Boy Books and Girl Books: Is There Such a Thing?

Although tween novels generally have one protagonist, – choosing between female or male – books are not identified as boy books or girl books. There are certain themes in past titles that certain individuals of a particular gender can relate to, however, that does not mean that these books cannot be enjoyed by everyone. There must be a balance in order for both boys and girls to thoroughly feel captivated in the story. In Opposing Viewpoints, it is noted that boys are much more delicately balanced and to ask them to read “girl” stories will cause the whole venture to fall apart. The following two plot summaries can help readers understand which gender can relate to which.


Hatchet by Gary Paulson is a self-discovery tween novel that is centered around Brian Robeson and his survival. Brian is going through a difficult time with his parents’ divorce and must take a long trip from his mother’s household in New York to his father’s location in Alaska. The flight takes a turn for the worst and crashes into a lake somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. Fortunately, Brian survives the crash and is only left with a hatchet that is the only tool to help him get through the next 54 days.


Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume is about a 12-year old girl who moves to a new town in New Jersey. Her female friends perceive themselves as experts in maturation and teach her the ways to be popular, which makes her feel the need to be popular as well. In addition to her struggle to be socially accepted, her choice in religion is unknown because her family did not raise her in a religious household. Even though she is not affiliated with one particular religion, she talks to God about everything even if things go perfectly as planned. But what if things go wrong?

There are chapter books that have embedded themes in which the reader feels that he or she can relate to them. Such themes can be gender specific, which can make certain readers uninterested. In the two cases above, certain characteristics in Are You There God? may not seem interesting or captivating for many male readers and vice versa for the Hatchet.

I feel that all things related to tween books unconsciously and consciously create these gender specific stories. The publishing industry, editors, librarians, and schools are usually employed with female workers (Opposing Viewpoints), which helps cater more towards the female crowd. Guys Lit Wire had mentioned that there is so much emphasis on classic works written by male authors that there is a push to change contemporary reading for teens today (What We Talk About When We Talk About Books for Teenage Boys). Certain elements of a book must be taken into consideration in order for both boys and girls to feel captivated within a novel. Sheila Anderson (2007), author of Serving Young Teens and ‘Tweens, wrote that appeal characteristics – story, characters, setting, and language – are essential and allow readers to enjoy a variety of books.

  1. I find it interesting that classic literature has been considered more stereotypical. I think in our quest to bridge all these gaps in society (not just gender) we tend to increase the gaps further. I feel like the boy vs. girl books are far more obvious today then they were with the classics. Yes there is a obvious target gender for Are you there God?, and though Hatchet was a male protagonist I don’t feel like I was unable to relate to anything that Brian was experiencing. I’m not sure if the rest of that series becomes more gender specific or not. But many classics seem to easily cross over. Granted many characters were male, most authors were male, and many female authors used male pen names but I would have a hard time placing Oz, Wonka, Narnia, and Wrinkle in Time into specific categories. I think it would be interesting to create our own boy/girl book lists with the classic. I’m sure there are some on the web but I’m curious how much variation there may be even in our own class trying to define them by gender.

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