I don't remember where I first read about The Monstrumologist, but I clearly remember the major critique the reviewer had against the book: its complete and total lack of female characters. The general details of the book faded from my memory, but that one notion that a book could have absolutely no relevant female characters intrigued me somewhat. And so I kept that idea in mind as I finally delved down to read the book as a sort of mind-wiping distraction.
It's a relatively good assessment of the book, and an accurate indicator of its target audience. The Monstrumologist is a boy's book through and through, whether because of its clear tendency towards all things gory, or because of its masculine approach to hunting monsters, or even simply because of that one factoid someone mentioned years ago: there is not a single female character throughout The Monstrumologist. No romantic interest, no token female... nothing. And it's not even that the cast of characters is necessarily so small. It's just that every single character happens to be male, and happens to behave in what we traditionally label as a masculine behavior.
Then I got to wondering: how much should this actually influence the book itself? Is the book necessarily weaker for the fact that it has no female characters? I think it isn't. The characters are all of a certain cut. There's the insane monster hunter, the out-of-touch doctor, the revenge-thirsty teenager, the skeptic policeman... The characters themselves are fairly routine, and truthfully, adjusting the gender of one of them would have been significantly worse than the fact that there were no women overall. True, this indicates some kind of weakness in Yancey's ability to write well-rounded characters as a whole, but there's nothing inherently sexist about it. I didn't get the vibe that Yancey didn't want to write about girls for some defined reason, rather that he had a specific "boy's tale" in mind. Is that so terribly wrong?
I'm split. On the one hand, I know that young men read significantly less than young women, and that books are very rarely marketed exclusively for guys. On the other hand... how can a book so completely lack characters of the opposite gender? But now I'm realizing that this isn't just in "boys books". Often, the only male characters in books for young women is the romantic interest. How is that better? When you start looking at it, young adult books are often split along gender lines. It's... strange. And extremely problematic.
I've had months to think about this, and really... I've reached no conclusions. It bothers me that a book could be so utterly limited in its characterizations, but if those are the characterizations that make the book better, I really can't fault the author. The Monstrumologist overall isn't much more than mediocre (for reasons well beyond gender imbalances), but its clear boy-focus is inherently tied to its story. Something else probably would have rang false. So... thoughts?