Monday, November 19, 2012

Boys In YA: Houston, Do We Have A Problem?

So. Last week provided some interesting articles around the Web. I'm here to share two of them: 

1) Sarah Mesle's article in the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she discusses "the problem" with manhood in YA, and how some of today's bestselling novels differ from those of the 19th century in this regard.

2) film critic Michael Carelli's article in the Chicago Sun-Times' website, which details his unfortunate experience of working with an editor who refused to publish reviews of films with strong female leads, and who sent him an email explaining why Snow White and the Huntsman was "moral garbage" and "fuzzy feminist thinking."

Naturally, both these articles got me fired up. But I'm more interested in hearing what you have to say, specifically when it comes to the following questions: 

Which book (MG/YA/Adult) has dealt with the topic of manhood in a way that you found awesome? Why did you find it awesome? 

Happy Monday!  


  1. Just about anything Markus Zusak has written, especially Fighting Ruben Wolfe and I Am Messenger. Also, what about John Green's books? Or My Swordhand Is Singing by Marcus Segwick? All of these authors have strong protagonists who are either on the cusp of manhood and are dealing with that or deal with issues mean deal with (i.e., relationships with brothers). Also, The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta deals with a broken man who comes to terms with his life. All of these are well written.

  2. The "Reporter" in the second article does sound bigoted and confused to me. I write strong female leads myself--swords and all. While I disagree with everything else the reporter said, however, I have to agree that Snow White and the Huntsman--even if it is nothing else he was accusing it of--is indeed "fuzzy feminist thinking."

    I am a very firm believer in women's freedom. I think you'd be an idiot if you weren't.

    But that movie was hardly even a STORY. It was just a bunch of shots of Kristen Stewart wandering aimlessly through their non-plot **for the purpose of** 1) not falling in love and 2) wearing a suit of armor at the end.

    If Hollywood is going to say anything meaningful or coherent about gender roles, they're going to have to do better than that.

  3. I haven't seen Snow White and the Hunstman (and have to say I'm prejudice against seeing it because I'm not fond of the actress), but reading Sarah Mesle's article had me giving a mental "Yes, yes, lady! Many times yes!"

    I don't have kids of my own, but I have more nephews than nieces and I'd like there to be more role models in YA that portray manhood in a positive light. To see characters that others look up to and respect because of their strength and their ability to take responsibility would be a nice change. I'm tired of seeing boys in books hack away at authority and diminish their social and physical power on the way to become men. Too many times we see them run from the 'system' or topple the system, rather than rise up inside it and change it with their influence.

    While reading the article I couldn't help but think "Harry Potter!" He didn't balk the authority in the book (considering the main authority was often Dumbledore). He stood up to evil and triumphed over it by fighting it head-to-head. He wasn't dismissive of females or lower classes/creatures (like house elves). He was one of the only male characters I've read about recently who turned into a traditional hero at the end of the book and rose to meet the expectations others had of him. He'd even grown physically and emotionally stronger by the end of it.


Add your awesome here: