We've talked about this before. Boys aren't reading YA. In some cases they're not reading at all. Literacy amongst boys is down. There aren't a lot of books in YA geared toward boys. Maureen Johnson, who is a really awesome author by the way (I got Suite Scarlett on my Kindle as a free download and her writing hooked me), wrote a moving post about the issue. It was countered by an equally awesome post by Guys Lit Wire.
I'm not as eloquent as either writer. Go read those posts and then come back and read this. Because I'm not going to add any arguments to theirs. Both Colleen at Guys Lit Wire and Maureen, have put it out there better than I could. All I'm going to do is tell you a story. I'll be here waiting when you come back.
You're back! Here's the story: I remember the first time I became ashamed of reading. I don't remember the exact moment I got hooked on reading. I used to love staying home sick because I could gather a stack of book--Super Fudge and Ramona Quimby and The Great Brain and The Chronicles of Narnia and (my personal favorite) A Wrinkle in Time. It just seemed to me that I was born with books in my hands and I was always proud of that. My vocabulary level was far beyond my age group. I was reading adult books in the 4th and 5th grades. But it wasn't until 6th grade that I became ashamed of my love of reading.
Then he slapped the book out of my hands so hard that the front cover ripped off. I still have that book by the way, dog-eared and frayed and missing the cover). He said, "What is that gay shit?" and kicked the book around. I didn't see anything particularly wrong with the cover but I suppose the fancy lady riding the horse was a little odd. I mean, no one was playing ball on the front. Then everyone laughed. The PE coach looked on but didn't do anything. I fought back tears, grabbed my book, and shoved it in my bag.
From that moment on, I rarely read where anyone could see me. I bought hardback books so I could remove the jackets and in some instances I tore the covers off to keep the boys from seeing what I was reading. If I got to school early and was reading, the moment another boy came along, I put my book away and did nothing. And I did my very best to choose books that didn't look like girl books. I was ashamed to be seen reading. Ashamed of being a reader at all. I was already skinny and socially awkward and bad at sports. I couldn't afford to do anything else to make it worse. Reading made it worse.
Of course, I didn't give up reading; I was too in love with words to stay away. But it became my secret habit. At least for the rest of middle school. In high school I gravitated toward other readers but I was still hyper-aware of what I was reading. I was careful not to read anything that could get me ridiculed. It's possible that if I hadn't already loved reading as much as I did, that I would have give it up completely. I know guys who did.
So that's it. That's my story. Infer from it what you will.