Discussion » Why We Have a Lacking of Male Main Characters in Young Adult Novels

DISCUSSION

It started with Hermione Granger. A female main character with spunk and a certain ferocity (did I use that right…? Probably not). From there, female heroine’s have been the stage of young adult novels. From Hermione Granger, to Annabeth Chase and all the way to Aelin Ashryver Galathynius.

I did a Twitter poll and the end results were just as a I suspected. Before I did this post I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t the only one noticing this pattern.

Out of 151 votes, 83% of people agreed that books with female main characters were more common than those with main male characters. The other 17% disagreed. 

While the poll was running I myself speculated the why. Why female main characters were more common than the male main characters. I came up with a small list.

  • Less male authors, less male perspectives
  • NYT Bestselling authors write female heroines, other debut authors follow same path
  • Fear that writing a more unique male main character perspective will be shunned
  • Female authors struggle writing male main characters, and decide to writing a female character they themselves can relate to is easier

I think the main reason is that we don’t have enough male authors out there. I mean seriously, the first one’s that come to mind aren’t that many.

  • James Dashner
  • John Green
  • Patrick Ness
  • Michael Grant
  • Adam Silvera

THAT IS LITERALLY ALL I CAN THINK OF OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD. I myself can easily admit that I don’t read many books with male main characters. Why? Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and I can relate to the heroines better. Or maybe it’s because strong female characters are someone I look to inspire to. I have no idea.

What do you guys think of male main characters? Do you agree that we need more? Why do you think that male main characters are lacking in modern young adult novels? Comment what you think below! 🙂

Thanks for reading guys! 🙂

Waiting on Wednesday #8 » The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

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25 thoughts on “Discussion » Why We Have a Lacking of Male Main Characters in Young Adult Novels

  1. Great post, Claire!
    I think the points you wrote about are definitely some of the reasons why there are less male main characters.
    I think another possible reason might be because of the YA novel demographic? I think there are more female readers, and therefore publishers try to cater to that demographic? I’m not too sure – just a thought! 🙂

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    1. Hello! I came across this post via Geraldine’s tweet 😉 *waves*

      So, my thoughts — I think YA books with male characters aren’t necessarily lacking but rather, they lack visibility in the book blogosphere compared to YA books with female MCs. This can be surely be explained in part by female characters being more relatable (as you already pointed out) not only to most female authors but to many female blogger too. And let’s face it, the vast majority of YA book bloggers are female.

      Personally, I read an overwhelming proportion of of YA books with female MCs not merely due to abundance but also due to personal interest. Most of the time when I come across YA books with male MCs I pay little attention to them, unless the synopsis grips me.

      Although, in some ways I also think you’re on to something. Ten years ago there did seem to be a greater proportion of YA books with male MCs. But I think that proportion was reduced not simply because there’re less of such book being written/published but rather, the quantity of YA books with female MCs exploded. While I don’t have statistics to back this up, anecdotal evidence based on observation stems from the fact that my local libraries have constantly been expanding shelf space for YA books and so have my local bookstores.

      Given these observations, I don’t think there’s a lack of male MCs. They exist. They’re just surrounded by the influx of YA books that generally seem to focus on female main characters.

      More male authors who write YA books:

      + Matt de la Peña
      + David Levithan
      + M.T. Anderson
      + Markus Zusak
      + Emil Ostrovski
      + Scott Westerfeld
      + Stephen Emond
      + Evan Angler
      + Kevin Emerson
      + Philip Siegel

      Books with male MCs written by female authors:

      + There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos
      + The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hatter
      + This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
      + The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater
      + Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
      + Clean by Amy Reed
      + Wavelength by A.J. Betts
      + The Vow by Jessica Martinez (alternating POVs between male & female)
      + Riptide by Lindsey Scheme (alternating POVs between male & female)
      + Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley (alternating POVs between male & female)
      + Breathe (Breathe #1) by Sarah Crossan (multiple POVs with males & females)

      I could go on but I’ll stop here 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! What a great comment, I appreciate you took the time to write this all out. YES! Now that you mention it, ten years ago there were more male main characters. You have seriously added on some more amazing points. I will have to check out some of the books you listed too! Thank you for the spectacular comment Josephine (sorry I don’t know how to add an accent!)

