Boy books vs. girl books

Caleb W scalebw at
Fri Jun 21 06:08:33 EDT 2002

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-dwj at [mailto:owner-dwj at]On Behalf Of
> Melissa Proffitt
> Sent: 20 June 2002 19:35
> To: dwj at
> Subject: Boy books vs. girl books

> As though I needed more unmarked messages saved in my inbox....
> Hallie mentioned the Court and Crown Duel books with the comment "just not
> for a boy?"  This is an issue I've been wondering about too.  I'm sure
> you've all heard the idea that boys will only read "boy" books, but girls
> will read both.  "Boy" books have boy protagonists, adventure,
> fighting, not
> many girls...I think.  And "girl" books have girl protagonists, some
> romance, fluffy bunnies...I don't know.  Even if there's fighting--as in
> Crown Duel--if a girl's the main character, the prevailing wisdom is that
> boys won't be interested.
> I would like your opinions, especially those of you who are boys,
> or used to
> be boys, about what kinds of books boys are interested in reading.
> 1. Is there any truth to the above notion?  If so, why?

> 2. If not, *are* there any literary elements that specifically and
> universally turn boys off a book?

I doubt it, although there are probably some generalizations that could be
made. Dull "realistic fiction"
she-fancies-him-but-he-doesn't-fancy-her-she-whinges-about-it books are the
ones that really turn me off. It really annoyed me, because most of the
Welsh books in school were like this, especially those we read in class. We
once read some of the Welsh translation of "Only You Can Save Mankind" by
Terry Pratchett (side note: I borrowed the Welsh translation of "The Thief
of Time" yesterday. Some of the jokes cheat by not being translated into
Welsh (this is a bit hard to explain without specific reference), since
everyone who knows Welsh will almost certainly also know English.) but the
teacher just didn't get it. Back to the diary of a young teenager agonizing
over her weight, the boy she fancies... zzzz. I think that these type of
books, at least for younger (pre-teen) children are a turn off if they are
about someone of the opposite sex.

> 3. If you began reading science fiction and/or fantasy as a young
> teen, what
> interested you in such books?  (Boys or girls)

I've been reading them almost as long as I've been able to read (or at
least, ever since I ventured away from the picture books box in the library
and into the Big Shelves with Proper Books. I also had my parents read to me
at bedtime when I was younger - especially Narnia, as well as "made up
stories" that mum made up for us. I find so-called "realistic fiction"
really boring, generally. "There's enough boring, everyday life as it is
without making more of it" to paraphrase Marvin. I find it very hard to
pinpoint the precise appeal - for me it's wrapped up with the appeal of
reading, stories of other people, places, times and possibilities. Just
writing about the ordinary just isn't the point of books for me.

> 4. Boys: If you know why you like to read F&SF, do you think
> those elements
> of your personality, those interests, are markedly different from those of
> other boys?  In other words, do boys not like to read because of who they
> are, or because of outside pressure: being seen as a sissy, perhaps.

I like reading, and that is part of who I am. For boys who don't read, I
expect that its either/or/both. I was _very_ bookish to the point of being
unsociable for a while when I was in primary school. Between that and being
a committed Christian when there aren't any others my age that I know
properly within an hour's travelling, I'm pretty much innoculated against
pressure like that.

> 5. Girls: I've noticed that female protagonists in fantasy are frequently
> described as being different physically or intellectually from their
> families or immediate social group.  Did you feel similarly
> unique, and was
> that an element of your interest in fantasy or science fiction?  (This has
> nothing to do with the issue at hand, but I've got this book upstairs I've
> been trying to read and the whole "she was dark and tall compared
> to all the
> petite blondes in her adopted family" is sticking in my craw.)

Despite being a boy, I'll comment on this anyway :) I think that it's partly
because most of the people reading the book will feel different, especially
the more bookish ones. I've also noticed this for male protagonists but to a
lesser degree. I think that everyone wants to be different (or at least,
those who do are more likely to read these kinds of books) and not just
someone lost in the 5 or 6 billion people in the planet. "Father Time" is a
good example. Miranda Dawkins believes her parents died in a car crash when
she was young, but she finds out that really they were massacred by
genocidal fascists from the future while trying to kill her, since she was
brought to to Earth from the distant future to escape a revolution, and
constitutionally she is heir to the throne of the universe. She doesn't find
out until the middle, but her thinking is "different" from the start, she
feels outside (although obviously not that different since people actually
do feel like that even if they aren't from the distant future). At one
point, she resolves to be more spontaneous before reasoning that a planned
spontaneous act is by definition no longer spontaneous, which is definitely
a problem I have! I feel I've lost track of what I was going to originally
say now, so I better stop rambling.

Caleb W.

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