Ten Young Adult Books with Male Main Characters

Ten Young Adult Novels Featuring Male Protagonists-min

1. The Boy Most Likely to by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Tim is known for being wild, so when he falls in love with the smart, perfect Alice Garrett and she falls in love with him, no one really thinks Alice is making the right choice–including Alice herself.  When some of Tim’s past actions catch up with him, the situation gets even trickier, but he and Alice just might be able to find a way to make their relationship work.

2. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

When a simple farm boy stumbles across a dragon egg, a thing long thought to have disappeared from the world entirely, he accidentally becomes a legendary Dragon Rider and becomes embroiled in political schemes more fraught than he could have ever imagined.

3. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Connor, a nobleman in a kingdom on the brink of civil war, has created a plan to hold his country together.  He gathers boys from orphanages across the land, seeking for the perfect boy to present to the court as the long-lost prince, the rightful heir to the throne.  Although Conner presents his motives as pure, Sage is skeptical.  His tongue is as sharp as his mind, but he finds he may have to compete for the role of prince as keenly as the other boys if he intends to come out of the plot unscathed.

4. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

When Brian’s small plane crash lands on its way to Canada and Brian is the only survivor, he finds himself fighting for his life in the wilderness as he waits for a miracle rescue.

5. I Am Number Four by Pitticus Lore

When the planet of Lorien was destroyed by the Mogadoriens, nine children were sent to Earth to live with their guardians until they could grow up, develop their powers, defeat their enemies, and reclaim their home.  But until adolescence, when they begin to develop their legacies, the children are defenseless, protected only by anonymity, constant moving, and a charm that says they can only be killed in order of their numbers.  One, Two, and Three were killed.  John Smith is Number Four.

6. Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

After Oscar vanishes from his Barcelona boarding school and witnesses a strange ceremony where a nameless woman bears a rose to a nameless grave, he and his new friend Marina embark on a wild journey that will take them across the city and even beneath the city streets.

7. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Thomas wakes up in an elevator remembering nothing but his first name.  When the doors open, he finds himself surrounded by a pack of boys who call themselves the Gladers, and who all arrived in the same place just as he did.  They formed a community within the four walls that protect them from the surrounding Maze and the monsters it contains—giant mechanical horrors known as Grievers. Each day the boys send out a series of runners into the Maze in the hopes that they will find a way out.  When a girl arrives in the elevator, however, bearing the message that she is the very last, the boys realize that they only have a few days to decode the secret of the Maze and find their way home—or they will all perish.

8. Prince of Fools by Philip Caveney

With his father, a famous jester, dead, Sebastian determines to carry on the family business to support his mother.  To do so, however, he has to travel to the court of King Septimus, said to be a wealthy ruler.  On the way, Sebastian and his talking buffalope Max meet an incredible fighter named Cornelius and rescue King Septimus’s niece Princess Kerin from brigands.  It’s unfortunate for Sebastian’s career plans, however, that Septimus wanted Kerin dead.

9. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Ten years ago Calamity appeared in the sky and gave men superpowers.  Called Epics, they quickly used their powers to claim dominion over the Earth.  Dave watched an Epic named Steelheart kill his father.  And now he will do anything to end Steelheart’s rule.  His plan: to join the Reckoners, a group of ordinary men and women who dare to fight back.  Because he thinks he can give them the one thing they need: a clue to Steelheart’s weakness.

10. Yvain: The Knight with the Lion retold by M. T. Anderson

In this graphic novel retelling of Chrétien de Troyes’s classic medieval story, the knight Yvain must balance his desire for winning glory in battle with fulfilling his promises of loyalty to his new wife and the land he has sworn to protect.

 

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54 thoughts on “Ten Young Adult Books with Male Main Characters

  1. FranL says:

    The Photo Traveller by Arthur J. Gonzalez always stands out to me because the male protagonist feels real and not like some idealized idea of a teenage boy. He’s still in the “hero” role, he’s got a good heart, but he’s often impulsive and frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Ooh, interesting! I haven’t heard of that one, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the way teen boys are represented in YA, particularly when written by women. Talking to guys, especially to some who have read YA and seem baffled by the males in them, I do get the impression that women focus a lot more on “romance” whereas a lot of teen boys are thinking more about sex. (At least in the sense that they will definitely be thinking about a girl’s breasts, for instance, and women won’t write that into a male character either because it just doesn’t occur to them to do so or because it seems overly objectifying to women. But apparently teen guys spend a lot of time thinking about breasts, if my male sources are to be trusted here.) Also, yes, the macho attitude or impulsiveness some can have. The protagonist in I Am Number Four kind of drives me nuts for some of these reasons, but I do think he’s more realistic than a lot of guys in YA, especially the suave love interests.

