Thursday, July 22, 2010

Points of View

You all know how I feel about the problem of boys and books.  I'm going to be asking for help soon to launch my Give a boy a Book initiative, so look for that in the beginning of August.  But there have been a lot of really great posts about this lately with some really different takes, and I want to direct you to them because they make for some awesome reading.

The first is an AP piece about getting boys to read by giving them what they want...namely farts.  How to get boys to read? Try a book on farts.

The second is was written by Leah Cypess over at The Enchanted Inkpot.  TOTW: Boy Books  The article itself is short but there are some really awesome comments there.

The third was written by Hannah Moskowitz about getting boys to read YA by giving them real boy characters instead of resorting to gimmicks.  Full disclosure:  Hannah totally pimps my book in the article and is a fellow Simon Pulse author.  The Boy Problem.

I think all three articles have a lot of validity to them.  I'm personally all for getting boys to read any way we can.  I think there's a lot of value in YA literature for teenage boys and that we're missing the boat on bringing them into the fold.  But I think it can be done without dumbing down the books or resorting to gimicky tricks.  I also think there are two distinct problems. When boys get older they either move from middle grade book into adult books, bypassing YA, or they stop reading altogether.  And I think we have to address both of those problems.

But these three writers have said it all better than I could, so go read their articles and then come back and tell me what you think.  Is there really a problem?  Should we cater to the tastes of boy or should boys be taught to value what's written even if it doesn't appeal to them?  Or is there a middle ground?  What can be done about the problems?


  1. This is difficult for me to answer, because #1 I don't know if I did read YA or if I just skipped it like everyone else (evidently). I don't have a good handle on what is YA. What I can say however, is that I think we need to write honestly, we need to have characters that a young male can identify and relate to, and it's gotta be a good story. That's very general, but I think it's that easy. Your book (which I'm thoroughly enjoying BTW) is a prime example of this. It's honest, it's a good story, and my 16-year old related to it instantly. He absolutely loved it, and I am so glad YOU got him to read it. Great post, Shaun.

  2. If you look at the bestseller lists there's no shortage in male authors. In theory there are plenty of YA and middle grade novels with male characters and children's books about "boy things", but most of the time they're so one-dimensional, stereotypical and dumbed down that it makes me want to puke. Boys are expected to like violence, action and toilet humour, and that's what you'll find on the library and bookstore shelves. Some boys do like those things and that's cool, but some of us may prefer books with a little more depth to them. Some of us may actually have feelings and opinions about things other than girls, guns, sports and bodily functions :) The problem is finding those books, because teachers and librarians (and even some authors) seem adamant to push "boy books" down our throats. When I was a little kid I'd happily read books that my sisters picked out, it never occurred to me that they were "girl books" until a grownup kindly pointed it out. I think it's a cultural problem, it's how we're raised. Your "Give a boy a book initiative" sounds interesting, I'm a teen guy and I'd love to help out if I can. I haven't read your book, but I'll try to get my hands on a copy.

  3. Hannah's post was awesome! So many good points. Of course my YA novel is a guy MC so if one of girlie books (and I have so many) would have been sold then I'd probably be a little more shy about speaking out.

    I'm not THAT old and even in the mid 90's there wasn't that much YA. I read a lot of John Grisham in high school. Stephen King also.

  4. Eric: I like that you say that you haven't got a good handle on what YA actually is. I love that because truthfully we've proven that YA can be anything that appeals to a teen audience.

    Charlie: Great points. I always hear the problem is that there aren't enough books that appeal to boys who like girls/violence/action. It's awesome to hear the opposite. Your post raises a great point though: We need to publish a wide range of books that appeal to a wide variety of guys because they're not all the same. When I was reading MG books, I also read a lot of books that were categorized "girl" books, alongside the Hardy Boys and The Great Brain and other stereotypical boy books.
    I just feel like authors/publishers/booksellers are missing the boat somehow since teen guys really don't seem to be reading YA. YA has such a great variety, I'm not sure how we're losing them.

    Julie: Isn't Hannah awesome? I didn't read much YA in HS either. I was the kind of guy most of these articles are talking about. I went right from middle grade books to adult sci-fi/fantasy. But in my defense, there wasn't a lot of YA out there. What excuse is there now?


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