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Who's The Fairest of Them All

A Deeper Look at Beauty in Books

Afternoon! :D Did everyone like the Funny Bone Video today? I did. Dex did a solid finding that one! So, I'm doing my usual exploration in Google Reader this morning. Google Reader is a one stop destination for all of the recent posts from those you follow. On Fridays, I always look for Field Trip Fridays hosted at YA Highway. Field Trip Fridays is their "weekly trip around the field of YA with stops at the most helpful, interesting of otherwise exciting news." Seriously, it's worth the trip. I learn so much. 

Today, there is an article highlighted by Tiana Smith. She is a writer of tween novels. She's also a fabulous blogger. She experimented by cataloging the eye, hair, and skin color of the Top 50 YA bestselling novels of 2012. Here are the info-graphics she created with her findings. Holy Cow! Thinking about the recent books that we've read, it's not surprising to see.  Let's break this down. Shall we?
A quick list of her results are:
  • Blue was the dominant eye color
  • Brown pulled second place followed by green
  • 49 out of 50 of the girls were of Caucasian origin
  • Brown was the main hair color
  • Blond won second; followed by red,black, and violet? 
Tiana discovered usually girls described as "ordinary looking" were brunette and brown-eyed. Ditched is an example. What's more ordinary than getting ditched at prom? That's extremely sad by the way. I can sympathize. I find the girl on this cover pretty. Yet, she's definitely not ordinary with her prom dress selection. Do you agree with this notion?

Blond hair and blue eyed characters are extremely common in YA. What is this fact telling us? The best stories will happen to those with blond hair? Glimmer is a tricky example because she isn't your typical character. She and her counterpart are plagued with amnesia. Still, the cover depicts none of this. Instead, of a radiant girl with light hair, skin, and eyes.

My next example is one we've seen constantly, the  unique red haired-green eyes combination. Usually reserved for girls who are "highly special."  In general, Red-haired is looked at in awe. I know we always observe the way others look at Patch. She fits this mode. ;) What I've noticed is that a character with red haired has something unique about them, more so than other characters. Think about Clary, from the Mortal Instruments, who is a shadow hunter. Or Brightly Woven's Sydelle who was a magical weaver. 

We chose to read for different reasons. Reading for me is a direct escape from my world. In a novel, I can  read about nearly the impossible. With words having a deeper impact, one would think bestsellers would be more cultural.With novel stereotypes floating in our shelves, it's interesting to wonder why these generalizations exists. Is it what sells? Is it what the writer knows? Is it what readers want? Several commentators of Tiana's post have their own theories. They range from "the only YA readers are those that resemble the characters on the cover that need to relate" to simply writing what you want. I agree with the second theory and that diversity shouldn't be thrust inside novels for the sake of it. I also believe the power of reading is rooted in diving into the unknown. Reading is a worldwide sport. Worldwide, teens come in all packages. Do you think the stereotypes in novels affect readers? There are some readers that don't discover novels via multicultural outlets. If all they have is the bestsellers in Barnes and Nobles, what happens to them? I wanted to thank Tiana Smith for sharing her experiment with us. 


  1. Thanks for this! It's nice to hear your opinion :)

  2. This is an amazing post. Thank you Bones for bringing our attention to this issue. Honestly, I've never really thought about diversity in books. The last time I did, it was when people were upset that Thresh and Rue in the Hunger Games were black. This was interesting to me because it clearly stated in the book that they were. Why were people mad? I still don't know.

    I think the reason I didn't think about diversity in books is because I am the norm. As a Caucasian girl with brown hair and blue eyes, I can pick up just about any YA book and read about a character that is just like me. However, now that I am thinking about it, I find it incredibly strange that there isn't more diversity in books. I understand the concept of writing what you know, but I feel that if writers use that approach then they are limiting their work. For me, books are all about escaping my boring world and experiencing exciting new ones. I've read books about corrupt governments, magical powers, love stories, etc. but I haven't had the chance to explore how a person of a different ethnicity lives.

    - Dexter


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