Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Whole Boy Books Thing...

So, boy books in YA.


Apparently there are none.

Apparently the boys aren't reading.

I've been following this discussion on the internet with great interest, since YA author Hannah Moskowitz posted about it. I think she made some great points -- YA does provide a lot more content for girls than boys. Really, she's not lying about that.

But then Maureen Johnson is also not lying about the fact that GIRLS are expected to sit around reading about boring dudes all the time. So, why can't the boring dudes handle a bit of shopping on occasion?

Why is it that books written by women, automatically get treated as "lesser" than books by men? Why is it that boys won't read books written about girls, or even just written by women (c'mon, really, you think JK Rowling should have had to pretend to be a guy? I don't.)

The answer is simple, apparently, boys don't read about girls. Boys are above that kind of thing. I keep reading blog posts about how horrible romance is, how it shouldn't be the dominant theme in a book, how it's turning off male readers, and omg-YA-authors-stop-turning-the-children-into-zombie-bots-like-seriously.

And, so now I'm thinking: So fucking what.

You know what? I'm female, and I'm not a particularly big fan stories where romance is the dominant element either -- that DOES NOT MAKE ROMANCE BAD, or inherently less worthy than books that are all wit, or all humour, or all adventure, or all deep introspection (sorry, I've just been seeing the implication that romance writing is less than worthy for MONTHS and have been meaning to yell about this for a while. I think I tweet-yelled a few weeks ago). It just makes romance not my cup of tea, and that's okay for me and all those writers who want to write their romance-dominated stories.

Honestly, in my opinion, the problem isn't with the books in YA at the moment. It's with readers (and parents, and people who are recommending books to kids) that aren't inclined to go beyond bestseller shelves to find what THEY want to read (or what they think their boys will read). And you know, that's creating a vicious cycle. Because the people who WANT more boy books, about teens making mischief and possibly not falling in love, those people (it seems, from what I see) aren't buying the books written for them.

Which means those books won't sell, so less of those books get published etc etc.



I read a lot of "boy books". And I'm going to talk about them here. And I want people to add ones that they know about to the comments. I want this post to be a kind of list of books for everyone who is looking for YA from a male POV (because, like I said, there IS a problem in that it's elusive and not as well publicised).

My list of male-oriented YA, with mini-reviews:
-LOOKING FOR ALASKA, PAPER TOWNS, AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES, by John Green -- I don't think these need a review.

-WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan (again, no review required).

- ARE WE THERE YET, by David Levithan -- awesome, third present POV. Brothers. (and I'm sure some of Levithan's other books, but this is the only one I've read *shamed face*)

-Cory Doctorow's stuff

-Nick Hornby's YA stuff

-Joe Dunthorne, SUBMARINE-- this one has the funniest, funniest voice.

-JUST IN CASE and WHAT I WAS by Meg Rosoff -- the fact that the author is female does not, in my opinion, negate the fact that these are books about boys. Rosoff's lovely style will be a plus for literary readers

-THE PIPER'S SON Melina Marchetta -- honest, beautiful portrayal of a twenties-something guy. Marchetta's Piper's Son is great for those clamouring for "New Adult" as well as boy books. It is mature, and beautiful.

-NO WORRIES, and CONFESSIONS OF A LIAR, THIEF AND FAILED SEX GOD by Bill Condon (also some other Bill Condon titles). Awesome books.

-LOST PROPERTY, by James Moloney -- made me cry without being melodramatic, and I don't cry easily.

- KING DORK by Frank Portman (really, does this need an introduction).

-THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky (again, no review needed).

-JARVIS 24 by David Metzenthen -- I haven't actually read this one, BUT I have heard so much awesome about it.

- KING OF WHATEVER, Kirsten Murphy -- one of my favourite male POV YA books. The main character is incredibly endearing.

- NOSTRADAMUS AND INSTANT NOODLES, by John Larkin -- this book is good enough that I read it like five years ago and still remember it in detail.

-BREAK and the upcoming INVINCIBLE SUMMER by Hannah Moskowitz. Break = Chuck Palahniuk for teens. Need I say more?

-RIGHT BEHIND YOU by Gail Giles -- really dark, really great for reluctant readers because of the simplicity of the prose, but also for sophisticated readers because of the nuances in the ideas presented.

-THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie -- I think we all know how much I ADORE this book. Really, it's in my top ten YA books ever.

-THE OUTSIDERS, by S.E Hinton -- another classic

-THE ADVENTURES OF FANBOY AND GOTH GIRL -- loved it, fantastic voice.

-Scott Westerfeld's novels -- haven't read all of them, but what I have read has convinced me that they're awesome.

-THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier -- also classic.

-THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO and the others in this series by Patrick Ness -- some of the best dystopia I've read.

-KEROSENE by Chris Wooding -- real, honest, heartbreaking. God, this kid was burning things down left right and centre and I could still empathise with him. Fantastic. And THE HAUNTING OF ALAIZABEL CRAY by Chris Wooding, some of the best YA fantasy I've read, even though I don't like his adult stuff that much (Kerosene is contemporary, so some diversity there).

-M.T Anderson's novels.

-SWERVE and NUKKIN YA by Phillip Gwynne. SWERVE is one of my all-time favourite YA titles as well.

-CREATURE OF THE NIGHT by Kate Thompson. I bought this for my brother, so haven't read it yet (I will eventually, though -- I basically buy books for people in my family as an excuse to read 'em myself). And her THE NEW POLICEMAN, which I have read, and is excellent. Irish-based fantasy (Creature of the Night is gritty contemp, so there's some diversity there too), and a strong music thread.

-TWISTED by Laurie Halse Anderson -- great, great, great. Like all Laurie Halse Anderson's novels.

-SPUD by John van de Ruit -- haven't read this one, either. Bought it for a friend.

-Anthony Horowitz's novels

-GENIUS SQUAD series by Catherine Jinks -- nice YA/MG crossover in this one, imo. I'm not sure where it goes.

-HAMLET -- a novelistic reimagining by the amazing John Marsden. I haven't read this one, but based on what I've read of Marsden's stuff(everything else. A good fifteen books), it's bound to be bursting with compelling with characters, and strong writing.

-90 PACKETS OF INSTANT NOODLES by Deb Fitzpatrick -- quirky premise, altough I haven't read it yet. Crime elements.

-THE BYRON JOURNALS by Daniel Ducrou -- another I haven't read but am really looking forward to.

-ADIOS, NIRVANA by Conrad Wesselhoeft -- this one's not out yet, but I just finished reading an ARC courtesy of netgalley and it is AMAZING. Like, the male POV version of The Sky is Everywhere, but without the romance. So, so good (I should state that this book is repped by my agency, but I didn't actually know that when I read it. So.).

That's my list. One girl's reading. I am SURE that there are other great books out there geared towards boys and I definitely want to hear about them. But I also want boys to be open to reading "girl" books, because sometimes they're bloody fantastic too and you're just missing out.

Seriously, Guitar Highway Rose by Brigid Lowry. Oh my God, is magical but it's only half male POV, and Melina Marchetta's earlier novels are similarly awesome and have kickass female leads. What about Before I Fall, the Bermudez Triangle, Raw Blue and so many others? All awesome books. So yeah, I've kicked off a reading list of YA geared towards teen boys, but I do think it's pretty much just bad for the human race if one gender will only ever exclusively read about their own.

What are your recs? Keep adding to the list! :)