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    2. Thank you! I’m glad you agree some with some of my reasons. 🙂 I definitely agree that there are more female readers, why – no clue. But obviously an author is going to appeal to the obvious female audience! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an interesting discussion post! It’s definitely true that there are less male perspectives in YA books, BY FAR. People who don’t think so.. what are they reading?! Probably only books by the authors you listed lol. I would love to read more books from male perspectives, but I do think that since there are more YA female authors, it’s harder to write from a male perspective so most stick to female protagonists because they incorporate personal life experiences into their writing. Also, I do think that more females read in general, especially when it comes to YA, so in some ways, the market is definitely catering to its audience.

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    1. Thank you Brit! I think maybe the people who think male perspectives aren’t any more common than female perspectives are maybe older? I suspect female perspectives weren’t as common 10-15 years ago. OMG YES, I can agree, I wrote a male character once and was told he sounded like a girl! It’s very difficult. I didn’t want to say that girls tend to read more because it might sound sexist, but I guess if it appears true then there is nothing wrong with it!

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  3. I actually think you’re spot on with your assesment/reasons why there aren’t more male MCs but would also like to add that another variable may be that authors *do bring stories with male MCs but publishers turn them down because in most genres, girls/women are the main consumers/buyers. That being the case&adding what you said that as females, we don’t buy books with male leads(for whatever reason) publishers know this and to them, like with all retail, it’s about what’s going to get customers to spend their money.I don’t think there’s just one reason that causes the lack of male MCs.I honestly think it’s a combination of all these things. I also agree there should be more male MCs; if that were to happen, I think more boys/men would definitely read more.

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    1. What a great point. I actually never thought of that at all. Like seriously that is a brilliant theory and you are completely right. Publishing companies are ready to make money off of books, a book they know their YA audience won’t read – well why publish it? 😉

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  4. I don’t really think male main characters are lacking anywhere tbh, whether it’s books, tv shows or movies XD I think that’s why we’re seeing such an influx of female characters recently in YA, it’s because authors are trying to bridge the gap and create more heroes of the female gender to show that women and girls can be heroes too. Previously we’ve heard “oh but female action heroes don’t sell!” Well, tell that to Katniss, Tris, Celaena, etc etc. It’s all about showing that yes, women can carry a story and yes, it does sell. Maybe female MCs in YA are more common now, maybe not, but if it is then I see that as something positive.

    I’m not sure why you’re mentioning Hermione specifically though, because even though she is a part of the main cast the hero and the POV of the story is Harry. Just from the top of my head I’ve got Harry Potter, Percy Jackson (male author), The Maze Runner (male author), The Giver, Perks of Being a Wallflower (male author), Thirteen Reasons Why (male author), Ari & Dante (male author), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (male author), Miss Peregrine’s (male author), Carry On, Gone (male author), Warm Bodies (male author)…

    I think it’s more rare to find a male author who writes from a female perspective (especially female teenagers) than a woman writing from a male teenager’s perspective.

    Give me more females always! 😀

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    1. Love your opinion! You’re right, I have absolutely no idea why I mentioned Hermione. Whoops. O.0 Anywayyyys, I think that female characters are shown more in YA because of the very reason you mentioned, to show girls can be as much of a hero guys are. What I’m trying to point out is that this idea of girls being as much of a hero as guys is so prominent – especially in YA, that the original idea of guys being able to be hero’s as well is being slightly lost in the jungle. That’s a long list and I’m glad you mentioned those authors. I do agree it is ESPECIALLY rare for a dude to write in a female perspective, I feel like it would be super difficult. 🙂 Thanks for the well thought out comment Anette!

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  5. I think it has a lot to do with the audience. There are more teenage girls and adult women reading YA book than their are teenage boys (some perhaps) and adult men (probably almost none). I know I like to read books with female main characters because I can relate to them more. I don’t mind the occasional male lead, but I just don’t understand them. I once was a teenage girl, even though I’m now a grown woman. I remember what that was like. I can’t really relate to a teenage male character. Although as my son gets older, I think I’ll be drawn to those books more and more in an attempt to understand him.

