And I’m back with another discussion! Which…might just anger a few people, but I cannot just look over this impulse I have for posting my thoughts about this, so here it is!
The discussion today is about the role of male leads in YA fantasy, and whether they are mere heartthrobs. Hehe. I can already feel some people get riled up, and others hurry to close this post because it doesn’t really interest them or downright offends them. Whatever it is, I hope I do not offend you, and I definitely mean no disrespect for your opinions/feelings.
That being said, one more tiny detail remains without which if I go into this topic, people will probably disown me from the blogging community :P In my last discussion, where I talked about Why I Really Need to Reduce Reading YA Contemporary, lots of people commented saying that there are quite a few good YA contemporary books out there, to which I kept repeating that out of everything I had read, (and I have read a lot of YA contemp) those were the conclusions I came to.
However, to avoid such a situation this time around, I’m pretty much going to mention all the YA fantasy series I’ve read. So, I’m shortly naming all the YA fantasy series I’ve read till date, just so you guys know where exactly my thoughts/arguments come from : Twilight Saga, Percy Jackson (half), Vampire Diaries (half), Mortal Instruments (half), Infernal Devices, Hex Hall, Throne of Glass, Shatter Me, Vampire Academy, Bloodlines (half), Lux, Caster Chronicles (first book only), Lunar Chronicles, Mara Dyer, Hush Hush, ACOTAR, The Raven King, Red Queen, TWATD, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Selection, Firebird, Chaos Walking (first book only), Legend, His Fair Assassin (first book only), The Selection, The Maze Runner (first book only), Matched (first book only), Delirium and Gone (first book only). So, yeah. That’s the entire list.
I know I might not have read ALL the series out there like some people who mainly read YA, but at the same time I do know that I’ve read quite a lot of the ‘famous’ or ‘popular’ YA fantasy books. Which basically gives me the courage to go ahead with this discussion.
First thing which comes to my mind about this, is, when most people begin reading an adult book, they are never really that concerned with or give a thought to the male lead. Or even the female lead, for that matter. It’s like, the male lead being swoonworthy in an adult book isn’t really something that matters, whereas the attractiveness or ‘amazing-ness‘ of a YA male lead is a whole different aspect of the book. It’s like, it’s a whole different thing of its own.
Come to think of it? 95% of the fangirling and the hype surrounding male leads is always about those who are in YA books. Almost always. People are obsessed with Tobias or Percy or Warner or Gale (though I prefer Peeta) or Gansey and the EVER SO FAMOUS Will. Oh, the endless talks and obsessions and craziness these characters have led to.
I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing (heck, even I’m attached to quite a few male protagonists) but have we ever considered or analysed the actual personality/character of the person? Now now now…don’t jump at me. You’re probably bursting with frustration over the fact that you actually do take in the true personality of your YA male leads, but the real question is how often? And since we’re talking about YA, and the only other genre I can compare it with over this issue is adult, let’s face it : the depth and sincerity with which we analyse and soak up an adult male lead’s character is far deeper than a YA lead’s character. For a YA male, all it takes is a physical description and some sexy, cool talks and we’re won over.
And I don’t blame you for that. There are times when I too go “damn…!” when something like this happens; I’m just trying to figure out how things got this way. Why does it take so less for a YA male lead to makes readers swoon over him, and pick teams and fight over him whereas we read about adult male leads so, so diligently? Are they just meant to be heartthrobs?
And to be honest, most of the YA fantasy male leads have a common structure which authors follow when they create them, and yet each and every time, we fall for each new character with fresh vigour. They are always good-looking brats, with perfect hair and perfect smile and different eyes and perfect height and body. Personality-wise, they are either the calm, brooding, calculative, “I’ll be there for you” types, or the hot, sleazy, making-you-go-nuts type, or the typical I-have-a-horrible-past type. The only characters I felt were different were the Raven Boys, and I commend Stiefvater on accomplishing that.
Another reason I have for calling them ‘just’ heartthrobs – the role they play in their books could be equally accomplished even if they had not been that attractive. Honestly, it’s mostly the girl who’s doing all the good work (Katniss, Tris, America, Juliette, Rose, Mare, Feyre, Aelin) whereas the guy is always by her side providing support and stupid romance and whispering words of ‘love’ in her ears and seducing her with his ‘perfect’ grin and talks. What real role does he play? Oh. A heartthrob.
I’ve read very few books where the story is about a male lead (like Percy Jackson) and even fewer books where the male and female are equally doing all the work (like Legend, ACOMAF) and it irks me how a lot of these YA fantasy books have the males only as a pathetic excuse for being a ‘companion’ to the female and helping her out, and instead showcase him for purely romantic reasons to involve lovey-dovey agitation. Like, why not add more meaning to your characters?
My main question is, why does the reader’s attraction to the male lead in a YA fantasy book matter so much? It’s like, you pick up any famous YA fantasy series, and discussions about the male lead and his attractiveness and how ‘amazing’ he is always comes up. Is it always necessary to fall in love with a YA fantasy male lead?
So that was it for my discussions! Join in!
Make your own blog post, or discuss in the comments below.
What do you feel about this topic? Did you agree or disagree with whatever I had to say?! Who are your favorite ‘heartthrobs’? Suggest some good male-driven YA fantasy novels?