Women Dominate Young-Adult Literature

A prestige-free zone

The reason why women writers dominate young-adult literature is the reason why many guys avoid it

The prototypical YA (Young Adult, i.e., early teen) novel “The Catcher in the Rye” may have been written by the late, reclusive and definitely male J.D. Salinger, but nowadays, YA — like Elvis on “Happy Days” — is a chick thing. So says Meghan Lewit in a recent post to the Atlantic’s website, and she has the numbers to prove it, sort of: A little over half of the titles in a reader poll of the 100 “best-ever teen novels” are by women. This counts as “dominance” because in almost every other poll of best-ever books (whatever the category), works by men greatly outnumber those by women.

Ask anyone in the book business if Lewit is right, and they’ll probably agree; with a few exceptions, the most successful and prominent contemporary YA writers are women. Furthermore, the cultural infrastructure supporting their books — from agents and editors to librarians, teachers and that formidable new force in the YA world, bloggers — is predominantly female. Some observers blame this state of affairs for the drop-off in boys’ reading habits as they reach their teens; it’s a system ill-suited to producing books that will interest boys, they argue. But if YA has indeed become a gynocracy, few ask why.

The answer, I believe, is prestige. YA is a prestige-free zone, or at least it has been for most of the decades of its existence as a self-identified genre. Perhaps this is changing, now that we’ve seen certain very popular YA series bestride the bestseller lists: Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games. Yet I don’t think the prestige of YA has changed all that much, not really. Unfortunately, I can’t prove it.

Continue reading @ Salon

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~ by eneryvibes on 1,October 20, 2012.

One Response to “Women Dominate Young-Adult Literature”

  1. Some interesting thoughts! The issue of young boys’ reading habits has come up a lot in education circles too – lately there’s been a shift in some of the literature taught in high school to try and regain the attention and interest of boys in reading, but I must say, having taught both all-boys and all-girls classes in English literature at high school, the girls are still running rings around the boys.
    Still, it’s all quite intriguing.

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