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Boy Books and Girl Books

Of the many classifications for books, nothing bothers me more than the idea of "boy books" and "girl books". I've walked into many a bookstore - and seen many a website - where certain books are sorted this way, and it never fails to make me want to bang my head against a wall.

I do agree that some books are somewhat more likely to appeal to a male audience, and others somewhat more likely to appeal to girls, but this may have more to do with society's expectations of gender conformation than anything else. But even if this wasn't the case, even if there are novels that just inherently appeal to one gender or the other, shelving a book according to that only brings down huge limitations.

Because guess what? There are boys who like reading some of those so-called girl books, and girls who like reading those boy books, just like how there are children who like to play with toys made for the other gender. During Christmas when I was four years old, I was much more pleased with the train set I got than the baby doll, and I know guys who, when they were little, preferred dolls to model cars.

I've seen "King Dork" classified as a boy book. For those of you who haven't read it, "King Dork" is a sardonic, hilarious, yet touching novel about a boy coming to grips both with his caricatured high school environment and his father's death. What about that could possibly appeal only or largely to boys?

Then there are novels like those by Sarah Dessen classified as girl books. These are emotional coming of age novels with, yes, romance from a girl's perspective. But so what? I've read books that include a romance from a guy's perspective, and I've liked them, and my head didn't explode.

But even more than just being inaccurate, classifying books like this is actually harmful. If I never picked up "boy books", I would have missed out on great pieces of literature like "King Dork" or "Looking for Alaska" and any number of awesome books that I got so, so much out of. There is similarly much to offer in "girl books" for anyone, including boys.

Yet there is a stigma associated to girls reading "boy books" and, much more so, to boys reading "girl books". People complain that boys don't read because there aren't enough books out there for them, and frankly, I don't know what they're talking about.

After all, I can think of many, many excellent books that could provide an enjoyable and worthy read. They're just hiding over in the girl book section.


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