Why I Don’t Read ‘Boy Books’

I often choose to read (and especially buy) female-led books by female authors, so I thought I’d delve a bit more into this since although it’s not a secret, I haven’t really talked about it and my choices as a reader, consumer, and blogger.

There are lots of reasons why I don’t really read male authors, but I want to make it perfectly clear that I have never, ever chosen not to read a book just because it is by a male author. I take a lot into account when I choose what book to read.

I once told a bookseller I don’t really read male authors and she looked at me like I’d said I don’t read books by black people or Asians.

Two of my favourite authors are men: Garth Nix and John Marsden. (They’re also both Australian.)

I’ve happily read books by men with female leads (Stormdancer, Icefall) and books by women with only male leads (not dual POV) (Shift, Control, Delete).

One of my favourite books I read this year was All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis.

But.

Male authors – especially adult-audience male authors – tend to:

  • write for men
  • generally (not always) they tend to write really shit women characters.
  • There is often a much larger ratio of male characters to women characters.
  • Women characters are over-sexualised and portrayed as objects, not ‘real’ people.

“One of the greatest failings of men as a whole is their inability to more deeply probe the lives of the women around them. We are either written off as obscure and yet vaguely hysterical enigmas who are not worth bothering to understand.” – Clementine Ford.

Even when a man writes from a women’s point of view, it’s almost always with a male gaze that just makes me icky. Jay Kristoff wrote a really great female character in Stormdancer until he used the male gaze on her as she was undressing and it was just gross.

Even when men do write women characters well, they tend to be more ‘action’ and less ‘feeling’.

Take the above mentioned All Rights Reserved, where Speth very specifically uses emotion against another male character, but doesn’t experience any romance herself. Contrast that with something like Twilight: hugely popular with a young female audience because of its emotional language.

It’s not impossible for a man to write a female character as well as a woman does, but it is rarer. It’s also rarer for a woman to star in a book at all, and in children’s fiction, if they’re not human, female are conspicuously absent.

It’s a basic fact of modern society that most men still see women as resources, not people. Foz Meadows wrote the most wonderful blog post about How the Patriarchy Works, and I strongly suggest you read it. What I took away from that post is that men use women to increase their social standing and power among other men. But that’s a whooooole other blog post I don’t even want to delve into.

Suffice to say: Most of the time male authors tell male stories about men for men and only add in a token female character, and I want more than that.

Nemo
Nemo

About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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4 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Read ‘Boy Books’

  1. Nick

    Reminds me of a sci-fi book I once read wherein the male protagonist’s love interest was so bland that I forgot her name within minutes of putting the book down. The secondary love interest was somewhat less bland…but was very much an “action” character, and got killed off in the climax anyway (to resolve the love triangle, I presume).

    Needless to say, this was not one of my better reading experiences.

  2. Eilonwy

    Awesome post, Nemo! Full of really good points.

    I’m reading a “boy book” right now, so this was very timely for me!

    1. Nemo

      I really hope you’re not experiencing the things I’ve talked about in this post: it’s certainly not applicable to every book with a male writer, but it is in a lot of them.

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