Love Is In The Air (Sometimes)

February 8th, 2010 • Kate

heart_bookMy client Stephanie Perkins is a big romantic softie. Not only did she share of her favorite romantic scenes from some movies and books with her blog readers the other day, but then she posted some of her readers’ favorite moments. It’s all very swoon-worthy, and I suggest you check it out.

Needless to say, with Valentine’s Day (and my birthday) coming up on Sunday, love is in the air. But I know that not everyone is a fan of this (some say manufactured) holiday, and in THEIR honor, I want to talk about the Bechdel Rule. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I first learned of it from Jezebel, not in this article, but that is the most recent time I saw it. To explain, this is a rule created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who “had one of her female characters cite a simple rule: She’d only go to see a movie if it had:

1. At least two female characters, who …
2. talk to each other about…
3. something besides a man.”

So, my question for you today is: do your YA novels follow this rule? Do the female characters you create talk to each other without talking about boys? I’m not saying they can’t EVER talk about boys, but do they talk about other things, too?

And besides your own fiction, what other YA novels can you list (in the comments) that follow this rule? You may have to think about it — I know I do. It’s not something that springs out at me when I’m reading, mostly because I love romance. But I also love stories about awesome teen girls being awesome — think of Mia and Lilly in The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.

Whatcha got for me?

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21 Responses to “Love Is In The Air (Sometimes)”

  1. Rebecca (Fie Eoin) Says:

    Shay and Tally in Uglies. They spend most of their time talking about anything except boys. Plus, that book is just happy-making 🙂

  2. Delilah Dawson Says:

    I'm going to go ahead and admit it. Before my own foray into writing, I didn't even know YA existed. MG butted up against adult, and that was that. Now that I'm writing my own YA, though, I need to do a lot more research, because my dialog keeps stalling out. I can almost feel the girls looking at me, thinking, "Well? What are we supposed to talk about?"

    So I'll be watching the comments to find new things to read.

  3. Dawn Embers Says:

    I don't often write female main characters, but even some of them follow the orientation of my male main characters: gay. So, I do by default follow that rule, lol. Not many of them, however, are within the YA genre.

    As for published authors I'd say the three I saw at the Sirens Conference in Colorado focused on strong female main characters. Fun conference about chicks with swords.

    Tamora Pierce

    Sherwood Smith

    Kristin Cashore

  4. CI Says:

    Oh, this is a good point.

    Of the chapters I can think of off the top of my head that involve conversations with only girls (one is 2 girls, one is 3 girls) both do include boys, but both also include faster-than-light drives and particle weapons.

    …I'm not sure what that means.

  5. VR Says:

    I haven't read YA since I was a YA, and back then I read a lot of the Babysitters Club books. Are those still popular? As I recall, the characters talked about all sorts of stuff, in addition to boys.

  6. Shannon Says:

    Magical world, Elf Lore, etc. There is very little about boys, men/children, etc. Not to say it's not in the book, but my protagonist is sort of busy trying to stay alive.

  7. Shannon Says:

    Ok, so she starts off obsessing about boys, but that changes pretty fast.

  8. NKrell Says:

    I loved Graceling! Kristin Cashore knows how to write stong, female characters.

    I can think of one series that meets your criteria. Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls. (I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You.)

  9. Rissa Watkins Says:

    My females don't need to chat only about boys. They talk about fashion don'ts, curing the vampire virus and stopping Armageddon. Though boys do come up every once in a while.

    LJ Smith, author of The Night World series has strong female leads that talk about other things than boys.

    Scarlett talks about saving the hotel, helping Spencer and about her family in Suite Scarlett. Right?

    Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy books (love these)show female dynamics that aren't centered around boys. Rose's first and main concern is about protecting her best friend.

  10. Krista V. (the forme Says:

    Rebecca came up with the only one I could think of:) But I have to second NKrell's mention of the GALLAGHER GIRLS series. If you're looking for a book (or set of books) about awesome teen girls being awesome, that's definitely the one.

  11. Amy L. Sonnichsen Says:

    This is a wonderful rule. I'm going to remember it. I think a book where the female characters only talk about boys would get repetitive (dare I say, boring?) after awhile, wouldn't it?

    KIRA-KIRA comes to mind as a book in which the female protag and her sister talk about a lot more than boys. That's a good read.

  12. Chelsey Says:

    I'd say, yes mine do. The YA i like also does, because I'm not that boy-crazy. I'd say Sarah Dessen manages it well, though there is some boy-focus. Lois Lowery in Gathering Blue, definitely. Tamora Pierce.

