Gender Benders

This is a popular trope in Manga but I’ve noticed that it is quite successful in YA novels. Are they your thing? Here are five books which have the girl pretending to be a boy.

Bloody Jack – L. A. Meyer
Published June 1st, 2004 by Harcourt


Life as a ship’s boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas.
There’s only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life–if only she doesn’t get caught. . . .

The Education of Bet – Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Published July 12th, 2010 by Houghton Miffin


When Will and Bet were four, tragic circumstances brought them to the same house, to be raised by a wealthy gentleman as brother and sister. Now sixteen, they’ve both enjoyed a privileged upbringing thus far. But not all is well in their household. Because she’s a girl, Bet’s world is contained within the walls of their grand home, her education limited to the rudiments of reading, writing, arithmetic, and sewing. Will’s world is much larger. He is allowed—forced, in his case—to go to school. Neither is happy.

So Bet comes up with a plan and persuades Will to give it a try: They’ll switch places. She’ll go to school as Will. Will can live as he chooses. But once Bet gets to school, she soon realizes living as a boy is going to be much more difficult than she imagined.

Eon – Alison Goodman
Published December 6th, 2008 by Viking Juvenile


Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he’ll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragoneye, the human link to an energy dragon’s power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and if discovered Eon faces a terrible death.


Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld
Published October 6th, 2009 by Simon Pusle


Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

The Body at the Tower – Y. S. Lee
Published August 10th, 2010 by Candlewick Press


This is another colourful, action-packed Victorian detective novel about the exploits of agent Mary Quinn. At a young age, Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows and taken to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. The school turns out to be a front for a private detective agency. At age 17, Mary takes on her first case (A Spy in the House). In this, the second book of the series, Mary Quinn sets out to uncover the truth behind a suspicious death at St. Stephen’s Tower, better known as the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. The accident occurred after hours in a highly public part of town and despite the presence of night watchmen. Mary, disguised as Mark Quinn, becomes a builder’s assistant to find out the truth about the body at the tower


7 thoughts on “Gender Benders

    1. Are there others that I have missed? It is quite common, isn’t it though? As a trope I mean. I have no idea how the girls manage it. I, for one, would never pass as a boy. Ever. Haha.


  1. YUS! EON SO FABULOUS! Leviathan wasn’t bad either. Even though it’s great I thought the second one was way better. AND OMFG I LOVE THE AGENCY SERIES LIKE CRACK. I need the third book now, dammit, NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!


  2. Great topic!!!–I don’t know why, but I love the disguise and adventure girls wanting to do “boy” things, pretending to be boys, being awesome at it, and being found out.

    I think my all-time favorites is the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, followed by the Bloody Jack series–just finished reading Eon/Eona also a good pick!

    I just picked up The Agency from the library and am looking forward to it.

    I’m on the fence about Leviathan–I really loved the Uglies series, but I haven’t read a lot of steampunk, so I’m not sure which way to go…but will probably pick it up if I can get it at the library.


    1. Leviathan isn’t bad but, to me, it felt like it was more for younger kids. There’s a certain simplicity about it that is immediately apparent when you start reading it. I’ll look forward to seeing what you think about it.


      1. hmmm, that’s interesting–from the cover I would have expected it to be more mature…I’ve got a couple books on my tbr list right now, but I’ll let you know when I get to it!


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