually read).
Actually, come to think of it, girl books are a lot like drugs. Some people read them openly, while others keep their stash hidden. Once you start reading them, it’s a gateway to issue books, romances, and maybe even the hardcore stuff like paranormals and sci fi. Plus there’s that whole addiction and munchies issue to deal with.
Okay, I’m rambling. The point is, I think good writing takes precedence over gender any day. The “well, it’s a girl book” excuse basically suggests that I can’t appreciate Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, and so on. It’s reverse sexism. And isn’t one of the benefits to books is that they can expose audiences to new, different and sometimes utterly alien viewpoints? Even if that audience happens to have a penis?