The article has a brilliant quote by brilliant author Libba Bray (loved her Great and Terrible Beauty series).
|Not exactly a gender neutral cover,|
but I like it.
“But, as American YA author Libba Bray points out, books have no gender – titles for young adults, she argues, should have gender neutral covers. ‘We have to move the needle,’ she says. ‘If you categorize books as for boys or for girls, the message is that boys don’t need to be concerned about the female experience. And vice versa.’”
As a girl, I’ve read countless books about the “boy” experience, and actually found it fairly similar to my own girl experiences. And I’m not alone. Girls are far more willing to read “boy” books than boys are willing to read “girl” books (tried to find some statistical data on this, but everyone seems to agree with this idea even if there is no hard data). This is not surprising since society has always marginalized anything that is traditionally “feminine” because clearly the human race could’ve survived just fine without anyone raising those babies as long as men kept doing their important manly things, or at least that is how history shows it.
I do think that boys should be reading books about the female experience, so that they may discover as I did, that we are really not that different. There are important books like Speak, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Little Women, and Pride and Prejudice that really give insights into female issues past and present. But I’m not really sure that all YA novels should have gender neutral cover.
The most important thing a cover should do is signify what kind of story is being told, so that those who want to read the story will be attracted to it. My sister is a high school librarian and has a unique insight into what books attract YA readers. Of course I’ve picked her brain on the subject, and she says that girls do check out more books than boys, and they seem to be more drawn to the covers with pretty girls in prom dresses. So these covers do work (or at least it seems from this very small sampling). These girls want to read certain types of stories (usually paranormal romance), and these gendered covers are promising those stories.
I think the problem comes when these gendered covers are given to books just because they were written by female authors and had a female protagonist whether or not the cover actually fits the story being told. Not every story written by a woman promises the story that these “girly” covers promise.
For example :
|Here is an interesting link about this cover.|
Even though I haven’t read The Bell Jar, I’m pretty sure Sylvia Plath didn’t write chick lit.
|Way too much pink for my tastes.|
This one I have read, and I almost didn’t because it does look like chick lit in fantasy land. Really it is a great second world fantasy story (with a more urban fantasy feel) that just happens to have a pretty awesome and very capable heroine. A more gender neutral cover would better represent the story and not turn off potential male readers.
I know these examples aren’t YA because I really couldn’t think of any YA examples although I’m sure there are plenty. But this problem of gendering covers just because the author is female goes well beyond YA. There are many more examples out there, but I think this awesome link says it all.
Well those are my thoughts. What do you think? Are girly covers hurting YA readers? Are gendered covers just another way to marginalize female writers and make it okay for men to ignore us? Or are they just an effective way to find their intended audiences?