      Liked by 1 person

      • FranL says:

        Maybe being written by a male author helps (someone who WAS a teenage boy once) but I think that it’s also about the writer being honest. Women can believably write male characters (and vice versa) when they’re being honest. If a writer tries to make his/her character too ideal then ultimately they’re not doing their work justice. I can invest in a story more when I care about a character. The characters that I care about are characters that feel real to me. A few YA heroes do feel real but many don’t.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          I like Sanderson’s Reckoners trilogy and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One because both the teen male protagonists seem realistic–and I think it’s because they were written by men. I’m not saying women can’t write realistic men or that men can’t write realistic women, but I do think, generally, men writing male protagonists allow them to be a little..cruder? Or…less polished? Sanderson’s hero does think about breasts and Cline’s hero curses. But the male leads in YA are typically love interests and they’re obviously not going to be written as lusting after someone’s breasts because that’s not romantic to the female writer or reader.

          Not YA, but Cousin Phillis by Gaskell comes to mind as a good example of a male protagonist who fails to be believable. The book is him watching his cousin Phillis and wondering about her interior life and her love life. That’s something I think a FEMALE cousin would be interested in, not a single man from the city visiting his cousin on a farm. My best guess is he just had to be male so he had the freedom to travel, but his obsession with Phillis’s falling in love with his friend seem like a female perspective to me.

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  2. What's She Reading? says:

    I love this post! Sometimes YA feels like it’s over-saturated with rom coms featuring the girl next door or dystopians featuring strong female leads. It’s important to see what variety there really is!

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes! I was inspired to write the post a while ago when people (librarians, teachers, etc.) talking about teen boys who said they felt like YA wasn’t really for them, so they often skipped from middle grade to adult books. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that “male readers will like male lead characters,” but that seems like a good place to start because the complaints from the teens seemed to be along the lines of what you’re saying–a lot of YA seems like romances focused on women and their issues. I believe someone complained to the effect there are no space books, just “kissing in space books.” I think a little variety in YA can be good for everyone. I like reading about male characters sometimes myself! Especially ones written by men.

      Liked by 2 people

      • What's She Reading? says:

        Yes, I completely agree. I appreciate the effort from female writers, but it just doesn’t seem like you can really get genuine male protagonists unless they’re written by male authors. I like that most of the books you have listed aren’t romances either. YA needs more books that don’t contain a romance (just like you said about the whole “kissing in space” thing).

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Exactly! People make jokes about the way some men write female characters (particularly in adult fiction, where we joke about the seemingly ever-present scene of a woman walking up to a mirror, looking at herself, and describing herself in-depth to the reader, including her “nubile figure and pert breasts”). But some women writers basically do the same to male characters, especially the love interests in YA. A lot are just these suave sex gods who go around thinking about how they can make sensitive speeches and do romantic things for women, which isn’t particularly realistic either.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Krysta says:

            I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. YA male leads tend to be a woman’s vision of an idealized lover. It’s not too different from men writing ridiculously sexy women, except that the female writers are writing amazingly sensitive men who always put the girl first, always know what to say, and are really in tune with their emotions and how to express them. Sure, some men are like that, but YA would have you think 100% of them share the same personality traits.

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  3. Becca says:

    Thank you for this post! I’m a teen librarian and often struggle to find books for boys because of all the reasons you mentioned in the comments. I think the lack of realistic male protagonists makes it difficult for boys to see themselves in YA books. It’s so handy to have a list since most YA books have female protagonists and authors.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I just read an article saying that people shouldn’t be surprised when if they see mostly girls reading or participating in reading programs or whatever. But it seems to be that this should not just be accepted as a given. And I do wonder whether writing more books that appeal to male teens might help. It’s not that they can’t see themselves in female characters or won’t read about female characters–they can and do. But it must be weird to go to the library and see that 95% of the books are for women and written by women and star women.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Andrea says:

