YA Boys; A Matter of Taste

I’ve read a few books in these first 2 1/2 weeks of my summer vacation. Last night I picked up a YA title that’s been on my to-read pile for some time. Because my own soon to be published YA is first person male POV I’m always interested to read books that are also from this perspective.

Unfortunately after reading the first 20 pages I found myself completely disappointed with the voice and the main character. Let’s call this character semi-insecure boob obsessor. It might be okay if he was self-deprecating and humble, but he’s obnoxious and self-obsessed. And not in a funny way.  Perhaps the point of this book is for the character to figure out what a jerk he is and learn to see people from the shoulders up. But what if it’s not? How long do I want to go on this journey with this character?

But more problematic than my distaste for the main character, is my inability to connect with this voice. What fourteen year old boy knows the phrase “visible panty line”? Sure they know what it is, but only the sales women in Macy’s actually use the term. This to me suggests that the author is too close to the main character and hasn’t effectively separated his own adolescence from the character’s. It’s a tricky thing to do; understand the adolescent mind while writing with one that’s 20 or 30 years older. But it really has to be done well for YA fiction to work, for me at least.

Update: a little goodreads research revealed that those who loved the book found the main character to be funny and true to the male adolescent. Those who didn’t, found him to be offensive and stereotypical. So once again it’s probably a matter of taste.

Incidentally, there are plenty of great YA authors out there writing from the male POV who I think are doing it brilliantly. John Green, A.S. King, Matt De La Pena  and A. M. Jenkins are just a few that come to mind.

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2 thoughts on “YA Boys; A Matter of Taste

  1. I also have a boy narrator in my soon-to-be-published ya book (we’re wonder twins!) and I have the same issues about what terms a young guy would know. Like, camisole – does a boy know what that is? Wouldn’t he just call it a tank top?

    I think you are right about separating out your own adolescence from your ya character’s experience – this is often noticeable when you see teenaged girl characters wearing Riot Grrl thrift store clothes & combat boots as fashion. I wonder if it was too hard for me to do this with a female main character and so for some reason I clicked into a boy’s POV easier – had to imagine more what it was like being ‘boob-obsessed’ as it were.

  2. Hi there wonder twin! Thanks for stopping by.
    I rely heavily on listening to my middle school students for what sounds true in a male pov. But of course it varies a lot. Boys with serious girlfriends might know what a camisole is. Whether they would admit to it, or use the word is another thing.
    I totally agree about writing a female POV being harder for me to separate myself from. In terms of fashion, level of confidence, just about everything.

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