Girls Or Boys In The Lead
Posted on October 26, 2012
I found it interesting while listening to a lit agent talk about what they were looking for that they explicitly said they wanted stories for boys with boy protagonists. The implication made is that all the books have girl protagonists. Sadly, I couldn’t corner the agent and (politely) argue the point that until very recently, most of the protagonists in books have been boys. Now that the girl protagonists kick butt and save the world, they’re too trendy to be interesting?
Three years ago, I started my first full-length novel. I remember telling a friend of mine that I had to write a boy protagonist for several reasons. One, a boy protagonist was more universal, and would appeal to both boy and girl readers. Two, the biggest names in YA lit at the time were Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. So it made sense to follow that trend. And three, no one was publishing strong female protagonists. Sure, there was a very popular female protagonist who dealt with a broody vampire, but she was by no means strong and he was barely a vampire without fangs (don’t get me started).
I would like to go back in time, preferably in the TARDIS, and kick myself. How dare I be so weak in my convictions as to believe that a girl protagonist wasn’t worthy to step up and lead in my writing! At the same time, while a lit agent has the right to look for what he/she prefers to represent, I think the statement that this particular one made is a little maddening.
The history of boy heroes is long, whereas the list of girl heroes is growing right now. More specifically, it’s strong female protagonists that take the lead in today’s popular YA fiction. I hope that it means that future YA novels will have a mix between lead protagonists, and that there won’t be a push to “swing” back to only boy protagonists.
Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Bilbo & Frodo Baggins, Ender, Percy Jackson, and Harry Potter are just a few of the very popular boy protagonists. The history of boy heroes is long, whereas the list of girl heroes is growing right now. More specifically, it’s strong female protagonists that take the lead in today’s popular YA fiction. I hope that it means that future YA novels will have a mix between lead protagonists, and that there won’t be a push to “swing” back to only boy protagonists.
I also question whether or not boys typically read only boy heroes whereas girls will read either gender of heroes? If the hero fights evil or for the rights of others, does it matter who does the fighting? In my opinion, Katniss Everdeen, Beatrice Prior, Clary Fray, Pennryn, and all the current protagonists should get a party for making it to the big time. And then they need to get back to kicking a little butt leading the way for more to join them. While I write both boy and girl heroes – whatever serves my story the best – I hope that the “trend” to feature either gender heroes stays.