The Prompt: When it comes to books, do you prefer male or female protagonists and why? Do you not have a preference? Have you ever not read a book because the protagonist was male/female? Do you think it’s important for children to read protagonists of the opposite gender from them? Do you feel like certain genres have more of a certain gender of protagonist than the other? (Mahita @ Amateur Teen Writer)
I pick books based on plot and premise; the main character’s identity is not a factor in my decision. Some of my favorite books feature mostly male characters, while other favorites are mostly about female characters. (See: The Lord of the Rings and Anne of Green Gables.) The important thing is that the story is good and that the characters are complex and well-written. This also means it doesn’t matter whether a female author is writing a male main character or a male author is writing a female main character; as long as they can write a convincing and engaging protagonist, I’m in.
Because I read a lot of YA books, however, I do read a lot of books that are about teenage girls. While publishing is often accused of being male-dominated, the facts are that children’s literature, and particularly YA books, is dominated by women agents who rep books by women authors about female protagonists to women editors. It’s actually hard to find a YA book, especially a mainstream popular one, that has a boy protagonist, and the ones that often jump to people’s minds tend to be older (ex. Eragon or I Am Number Four).
This is a problem in the sense that teenage boys often feel as if YA is not “for them” because they are so sparsely represented, and because girls in general are more likely to be avid readers than boys, I would love to see publishers publish and market more books featuring boys. (Yes, boys can read and like books about girls and vice versa, but the reality is that people DO like to see themselves in books sometimes, and it would be nice for boys to see more YA options that are about them and for those books to get a lot of hype.) Middle grade tends to be more balanced in terms of protagonist gender, so there’s really just a gap between MG and adult books that I think publishers can still fill. (Read one of our lists of YA books with male main characters here.)
So while I personally don’t choose books based on the protagonist’s gender, I do think it’s important to have balance in the market in general, and I hope that more male-focused stories can find their way into YA just as I hope more female-focused books can find their way into adult SFF and other genres.