The prototypical YA (Young Adult, i.e., early teen) novel “The Catcher in the Rye” may have been written by the late, reclusive and definitely male J.D. Salinger, but nowadays, YA — like Elvis on “Happy Days” — is a chick thing. So says Meghan Lewit in a recent post to the Atlantic’s website, and she has the numbers to prove it, sort of: A little over half of the titles in a reader poll of the 100 “best-ever teen novels” are by women. This counts as “dominance” because in almost every other poll of best-ever books (whatever the category), works by men greatly outnumber those by women.
Ask anyone in the book business if Lewit is right, and they’ll probably agree; with a few exceptions, the most successful and prominent contemporary YA writers are women. Furthermore, the cultural infrastructure supporting their books — from agents and editors to librarians, teachers and that formidable new force in the YA world, bloggers — is predominantly female. Some observers blame this state of affairs for the drop-off in boys’ reading habits as they reach their teens; it’s a system ill-suited to producing books that will interest boys, they argue. But if YA has indeed become a gynocracy, few ask why.