New blog pal “The Iron-Jawed Author” brings up some good points. I’ve not (yet) read his book, so can’t vouch for the greatness of his female characters, but it’s true. Books intended for boy audiences often have token female characters at best. (Are Hermione and Annabeth Chase tokens or not? Discuss.) Please note an important point: “intended for boy audiences.” Sadly, as I’ve mentioned before, it is a fact that girls will read books with a boy as the protagonist far more than boys will read books with a girl as the protagonist. So, while books like Kit Grindstaff’s The Flame in the Mist are excellent fantasies with strong female protagonists, they don’t necessarily help our case here. I-JA has got me thinking, though. Which books do I know that have a good balance of strong male and female characters but are targeting boys?
I’d say Rowling did a good job with Hermione. Paolini’s Eragon series – nope, not so much. (For me, the female characters should occupy a significant chunk of page time in the subplots and the main plot.) Plenty of strong girl books springing to mind: Splendors and Glooms, The Apothecary, (hmm, what about Colin Meloy’s Wildwood Chronicles?), The Secret Tree, When You Reach Me… Well, that brings me to Stead’s first book, First Light. Not really either a girl or a boy book, but heading in the right direction (though her later two are better).
Notice I’m not mentioning YA. For me, the real focus is on MG – where we have a chance to capture boys’ attention because they’re still reading. I just can’t think of many, if any. Perhaps the Mysterious Benedict Society books? Am I missing something obvious? Perhaps I just read more girl-centered books, because I’m a girl? 😉
Time to start adding this criteria to my choices of what to read…
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and the more I go over my first book (and the plans for my upcoming books) I’m quite proud of my female characters.
When I was writing The Iron-Jawed Boy, I was well-aware of the fact that because my book was centered around a 10 year old boy that the book would then be considered a “Boy Book”, but I reject that notion quite vehemently (spelling?). I chose to surround Ion with lots of strong female characters–be it older or younger–because I think it’s important that the book not just be a “boy with another male friend goes on all the adventures and what not” story. Girls are just as brave, just as strong, just as intelligent (most would argue more intelligent) and I wanted young readers who dove into the book to pick up on those themes.
Moreover, the female characters…
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