Recently I went to a Reading Matters Conference, held by the Centre for Youth Literature, Melbourne. The conference looke at many aspects of YA but basically it is all about how we get youth, teenagers and young adults to read.

It was very inspiring, very intriguing and very thought provoking on many levels. Especially the session on Gender Less, with authors Libba Bray , Myke Bartlett and Fiona Wood. This was a discussion on the sex of the protagonists in their books, whether they write from both female and male POV and much more but the question that intrigued me... was about boy books and girl books.

Not only are there definite boy and girl books, you can not deny it, but even the books that don't have a strong gender slant- as in no full teenage romance of girl meets boy (who happens to NOT be a vampire, werewolf, angel, demon or some sort of fairy folk..sorry, rant over)- books that can and should be read by either sex...are lost to many readers due to the cover.

Yes it's all down to those few seconds when you look at a cover. Beauty of a book is often skin deep.

It has nothing, or hardly anything to do with the story within, it is purely cosmetic. 

Teenage girls on the whole, read more books that are 'boy' inspired- as in promoted for boys to read, such as a dark cover showing a boy with a bloodied face running for his life.  It offers the image of a dark story and life threatening adventure.

Very few teenage boys would pick up a book to read that is pink for a start, add a floral image or two, perhaps add a horse or worse yet a unicorn....and it doesn't matter what great story there is within that have lost your reader.

It happens all the time in the library. Great books are not picked up all because of the cover. 

Yes the publishers do aim for specific readers, especially for younger readers....the Fairy series that I dare not mention that every little eight year old girl wants to read, you also have the Girlz Rock and Boyz Rule series. You really can't get any more segregated than these. 

For YA readers there is less of a defined readership, there are still many romances, many spy thrillers, horror which for some reason still seems to have more girl readers than boy...but so many great stories that could and should be read by both sexes, end up packaged in covers that put boys off.

As adults it's easy to say 'give it a try' but the reality is that the thought of being teased because they are reading a 'girl' book is going to be too strong for many. I mean let's face it, it is still a children's put down isn't are such a girl!  So imagine some young boy reading a 'girl' book...shudder.

So what is the answer? It is really up to the publishers. It doesn't matter how hard as librarians, or teachers or booksellers, we push for a teenage boy to read such and such book, if they think it's for girls....90% of the time it won't happen.

Which is a huge loss for many readers. And frankly in the end for publishers, they are out there to make money. It is a business after all. 

So perhaps the new wave of books should have gender less covers, let the actual story be the winner? 

In an ideal world yes, but this world I'm afraid is far from there will be more blue covers with guns and people running for their lives, more pink covers with sad looking girls and floral collages.

And more readers will never know of the story they just missed. 


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