Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Discussion Post: Male vs. Female POV in YA

I've been thinking lately about POV in YA books. I'm sure this has been discussed before yada yada but I thought I'd take a crack at it. I've seen bloggers comment on it from time to time. It's well known that the majority of YA readers are female. I've heard it said that having a male protagonist in a YA book is a tough sell. Do you think that's true? I've read a few books lately with male protagonists, and they were good, but I do enjoy the vast majority of female POV's I  read, and depending on the story I may even prefer it. So I guess for me, it doesn't really matter. Still, I want to touch on a few recent reads and share some thoughts on the POV mix.

The Paladin Prophecy (and its sequel Alliance) is a great example. It has a male protagonist but strong female supporting characters. Will is a great character, kind of a smart ass but tough when he needs to be. His relationship with Brooke is sweet and pretty innocent, no making out or anything, but then there's Elise, the mystery girl. Elise is way more interesting. So you almost (not quite) have a love triangle- another fun topic- but this time with a guy as the focal point. That was kind of new for me, or maybe I just haven't read enough YA yet. Anyway I thought both books were great, and fairly high visibility- but I don't see much mention of them on blogs.


Vitro by Jessica Khoury (which I just reviewed here) was fun because it split the narrative between Sophie and Jim. Both characters were great, but in this one Jim seems more realistic- his reactions just feel like how someone would really feel or act. He's brave and does the right thing, but he has doubts and even panics once or twice when things get really bad. But at the same time he's a strong character- I think Jessica Khoury really hit it out of the park with him. Sophie is great too, but I thought Jim's was the stronger narrative. I'd be really curious to see what other readers think of this one.


Tides, which I reviewed a while back, has a guy main character as well. Noah falls in love with a selkie and has a sister suffering from bulimia. We get other perspectives too, including Mara the selkie, so it's not all from a guy's perspective, but a lot of it is. This is another book I didn't see much of on blogs, but I was pretty new to blogging when it came out and just may not have seen the reviews. Did anyone else read this?

I think the mix is probably about right. After all, if there aren't that many guys reading YA then it stands to reason you aren't going to see a ton of male POV's. When I'm at the bookstore though I see a lot of guys in the science fiction/ fantasy section, but not very many in the YA aisle. That's too bad in a way, because the YA section seems so much more vibrant. Yeah the guys aren't going to go for the romances, but there's dystopians, sci-fi, lots of stuff. The sci fi section by contrast seems tired and mostly older stuff- the same books that have been there for years (with some exceptions, of course). There's starting to be a little crossover, and that's good, but they're still pretty distinct. Maybe that's a good subject for a separate discussion...

So what do you think? Do you have a preference among male or female POV's?


  1. Growing up I read a lot of SF&F and most of it had male POVs. When I got back into reading a few years ago, I was so happy to discover so many SF&F books with female POVs. I find it funny that people complain that there aren't enough male POV books nowadays when all I read as a kid were male POV books. :)

  2. When I was a kid most of the adventure books I read had male protagonists, so I was very happy to find YA books that had female protagonists. There are also still a lot of famous YA novels that have guy protags like Catcher in the Rye, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Harry Potter, a couple of John Green books and more. But I do wish that there'd be more male voices in YA contemporary and romance. Great discussion! :)

  3. I have to confess that POV is not necessarily something I pay a lot of attention to. But I did think of the Chaos Walking series after reading your post. In the first book, we get Todd's POV. In further books, it moves to two POVs - Todd's and Viola's. It's interesting to watch the author really give nuance to the different voices.

  4. I am equally happy with a male or female POV in literature, whether it be YA or adult. The problem I often come across in YA, though, is the angsty love triangles (which you mention above, of course!). I was never a fan of love triangles, even when I was a kid/teen. These angsty love triangles tend to be more popular in books for girls than for guys - simply because girls are more interested in romance than guys. On the other hand, I think my complaint is more about how many books are romances rather than action. It's the subject that annoys me, not the POV.

  5. I'll second (or third, or whatever) the comments about fantasy and SF being mostly from a male POV when I was growing up -- particularly SF. The exceptions were mostly written by women (even if they used a male pen name.)

    As for the prevalence of female POV characters in YA today, it both pleases and worries me. It pleases me because girls need to see a variety of female characters in a variety of roles, not just as the sex object or the damsel in distress (tropes that were all too common in early SF and other genres as well.) And not just "strong women," either - shy, quiet, and/or introverted girls need role models, too.

    OTOH, the trend concerns me because it may be counter to the goal of getting teenage boys to read. I know that books with a female protagonist can appeal to boys, because I used to read them to my classes -- but they're not necessarily the books boys will pick up and read on their own. Instead of only going with what the prevailing wisdom says will sells, I wish publishers would also look for books that will appeal to both sexes -- like the Harry Potter series did. That will probably mean finding a better balance of books with male and female POV characters.

  6. I don't have a preference. All I ask for is a well-written entertaining read. :)

  7. I love either POV, the most important thing for me is that they are fleshed out and that I can connect or relate to them.

    1. I agree, whatever POV works best for the story works for me, as long as they're developed well.

  8. Like a number of other commenters I grew up reading fantasy and sci fi which was mostly a male POV so more female protagonists in urban fantasy and ya fantasy is refreshing and something I'm glad my daughters had when they were teens. It didn't seem to bother them at all to read Harry Potter either! My son, on the other hand, started reading Harry Potter (actually he and I read them together for awhile, but by the time he was a teen it was too tame for him! He's a big reader, but not of YA...mostly adult fiction, sci fi, nonfiction.

    It's great more girls are reading YA sci and fantasy as well as other YA, but we do want to make sure the boys find books and authors that call to them.

    I think I went a little wild at first...only wanting a female protagonist...LOL. Now it doesn't matter to me. I only started reading YA again about 6 months ago after a couple years not doing so. A number of the books and authors you mention, Greg, I haven't read so will have check them out. Thanks for an interesting post!