Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I HEART YA #7: Dishing Up Male Protagonists

Welcome to the 7th weekly I HEART YA Blog Carnival! I HEART YA is a Blog Carnival for readers, writers, and lovers of young adult fiction. Every Tuesday there will be a blogging prompt that celebrates my favorite reading genre --YA fiction. Bloggers are invited to write their own take on the topic and post a link in the comment section, or if you prefer just put your thoughts in the comments. Either way, if you own a blog, grab the button to show your pride, and add your link to the list below. If you're not sure what to do, go to the I HEART YA tab for more details. 

I have to admit that I had a hard time with this week's topics. Not that there aren't plenty of fun male characters in YA fiction. But honestly they're mostly the love interests or backup players (ie. Team Edward, Team Jacob, Team Peeta, etc.) and I promised we'd do protagonists, which means they've got to be the main character, not the heartthrob. (So in case you're wondering about next week's topic...Go Team!) But for today, I want to look at ya books that have males as the main character. 

So as I began looking at lists and thinking about the books I've read, it became pretty obvious that there are a lot more female protagonists than male in ya fiction. I'm not absolutely sure why, but I'm betting it has something to do with the ratio of female to male authors. 

I didn't think that would be a problem for this carnival, there are still plenty of books to choose from. But here's where I had a big "ah-ha" moment. While there are plenty of books with male protagonists that I love, I can't say that I'm wild about many of the protagonists. 

There is, of course, Harry Potter. And I dare say there aren't a lot of folks that don't love Harry. 

But after that it gets harder for me. I enjoyed the Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull, (though there are two protagonists that share equal billing, a girl and a boy), I found Seth a little annoying. I recently finished Variant, by Robison Wells, and while I really enjoyed the book, I realized there wasn't much characterization to Benson. He was a good guy, and I did cheer him on, I just didn't feel like I got to know him very well. Same with James Dashner's Maze. 

In fact, I had to go all the way to Lois Lowry's The Giver to think of another male protagonist that I really loved. And guess what it has in common with Potter? They're both written by women. Hmmm...I think I might be on to something,   

I do get that men who write about boys are going to worry more about action than feelings, and I'm okay with that as long as they tell a good story. But if anybody asks, here's what I want in my male protagonists, whether they're created by a woman or a man: I want them humble. I want them smart. I want them compassionate. Mostly I want them interesting. I want to get to know them with all their foibles and insecurities and still love them and cheer for them.

There's a fabulous list of male protagonists by Realm of Words, if you need a little brain nudge. (I ALWAYS need a brain nudge).

Okay, so what about you? Are there enough male protagonists, and how do you like them?

And don't forget: 1. Add your link to the linkytool (Only once is necessary. Links will be removed after two months of not participating.) 2. Add your link to the comment section so we know you participated this week. 3. Grab the button if you haven't already. 4. Check out the other blog posts. Ready...set...go!


  1. Replies
    1. And they're great too - make sure you folks head over there! Sorry I'm so late replying!

  2. Hmmm okayyyy. There is definitely something to the male protag who is humble and vulnerable inside, too... So I guess if that's done right I can love them as much as the cocky, confident type. (How's that for a non-opinion? lol)

    1. No such thing as a non-opinion. I'm thinking it's more about a lovable, maybe even quirky character that's important. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi! I just now had a chance to read this, and I do have opinions, but since I'm late I'll just write a comment. : ) I just wanted to say that I've seen wonderful male protagonists in a lot of older YA books. Gary Paulsen writes terrific male characters. Along the same lines, Jean Craighead George wrote My Side of the Mountain, which I remember loving. There's also S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders (which I haven't read for a long time) and Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee. William Sleator wrote a lot of really interesting YA novels, including Interstellar Pig, which I thought had a pretty sympathetic male protagonist. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series has one male and one female protagonist, both of whom are fabulous in their own ways. I would also argue that Ender's Game could be considered YA.

    The other thing is that if you go back to before YA was really a genre-- say, before the 1970s or so-- you'll find a lot of coming-of-age novels with adolescent characters who are usually male (because publishing was super sexist back then and male authors tend to write male characters). That gives you books like The Catcher in the Rye, though whether Holden Caulfield is actually "likable" is up for debate. I also have very positive memories of John Knowles' A Separate Peace.

    It does seem true, though, that in the post-2000 YA explosion there's been a dramatic shift towards female authors and female protagonists. It's really strange, because in the middle grade section there are millions of books with male protagonists (the Charlie Bone books, Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, etc.), but then when you hit YA it drops off to almost nothing. I've been meaning to read All You Need To Survive The Apocalypse, which has a very likable male protagonist who caught my attention in the sample I read. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is supposed to be pretty good, but I don't really know anything about the characters. Other than that, none really spring to mind, so I guess you're right. Either adolescent boys aren't reading as much as they used to (partial replacement of books by video games?), or publishers are so greedy for a slice of the Twilight-reading audience pie that they're not buying as many manuscripts with male protagonists. Weird!

    1. Wow! Great comment! And I'm glad I'm not the only one to see that trend and to be surprised by it. I've had the Part-Time Indian on my to-read list for a while, and have heard good things as well. Thanks for jumping in!

  4. Here's mine, (in case anyone is as late as I am to peruse this). :)


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