  13. Julie Polk Says:

    I did not know this rule. How did I not know this rule? This rule RULES. I'm adopting it immediately and forever. (Also realizing with horror that although I know I have one scene in the novel-in-progress that passes muster, I think at this point it is literally only one scene. Ugh.)

  14. Lisa Gibson Says:

    Yeah absolutely! Wait…fashion and shoes do count right?! If those count, then I'm golden. 😉

  15. Stina Says:

    Yep, my female teen characters can talk about other things and not just about guys.

    I'm re-reading I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You and they are so talking about guys. I mean really, they're stalking poor Josh. 😉 Most YA books I've read don't just dwell on guys. But I agree, Richelle Mead and Sarah Dessen's main characters and their female friends tend to focus less on guys than in YA chick lit books. Dan Water's Generation Dead series doesn't have girls chatting about guys. But then that's probably 'cause he's a guy. That kind of talk doesn't exactly come natural to them. 🙂

  16. Abby Stevens Says:

    I don't really care for this rule in practice just because it's exclusionary. I'm unclear as to whether Bechdel actually practiced this or if it was just heightened reality in her comic to prove a (very valid) point, but if women only saw movies with TWO women talking about things other than men, they would miss out on some pretty amazing movies. And I'm not talking about romantic gooey stereotypical movies (which have their place), but awesome stuff like Casablanca and Love, Actually and The Departed. I do think it is a great idea to support female-centric movies NOT all about women's responses to men, though.

    As far as YA books that follow the rule, I am still new to the YA genre (didn't know it existed until I went to buy Twilight and found all these awesome books in this weird section that was neither children's nor adult fiction!), but I'd say Suite Scarlett and 13 Little Blue Envelopes both do the job. Even though there is romance, there is also discussion about things beyond the realm of boys. As for non-YA, Harry Potter (as it is still considered children's fiction, right?) and Gone with the Wind both come to mind.

    And btw, I absolutely adore Valentine's Day. Made up as it may be, why would someone turn their nose at a chance to show their darling that they care?

  17. Maria D Says:

    The girls from the Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray talk very little about boys and much about magic and what they want out of life. Much awesomeness there.

    Devilish by Maureen Johnson has girls talking about being possessed by demons.

    Every Tamora Pierce book I've ever read, girls have talked about things other than just boys.

    Holly Black's Modern Faery Tales books have girls talk about things other than boys; more Val and Lolli, than anyone Kaye talks to, though.

    (Okay, yeah, you really do have to think about this.)

    As for my own female characters, they talk about dead people, and underground cities, and portals to different dimensions! Boys are only talked about to mention how weird the gender is, right before they break into a graveyard. God, I love my girls.

    I also love Valentines Day. Sure, it may be manufactured, but I love all holidays. I especially love the day after, when they start selling the chocolate at discount.

  18. Jille Says:

    Hunger Games: Kat's relationship with Rue–definitely no boy-talk there–they are focused on surviving!

  19. Katie Says:

    Yeah I was going to say Hunger Games- the boys are very central to the story but most of the girl-girl interaction has nothing to do with boys.

    That said, I'm 20 but I know that boys are still a focal point in life- teenage girls are kind of obsessed with teenage boys so it's not surprising or terrible that a lot of girl talk centers around crushes, love, sex, and all the things that teenage girls are still trying to figure out. I'm mean let's be honest how often did you talk about world politics when you were 17? Sure if your heroine is trying to save the world she probably has bigger concerns than boys and in most books it's totally necessary that heroines have other dilemas that don't revolve around boys- but love stories are captivating especially to people who are still trying to figure out what the hell love is.

  20. Anna Says:

    You've named quite a few of the ones that come to my mind really. L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries, Ally Carter's… Hell even in Twilight Bella talks to Jessica, and Angela and they don't talk about boys all the time, even if Edward is quite a presence.

    But what haven't been mentioned is Ghostgirl. Read the first book two years ago and can't be so sure, but been reading Homecoming these days and Scarlet is more concerned for her sister, and reuniting with Charlotte than talking about boys. She's suffering sure, but, she doesn't tell anyone about her feelings over Damon.

  21. Stephanie Perkins Says:

    Ha! True. I'm a romantic softie, but I love Alison Bechdel. Her comic is great, and FUN HOME was outstanding. I've never heard her rule. Thanks for sharing it! It turned a light bulb on in my WIP…