Sunday, September 27, 2009

Are hotties getting traditional?

I've been struck lately by how many of the hotties in young adult literature have very traditional, non-nickname names. There's Edward in TWILIGHT, there's Jonathan in ALANNA... so I decided to create a run down of all the young adult books with a male romantic interest that I read this past summer. Here it is, by TITLE, male character; and female character names.

WICKED LOVELY Seth; Aislinn
UGLIES* David; Tally
WRINKLE IN TIME Calvin; Meg
BREATHING UNDERWATER Matt; Freya
THE PRINCESS DIARIES Michael; Mia (short for Amelia)
CRACKED UP TO BE Jake; Parker
WHAT I WAS Finn; (romantic counterpart is male)
LAMENT Luke/James; Deidre
SILVER PHOENIX Chen Long; Ai Ling
HOW I LIVE NOW Edmond; Daisy
FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH Travis; Mary
UNWIND* Connor; Risa

I put a * next to books that have a male author (just so you know).

Totally unscientific. But interesting, no?

What jumps out at me is, overall, what traditional names the boys have. And the girls tend to have much more unusual names. I thought maybe this was due to the dominance of female authors in this list. But the two male authors (indicated with a *) follow the same pattern. The only ones who truly step out of it are Cindy Pon (author of SILVER PHOENIX, which is set in a mythological China) and Meg Rosoff (author of WHAT I WAS. Though if you've read WHAT I WAS, you'll know it's a lot more complicated than my chart makes it seem--perhaps I shouldn't have even included it). Oh, and maybe WICKED LOVELY. Is Seth traditional?

Any theories on these names? Mine is that it's a ploy to make the boys sound older and more mature (and therefore more dreamy). Indeed, many of these boys are more mature. Of the eight of these books that have female leads attending high school (including WHAT I WAS), only two of the male romantic interests also attend high school. Cause really--how many high school girls really want to date high school boys?

Or maybe it has to do with readers' expectations. Maybe girls want their characters to have unique names and boy readers don't care? Or maybe there's an assumption here that boys aren't reading many young adult books?

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure: the romance in my work in progress is pretty minimal and one-sided. But the names? Charlie and Isabel. A nickname and a fairly popular girl's name. Hmmmm... not sure I fit the pattern.

Do you have a theory? And what are the names of your novels' romantic interests?

4 comments:

  1. Interesting observation. I think you might be right that the traditional male names help make the boys seems older. I wonder if we also associate old-fashioned names with a figure who's strong and masculine. If you start getting really creative with guy names, they might stop sounding masculine, which would be less successful in creating that stereotypical male lead. (Not sure I actually believe this, but it could be one theory.)

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  2. Hi Anna. I agree. I mean, I hesitate to say yes, absolutely this is true, but it definitely makes sense. Names like Michael do have an air of masculinity to them, much more so than Mike. Though I imagine this is fairly subconscious on the part of the writer... it's all about the feeling she/he is trying to project. And with my character, Charlie, I am absolutely not going for a strong, masculine lead, so that explains that, too.

    It would be interesting to examine fantasy names, like the ones in Hunger Games, and see if male names still sound a certain way... I'll save that for another blog post, though. =)

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  3. I agree about certain names making boys seem more mature. I also think "normal" boys are seen as more interesting than "normal" girls, as far as characters go, so authors try to give girls interesting names to show they are individuals. Maybe. Now, though, I am going to name all my male characters Abelard.

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  4. Hi, Jacqui. Thanks for stopping by! Still trying to digest your "normal" boys vs. "normal" girls comment... maybe part of this stems from so many more young adult books (especially the romantic ones) being from the perspective of a girl, so she ends up being the more unique character. Either way, I think Abelard sounds fabulous. =)

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