YA fantasy…where are the guys?

Today I have a post on The Hub about book club picks in the YA fantasy genre. I like doing book club pick posts, because I think the qualities that make a book a good selection for a group discussion are different from the reasons I’d use to try and convince a specific reader to look at it. Since I started a teen book club at the library last year, I look at books from a personal interest perspective, a reader’s advisory standpoint, and also consider its potential as a teen book club pick. I’ve also had to evaluate its general book club appeal, because we got funding to order sets of books for teen book club that will also be a part of our general book club in a bag collection. These are all vastly different ways of thinking about books.

The list of fantasy picks for book clubs ended up being a mix of my personal favorites, older “classic” titles, and ones recommended to me by trusted sources that I’d been meaning to read.

After I looked at the list, I realized that every single recommendation with the exception of Finnikin of the Rock had a female protagonists (and even if Finnikin is considered “main” character, men and women get pretty equal treatment in terms of depth of characterization/story time). Now, this doesn’t mean that they are a bunch of girly books that I think only girls will like. I’m not getting alarmist about a lack of “boy” books in YA fiction. I don’t like boxing books into “boy” and “girl” categories, but I do find gender related trends, particularly in YA fiction, interesting and worthy of examination.

I wanted to make sure this list wasn’t just a reflection of my personal tastes, so I went looking for YA fantasy with male main characters. Everything I’d read skewed more sci-fi or paranormal/urban fantasy, rather than epic/high fantasy. I looked at some award lists, my own books and RA lists we had at the library…and didn’t find much.

I personally love how YA literature is an industry/art form that is sometimes called “female dominated” because about half of all the writers and tons of blockbuster names are women. I love that I can help young women find books that reflect all different kinds of ways of being a woman. I also recognize that my personal experience, Mister BS’s experiences as an educator, and statistics tend to show that teenage boys don’t read as much as their female peers, and I want to be able to connect these type of readers with books that they’ll identify with and enjoy.

I haven’t read Eragon (Inheritance Cycle) by Christopher Paolini, but know it’s a popular dragon fantasy with younger guy teens (and girl teens…one of the book club members was astonished to discover I hadn’t read this…okay, two book club members and it is quote “shameful”). But I couldn’t think of much else we shelve YA (not middle grade) that featured a male protagonist.

So, I was interested to see if anyone had suggestions for YA high/epic fantasy that had a guy main character? I did do some research, but wasn’t exhaustive…it seemed like it should have been easier to come up with a couple! titles that fit these requirements.

When I went through 2012 releases, I found some other fantasy…Wicked and the Just, Shadow and Bone, Throne of Glass…but nothing with major guy roles or POV.  Then I looked at 2013 releases, and could find very little epic/high YA fantasy in general, male or female protagonist. I found one guy POV, The Oathbreaker’s Curse, but it didn’t seem to have a US release. I like urban/paranormal/sci-fi/historical fantasy/etc, but I couldn’t believe there was such a complete lack of YA fantasy is a high/epic sense coming out in 2013. Even if it’s not the hot trend…there’s got to be something, right?

What am I missing? Where are the guys in YA fantasy, and what’s coming out in 2013?

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8 thoughts on “YA fantasy…where are the guys?

  1. Great post on The Hub– What a great resource for YA book club picks! As for lead male characters in YA fantasy, I read Incarceron by Catherine Fisher a few years ago and that is a decent fantasy series with a male protagonist. I also really enjoyed reading Here, There Be Dragons by James Owen, as did my husband.

    On a side note, I found that teenage boys who read fantasy tend to read adult fantasy instead of YA fantasy– Do you see that happening? I noticed that a lot while working in a bookstore, but that was awhile back.

    1. Oh, I haven’t read Incarceron, so I didn’t realize it had a guy MC. And I’ll have to remember the dragon one too, because those seem to be the popular.

      I totally think that guys who are into fantasy are just skipping more to adult–which is fine, I guess…I just was surprised after compiling my list how limited the selection was in YA that I could find.

  2. Honestly? I think the guys are in the general fantasy section, because their characters are allowed to be in the full genre, vs. the YA subdivision, which is where the ladies are kept. But then, I’m having a bad day with male privilege, so forgive me if my half snark, half serious feelings on the issue aren’t entirely helpful. :p

    1. No, snarky is always welcome here :) That is a valid theory. I just wanted to be sure that my reader’s advisory lists were balanced and I was missing something obvious…I don’t read adult fantasy, really, so I’m not familiar with the genre.

  3. A new one just came out from Month9Books: Gabriel Stone and the Divinity of Valta – http://month9booksblog.com/products/gabriel-stone-and-the-divinity-of-valta/
    Description from Goodreads: Gabriel Stone is a twelve-year-old boy still reeling from the unsolved disappearance of his mother. With a dad who’s hard to relate to, and mounting pressures at school, Gabriel lets off steam by hiking in the place where his mother was last seen. There, Gabe and friends find a crystal that proves not only beautiful, but magical beyond their wildest dreams. Only, magic and beauty come with a price: in order to return home, they must save the dying world of Valta

  4. In the Seven Realms series by Cinda Chima, Han Alister (a guy) gets equal billing with Princess Raisa, the other main character.

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