I have a hard time articulating these things sometimes, but there are moments when it becomes clear to me that I’ve run into an inauthentic boy voice when I’m reading.
It’s a YA novel, beginning of chapter two, and I’m already feeling like this narrator sounds wrong. Very wrong. The previous scene where he’s having a bonding conversation with his brother in the car, it sounds as forced as quarter in a dime slot. He says he wants to be a comedian but he isn’t funny. Or rather, he doesn’t seem to have any sense that his humor is so pedestrian that the laughing of his classmates is polite at best.
Anyway, his girlfriend seems to be upset with him (unbelievably so, but I suspect there’s more to it I haven’t seen) and he goes up to her at school to try and figure things out.
“I fondle her perfect shoulders.”
That’s it. That tells me everything right there.
That tells me the author is female. Or the most clueless male on the face of the earth. No boy would think that, use the words “fondle” and “shoulders” in the same sentence. Not even an unusual kid. Not unless he had a history of using inappropriate words before. Fondle? And those perfect shoulders? Girls might like to have their shoulders caressed, but boys don’t know it and they don’t know how to do it. Not in high school. And they can barely find the words for their own predilections even when they do realize them.
This also tells me the editor is female. It tells me someone read and approved this manuscript for publication without the slightest idea of how a boy thinks. The forced banter, the false humor… it’s so not boy.
Please, I know it is possible for authors to write across gender, and do it well, so what is going on here?
If I had to guess, this is a male protagonist written for a female audience, another variant of the “perfect boyfriend” (or perhaps the imperfect boyfriend) that is better placed in a romance novel and not YA. If you’re going to write romance for teens, fine, don’t go first person into the boy’s head. Don’t pretend to try and unearth the psyche of boys for the benefit of the female readers that the book is obviously aimed at. Deliver the story, be honest, and let the readers decide whether he’s a cad or good guy.
And stop having them fondle shoulders in public. Sheesh!
Alright, let’s see how this story ends…
This narrator says “ohmygod” at least once in every chapter. Like a Valley Girl. Sorry, but boys would use “dude” or something less… girlie?