men, women, and mirror images

I've discovered an interesting dichotomy in the responses between male and female readers of The Senator's Youngest Daughter.  Up front, I will admit that it's probably a story more geared for women but in a setting/context that's more traditionally aimed at men. My hope is that this makes it more appealing to more people.  

This "what women like" versus "what men like" conflict is a unique issue for me, particularly with movies and books.  For example, I generally HATE romantic comedies and LOVE "bang bang shoot 'em ups" as my dear mother would term science fiction, spy, war, superhero, crime, westerns -- basically all the good genres.  There are always exceptions to this, but this is me generalizing.

Concerning the narrating character's internal dialogue, two common responses I've heard from female readers:

  • She's so funny!
  • I feel like I'm having a conversation with you, Kelley.

Two responses I've heard from male readers:

  • "Why did you write a book about an ugly girl?" (This is a direct quote.)
  • "You throw in these zingers about a physical shortcoming, and it’s kind of like pricking a balloon with a pin." (This one is copied from an email so it's verbatim.)

I think I'm realizing that men aren't aware of the self-deprecating thoughts many normal women have constantly running through our minds. They hear women always saying things like "our culture impacts the way we view ourselves," but they don't know what that actually looks like in the life and mind of the everyday woman. And maybe that means that they don't understand why we are so insecure, because the men who love us think we are pretty great.

In contrast, women seem to know that we beat ourselves up in our heads, so they aren't surprised that a perfectly normal girl like Brenna views everyone else as more attractive/more talented/more important than she is. My female readers seem able to find the humor in this frustrating everyday battle, and even relate to a character who might be just like them. She's not Quasimodo, but she's not going to have a tiara placed on her perfect hair anytime soon, either.