As everybody knows by now, I attended BEA this past week and went to the YA Editors' Buzz Panel. Five books were spoken about: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, about a fangirl entering college; Tandem by Anna Jarzab, a parallel-universe romance; All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, a sci-fi time travel romance which hooked me with the line 'you have to kill him'; Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta, a sci-fi described as a YA version of Joss Whedon's Firefly; and If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, about a young teenage girl in the Iranian LGBTQ community.
Out of all five marketed, the only one whose swoony male love interest wasn't talked about was If You Could Be Mine - and that's because it doesn't have one.
So I started thinking about when the last time I heard about either a) a sexy female love interest or b) no love interest at all was talked about in marketing. And when I couldn't think of one off the top of my head - and my Twitterverse could only come up with one - I dove into the 150+ YA books that I owned and yanked out all of the ones that featured a) humans and b) had marketing that didn't focus on a love interest.
This was the pile I pulled out.
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan was obviously the first one I pulled out; there's no male love interest because the plot revolves around a pair of lesbian lovers - so clearly it can't be marketed like that. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott are both 'issue' books that don't have any romance at all. Stay by Deb Caletti is the story of a stalker ex-boyfriend, and while there is a romantic plotline, it was marketed more as an 'issue' book. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray has an entire pirateship of swoony boys, but is actually a satire on our society and was marketed as such. Jonathan Stroud's The Bartimaeus Trilogy I read a long time ago and only picked up a few weeks ago, but I don't remember a romance, and it certainly wasn't marketed as such. Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell doesn't have a romance plot. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa had no marketing done for the romance whatsoever; it focused on the vampirism and the dystopian world. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan focused on the world and the dragons and not on her adorable husband.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman I threw into the pile because, while the prince certainly was a big focus in the story, I don't remember if it was marketed with a focus on that or with an actual story. The blogosphere was more focused on the worldbuilding than anything.
I almost put The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins into the pile as well, but the marketing for the movie clouded my mind on what the marketing on the books had been. I suppose Harry Potter would also apply, but it's important to note that every canon relationship is heterosexual, and that Harry is supposed to be a hunk that everybody in-canon wants, for the most part.
We can throw all other books that focus on lesbian romances into this category as well, but there are very few of those I can think of off the top of my head - and the gay romances fall exclusively into this category.
Out of the dozens of books that I own, those were the only ones that I knew definitely hadn't been marketed as having a sexy male lead, either the actual protagonist or the love interest.
And it got me thinking.
When people complain that there's no YA books for guys, I think they're stupid. There are plenty of books, both with male protaganists and just books that are interesting, that are very appealing to the male gender and the female gender.
But there's a huge issue in how we market - and it's always towards heteronormative ladies. (Heteronormative means that they are hetereosexual, as expected; they are girls who are interested in boys.) The only time we're really marketing towards boys is when there's no romance in a story which, given that boys worry about their romances as much as girls do, is silly.
But because we know ladies will buy romantic leads - and because it's socially unacceptable for boys to have, you know, feelings and stuff - we market towards that.
And maybe that's why so many people say YA is a female-dominated genre. Not necessarily because of the protaganists and the authors, but because of how we choose to market what we have.
When was the last time we marketed a female love interest or a female protaganist as being sexy and romantic? When was the last time romance wasn't a huge focus of how a book was marketed?
What do you guys think?