Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Boys Are Not Stupid

I was reading a particularly terrible book that I will not name.  The writing was clunky and it was all tell and no show.  It was like, "He was angry, so angry but the girl in front of him was very, very pretty."  Okay, that's not a direct quote, but it's actually fairly close.

I was quite annoyed by how poorly the book was written and went to look up reviews for it.  The reviews were mostly positive.  I thought I must have been reading a different book.  So I drilled into the reviews to see why people liked it.  Maybe the book magically got better after 100 pages.  What I saw pissed me off.

Many of the reviews had this sentiment: this isn't a great book but boys will like it.  The reasons they listed for boys liking the book were the blood, the action and the distinct lack of overt smooching.

All I really want to say to that is yes, those things may appeal to some boys.  They appealed to me, which is why I bought the book.  But having aspects that appeal to boys doesn't excuse a book for sucking and sucking hard.

There are so many well-written books out there that would appeal to boys, that I don't understand why people would give a pass to a terrible book simply for having things in it which would also appeal to boys.

Boys are not stupid.  I wish people who write books would stop treating them like they are.


  1. Books that are full of awesome shit like sword fights and explosions aren't automatically awesome books. They still need to be well written.

    Great point, Shaun.

  2. Matthew: Seriously, right? I mean there are books like THE MARBURY LENS and THE MAZE RUNNER and on and on. Books that are smart, well written, emotionally mature, and that don't pander to the reader, that also happen to have guns and violence and things that appeal to testosterone. I'm not ashamed to love books and movies where stuff blows up. I think it's genetic. But it burns me up when publishers and writers and booksellers treat boys like they should like something simply because it has those cool thing.

  3. Actually, I have to disagree with you here Shaun. A great number of boys are lunkheads IMHO. These are the same boys who grow up thinking going to the bar every night or the local strip club is great entertainment. I think you're forgetting that those of us guys who appreciate well-written literature are the exception, not the rule. That's not to say that we shouldn't expect writing to be better in any book that gets published, but I can't say I'm really surprised here.

  4. Eric: LOL. I think there's a very strange venn diagram in here somewhere. But I think you can write compelling, sexy, violent, appeals-to-boys literature that doesn't treat them like morons. I think that when we stoop to the level we think they're at, we not only don't give them enough credit, but we give them nothing to reach for.

    I use The Marbury Lens again as an example of a fantastically gory, violent novel that deals with some heavy questions of friendship and identity and reality and abuse by a writer who doesn't talk down to his audience.

    I love when you disagree!

  5. Oh and Ship Breaker is another awesome "boy book" that just so happens to be incredibly well written.

    BTW, I saw your comment at Andrew's blog, and thought it was very interesting. I basically agree with you, but I'm curious to know what you think about my post that led him to write his.

    You can find it here (too lazy to link it for you, please copy/paste when you have a moment):


  6. Thanks Shaun, I think your comments are thoughtful and very much in touch with reality. I would have just emailed you, but I realized I don't have your address.

  7. Those reviewers have clearly never read Sherman Alexie.


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