I am so freaking proud that YA is girl-centric.
Are there "boy books" in YA? Of course. Do I think there's room for more diversity in YA? Always! But that doesn't remove the fact that I'm very, very happy to see all these books about girls written FOR girls. Why? Because girls need these books—I needed these books, and I didn't have them when I was younger.
I vividly remember my personal frustrations with books when I was a kid. I know a lot of writers read voraciously as kids, but I was a picky reader. I had a hard time finding books that I could relate with. Wading through the old time MG waters was hard (Harry Potter came out when I was in high school, so it was very different back then [gosh I am old]). As it is now, MG is still largely targeted to boys (there's a lot more "girl books" these days, but you can still say the MG market is boy-centric).
I noticed. I wanted to read about girls like me, and it was hard to find a girl protagonist. The ones I did find often didn't strike my interest, either (i.e. Nancy Drew, Babysitter's Club, and Sweet Valley High, which were shoved in my face from about 8-14 yrs. old).
Sadly, the problem didn't improve as I got older—it got worse. When I got too old for "kids books," there was this wall. A wall I wasn't sure I wanted to climb. On the other side of the wall was Grown Up Books.
I still liked fantasy and fun stories, but Adult Fantasy felt daunting to me when I was 13. I tried out a few, only to find more boys saving girls...plus some other stuff I wasn't quite ready to handle personally. I still wanted to read about girls, but there weren't girls in adult genre—there were women. The romance and historical novels scared the crap out of me based on covers alone (I was a timid child, not saying they were bad, just I was SO not ready). Adult thrillers/suspense were way out of my interests (I scare easily). And fantasy/sci-fi were dominated by the same things I'd seen in MG, just with older characters.
The truth? I stopped reading for fun after, like, ninth grade. After I read DUNE. I still remember enjoying most of that book, right up until the end when the main character decides to keep his "true love" as a concubine (the woman who supported him and had faith in him—heck, made him who he was and saved his life) and marries the empress as a power play. I felt betrayed, honestly. I really looked up to this guy, bought him as a hero, until that moment. It was the final straw for the "Girls play on the sidelines in books" crap. I was done. I read for school and that was about it (And most of that literary stuff was all guy, too).
My first experience with "new YA" was, of course, Twilight. Say what you will about that series, it blew my mind the first time I read it. But not for the reason you'd think—because it answered all my reading frustrations as a teen. This was a book for girls, with girl feelings and girl problems and girl fantasies. I started reading more YA, and each one made me not only happy, but jealous of the girls who now had so many choices in reading. I didn't have those choices. I couldn't find characters like me. Now? It feels like there's a book for every kind of girl. And we've seen both girls and women like me respond with the explosion of YA.
Finally, books for me. It makes me want to cry with joy sometimes.
I know we worry about the lack of boys in YA at times, but the truth is that the old system was always set up for boys. MG to adult genre fiction is what many boys still follow—well, that transition was always catered to them. Male-centered fiction has always been the standard. There has always been a place for them. Is it any wonder many guys skip YA?
Girls finally have a wide world of a genre to go. YA provides girls with the stories they've always been looking for—stories about them, stories for them. Girls don't have to be on the sidelines in YA. They are heroines. They shape the story with their choices, be they good or bad ones. YA reflects how different girls are, what they love and how they live and what they hope to be.
So while I will always welcome guys to read YA, and of course welcome more "boy centered" books, I will never apologize for the amount of girl-centric fiction in the genre. I would have killed for even half the selection girls have now. It's about time.