Young Adult Novels Need More Love Stories From The Boys' Point-Of-View

In my new young adult novel Kook, a boy and a girl fall in love with surfing, with the sea, and with each other. They go to dangerous places; they go too far, too soon. It’s not gushy or overly emotional It’s about danger and thrills as much as the bond between surfers. So, I’d hoped boys as well as girls would enjoy it, but at time of writing Goodreads shows that more than 95% of Kook’s readers are female. That’s right. Only one in 20 are dudes.

The majority of YA readers are female, sure. But even so, it feels little one sided.

That’s what happens when you put love at the core of your YA book. I’m not really complaining. (Girl readers: I love that you’re reading Kook), but it is imbalanced. Because boys are – obviously – half the equation in books with hetero relationships. But how much YA focuses on the girl, or is told from the girl’s POV? A lot of it. And who reads it? Mostly girls.

Because boys are – obviously – half the equation in books with hetero relationships. But how much YA focuses on the girl, or is told from the girl’s POV? A lot of it.All this gets me wondering: wouldn’t it be great if we had more YA with love in it, but from the guy’s perspective, and if more guys read it too?

Weirdly, reading about love is something of a taboo for guys.  Take note: exploring love as a theme, doesn’t automatically make the book a romance. My guess is, a lot of boys think it does. (Not to mention, it's totally OK for boys to read romance, too.) 

So guys are missing out. Because boys fall in love. Every bit as much as girls. And in the teen years, the heart gets just as much stimulation as, ahem, other organs. Boys get confused, excited, broken, high-on-attraction, dizzy and blinded. By love.

Boys fall in love. Every bit as much as girls. And in the teen years, the heart gets just as much stimulation as, ahem, other organs. 

But guys are still emotionally stilted about the whole thing. And sometimes they have difficulty reading, or even talking, about it.

There’s this narrative guys live by, half way between new-man-sensitive and old school be-a-dude ways of thinking, which is where I think a lot of guys are stuck, right now. It runs something like this:

Cry if you have to; it’s good to have strong emotions (but only if you really have to and actually, really don’t, unless there’s been an actual death). Fall in love, (but not as much as girls do).  Express your feelings (a little, but don’t really *talk* about it).

Here’s how you respond to emotional turmoil resulting from interaction with the other half of our species:

Man up. Drink up. Watch some porn. Go surfing. Shoot pool.

Because that’s living. Not moping or crooning. 

Of course girls are great. If you’re nice to them, they’ll even let you bang them. Right?

Does that sound extreme? Does it offend you? It should; it offends me. And I’ve heard this stuff a lot – and worse.

This outdated narrative still runs. It’s a brave guy that speaks out against it. If you want to make yourself a target, wax lyrical to your buds about how much you love your girlfriend. I dare you.

It’s a brave guy that speaks out against it. If you want to make yourself a target, wax lyrical to your buds about how much you love your girlfriend. 

As I say, mostly it’s girls who read this stuff. Maybe that won’t change. If it doesn’t, hopefully Kook, and other love/boys’ POV books do something useful for girls, at least. I’ve been told a bunch of times, part of what drives girls to read Kook is curiosity. Along the lines of: ‘What’s it like for the guy?’  

So YA has a job to do, for both sexes, all genders and sexualities. Like any literature, it has a task to explore the stuff under the surface, stuff we may even be uncomfortable with. We need to talk about love and all the mess that comes with it. We need to tell stories that show a different narrative to the one described above. 

I hope we can show can show something a bit more real, a bit more like the experiences boys are likely to have. A YA book with love, from the male POV isn’t a guidebook (no book is, really). But a boy-led YA book can help young men understand the experience and realities of sex, in a way that porn doesn’t even badly imitate. They might even see intimacy is both essential and desirable. That you may need to be vulnerable and naked, and not just physically. More than that, good YA books can explore the darker truths of love, too. The jealousy, the lust, the messed up decisions young people make because of it.  

But a boy-led YA book can help young men understand the experience and realities of sex, in a way that porn doesn’t even badly imitate. They might even see intimacy is both essential and desirable. That you may need to be vulnerable and naked, and not just physically.

Because stories are important. Narratives, even if they are of very different people to ourselves, help us wake up to: "Oh, maybe I’m not so weird," or; "It’s okay for to be flawed." It’s the choices we make around those flaws that make us who we are.  

I set out to write a book about an innocent, city-bound boy falling in love with the sea, surfing, and the whole lifestyle that surrounds the water. It just so happened that the best advertisement for this lifestyle turns out to be a stunning but messed up surfer girl named Jade. My main character, Sam, falls hard for her.

As the words came and the pages started filling, I found Jade featuring a little more, day by day. (Any writer will tell you: some characters make a nuisance of themselves, and demand center stage).

Sam’s fascination with this wild, thrill-addicted siren slowly took over his journey, my writing, and the book. Kook became a love story. 

Sam’s fascination with this wild, thrill-addicted siren slowly took over his journey, my writing, and the book. Kook became a love story. 

So it’s a different kind of love story. A vortex of love, surf, thrills. And by the time Sam wakes up to the dangers, his feet can’t touch the sand, he’s in deep and the rip is pulling him further out. (As you might guess, it’s not really 'fessing up to note that the writing got hijacked by my own memories of first love and days spent in the water).  

I hope it’s a story anyone can relate to, whatever your gender. 

Kook by Chris Vick, $9.99, Amazon

Images: Caleb Ekeroth/Unsplash

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