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    1. YES AUDIENCE! You are completely right and I should have mentioned audience in the post. I agree with you, reading female characters is easier to relate to. I can kind of understand male leads, but as a girl I prefer female leads. 🙂 Thanks for the comment Kate! 🙂

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  6. I love this discussion! What a wonderful idea!
    I’m going to have to say that I personally like that there are more female main characters. I relate to females more. When it comes to make characters I just can’t get into their heads and relate. I’ve not read any popular books with make main characters. Like Harry Potter. I love the movies and the whole world but the books….. I just can’t seem to get through.

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    1. Thank you! I love that there are more female characters too, but I think that there should be more of a balance. Though as a girl I do also relate to females more! I can see not being able to get into their head. Dudes think differently than girls I’m sure. Maybe if a girl can understand a male character through the words of an author, then that author has a true gift for writing.

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  7. You forgot Rick Riordan!! Percy! Magnus! Carter! But yes, I’ve definitely noticed there aren’t that many books with male protagonists. I don’t really know why this is the case, I wouldn’t mind more male main characters & I’d encourage it, but it’s not something I would complain about you know? Perhaps if there were more male main characters, more boys would be reading books. Most guys I talk to are like “I hate reading” ):

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    1. OMG I FORGOT RICK RIORDAN. o.O Yes! Totally agree, I definitely wouldn’t complain about more male characters! Lol, more main male characters could encourage reading in guys! I knew one guy who enjoyed reading, but he was like the definition of stuck up.

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  8. It makes me a bit upset that there’s nowhere near enough male MC’s. But I really think you’re right. I think authors tend to write what they know, and with most YA authors being women it’s not all that surprising that 80 or so percent of books are from the POV of a girl. I have no issues with that, I love seeing kickass girl but I can’t help but wish there was more diversity in the YA genre. I feel like with there being so many females that it’s hard to make them stand out from the bunch.

    I also agree with the others that publishers want what sells – and since it’s a female dominant genre it only makes sense for them to lean towards a Katniss instead of a Thomas. That being said, I definitely wish there were more boys in the mix!

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    1. I totally have no issues with main characters being girls. As for diversity, I agree with you and wish there was more, LGBT though is getting out there more now though! It makes sense that publishers want what sells, I mean they are a business!!!

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  9. This is really interesting to me because for a long time I saw a lot of complaints that a) publishing was male-dominated and b)YA/children’s books are male-dominated “because girls will read about boys but boys won’t read about girls.” The Lee and Low study showed what I was trying to convince people of–publishing employees are heavily women, not men! As are YA authors. As are YA readers. So YA in particular gets a lot of “female-marketed” books. For some reason people just aren’t talking about ways to increase literacy and reading interest in young boys and male teens.

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    1. I’ve read some comments where people say that publishers know the main reading audience is teenage girls. So both YA authors and publishers shoot to aim for more money with female main characters! Thanks for your opinion!!!!! 🙂

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  10. Finally someone points that out! I have phases when I’m in desperate need of good books with awesome male MC’s but I don’t find any. It’s really frustrating!

    Also, I think that another reason why there are more female POV’s is that boys don’t read so much. Now I know that there are actually A LOT of boys who read but … the majority isn’t. It’s the girls. And like you said, it’s easier for them (both, reader & author) to connect with a female MC. I don’t even want to complain … I love kickass female heroines but once in a while it would be great to read something refreshing, something different. Also, I need more books out of a villains POV. I NEED IT! I don’t care if it’s a girl or a boy but GIVE. IT. TO. ME!!! *__*

    Yvonne @ A World Between Folded Pages

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    1. I personally am never in search of specifically a male MC, but I do enjoy reading books with them! Have you read Half Bad? It has an awesome male MC! YES totally agree, boys don’t read that much in my opinion. Completely agree with you. I’m assuming you’ve read the Young Elites and Vicious? 🙂

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