    I cannot begin to tell you how happy finding this post made me! I’ve noticed a while back how there is this cronic lack of guys in the ya book blogging and booktube communities… I couldn’t help but link it to the obvious lack of male protagonists in ya lit, so I’m so happy to see this post here! I have to say I’m ashamed that I haven’t read any of these, but I can say I have most of them already on my TBR and the rest have been instantly added to the list.
    Great post! Thank you so much for writing it 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, I’d love to see more guys in the YA community. Or just more guys reading in general. The statistics are pretty clear that girls tend to read more than boys, and I can’t help but wonder if “lack of seemingly interesting books” is at least one factor. I mean, even if we want to be completely materialistic, it seems as if getting more guys to read more books would be good business for the publishing houses, expanding their market.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Andrea says:

        It so would! And I doubt girls would mind reading about male protagonists- hell knows I enjoy a male protagonist just as much as I enjoy a female protagonist!

        Like

      • Krysta says:

        Whenever I see a male teen reading a book, I try to see what the cover is (because I’m weird like that) and, if it’s not The Maze Runner or The Hunger Games, I’ve pretty much never heard of it. I don’t think teen guys are reading the books that tend to be big in YA and in the YA blogging community. Which makes me think that publishing isn’t doing enough to give them the types of books that would make them more willing to read. Because I think that the reason girls read more might really be because YA books seem to be written primarily by women for women.

        Like

  5. antiqueroman says:

    I’m gonna be real, Eragon is pretty terrible. That said, it’s my trash. It’s a derivative but fun fantasy story, and I ate it up. Couldn’t get through the sequel though. I’m a Tolkien fan and I -still- thought the world-building was too much.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I recognize that Eragon isn’t great literature, but I still read the first three books. And loved most of it until everyone got superpowers and was able to kill hundreds of enemies single-handedly. Even superheroes have a harder time than that!

      Like

  6. lissa says:

    as much as I like to read a book with a male protagonists, I don’t quite like these books. maybe ‘Eragon’ sounds a bit interesting but not really. perhaps if you have listed reasons to read them, maybe I might too find a reason to read them but reading the synopsis didn’t interest me much.

    have a lovely day.

    Like

  7. saraletourneau says:

    Rachel Caine’s Great Library series has a male protagonist. I can’t remember whether either of you have read or reviewed the first book, Ink and Bone… And Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief also has a male lead. That was such a good story.

    Like

  8. Sammie says:

    You know what? It never even crossed my mind that Steelheart (and the rest of the Reckoners series) was young adult. Loved that series, though! Was so glad to see Hatchet on here, too. My favorite books growing up were by Gary Paulsen for a time. 🙂 I haven’t read any of the others.

    The first book that popped into my head (or books, I suppose) were the Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale. I devoured those books when I was younger, and it was the second series I ever read where they weren’t all released and I actually had to wait for the next ones. I was very indignant about that. xD

    Like

      • (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

        I am not sure I have a standing at this point. My daughter is a fan and they are on my own TBR. She was disheartened to read about it all. But I try to remain open until there is a more clear picture. It is hard for me to make any real judgement or opinion in the beginning of things such as this. I am still open to exploring them for now.

        Like

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          I generally read books regardless of the personal lives of the authors, but I know some people don’t. If I really care about not supporting someone living (because a lot of dead authors had some questionable personal lives….), I’ll usually just borrow the book instead of purchasing it. I also think these cases are hard when things are still in the allegations stage. Definitely I think allegations should be taken seriously, but I’m usually in favor of getting as much information as possible before demanding someone be fired or have their career ended or whatever. I did see Random House dropped him, though.

          Liked by 1 person

          • (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

            I think we are pretty much on the same page in terms of situations such as this because I could not agree more. Some of the most beloved classic authors harbor some not too nice histories. And you are so correct. It is important to address allegations in a serious manner, but at this point we really know little. Yeah, I saw that him and Jay Asher have both been dropped this month due to allegations.

            Like

            • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

              Yeah, I just read the full article and he sort of admitted to..something with his apology, but I don’t think, as an outsider observer, that I have any real idea of what happened. On the other hand, I never had any immediate plans to read his books or care about him in general so…

              Like

  9. Em says:

    I feel like so many YA books have female leads… I love that you put this list together!! I don’t think I’ve actually read any of these, but Eragon and I am Number 4 are on my TBR and I hope I can get to them soon!

    Like

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