I don’t know if you’ve heard it yet, but there’s been something of a buzz going around the internet about YA books lately.
(Apparently YA stands for “Young Adult”, and not “Yankee Angler” as I had previously supposed. This might explain why my previous attempts at writing YA literature failed so miserably.)
The buzz started as a low thrumming sound surrounding this article published by the Wall Street Journal which implied that maybe YA books had become too dark over the past few years. The buzz increased to a cacophony when Chuck Wendig released his tiny leather winged minions to roam the Twitterverse with his message of “Hey, adolescence is very likely going to be the darkest time of these kids lives, why shouldn’t their books reflect that?”
For what it’s worth I’m sort of in the middle on this issue. I think that writers should be able to write what they want to write and parents should be able to draw the boundary lines for their children and have the intestinal fortitude to enforce those lines. Stop trying to get the school to do your dirty work for you, parents (a mantra that applies to far more than this.)
But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. I think in all of this hullabaloo about darkness in YA we’re missing a far more vital problem.
This problem can be summed up in this one picture:
Look at that picture. Look at it long and hard.
This is a picture I took of the book nook at the Wal-Mart where I work. This is the entirety of the YA section. This is the place where Wal-Mart consolidates all of the most popular books in the nation into one tiny little microcosm of the book selling industry.
Notice anything strange?
Keep looking….there! See it?
There’s no books for dudes! Not one!
Now I’m not saying this is Wal-Mart’s fault. They’re just buying the books that are big sellers. But what’s up with this? Why aren’t my slightly younger brethren sinking their teeth into daring accounts of manly exploits in fantastic places with the same ferocity as the females our the species seem to bestow on brooding tales of dark romance with forbidden creatures?
Have all the men migrated to their game consoles to control space marines with their thumbs, leaving behind the kinds of stories with “words” and “pages” to be completely overrun by the fairer sex? I don’t know. And frankly maybe this isn’t a new phenomenon. But it doesn’t seem like so long ago, that Harry Potter (Harry not being short for Harriett in this case) enchanted the world with his wizardly exploits.
I’m not trying to be sexist here, but the inequality of the situation astounds me. Because if guys aren’t reading when they’re young, then what’s the likelihood they’re going to start later?
I don’t have the answers. Maybe you do. Please to leave a comment and enlighten me with your wisdom.