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! :)


  1. oh, I'm so loving this list which features many many of my fave titles. I also think that Aussie YA is very boy YA. In fact, most male POV I read is Australian, which makes me wonder if the "crisis" is not so prevalent over here where we have such great contemp titles that appeal to guys and girls as well.

    Jarvis 24 is brilliant. And also Graffiti Moon - fab for guys. I agree with Swerve and The King of Whatever and also another Aussie title Five Parts Dead - which reminds me of melina Marchetta. Just brilliant characters, hey. Oh - and absolutely Saltwater vampires by Kisrty Eagar with a male POV that is so good it hurts.


  2. Yeah, actually, my friend and I were talking about the discrepancies between Aussie YA and US YA at a bookstore that separates em.

    Basically, the Aussie YA had more multicultural titles, and a stronger balance between male/female titles, which is kind of win. But I was wondering whether maybe they've only used 'select' US titles we're essentially foreign market, and therefore I'm not getting the full gamut of novels from the US -- it's quite possible.

    I also don't think fantasy and paranormal took off as much in Aus as elsewhere, so that could have something to do with it as well?

  3. Also, I'm halfway through Graffiti Moon and it's fabulous! :D And awesome recs, as always *runs to check them out* I'm so psyched for Saltwater Vampires.

  4. This is an awesome post. I'm bookmarking this one.

  5. Wow, thanks for the list!!! Would also like to recommend,

    Ordinary Ghosts by Eireann Corrigan (highly rec by Ryan at AW), excellent example of a female writer who has the male voice down to a tee.


    Smack by Melvin Burgess--intense story about two teens who runaway and become addicted to heroin. story is told mostly through the main MC's , Tar and Gemma but also goes into many other povs. AWESOME book.

  6. @Meredith, glad you like the post :D

    @Melanie, I've been meaning to check out Ordinary Ghosts for a while. And I love SMACK (although my version is called JUNK, pretty sure). Can't believe I forgot it!

  7. Oooh I don't have any recs, but your list is AMAZING. :D I will have to read them all soon!

    Awesome post :)

  8. Awesomesauce! I'm going to have to take a look at some of these!

    Hmm... I recommend the Airborn trilogy by Kenneth Oppel (boy MC, all steampunky and cool) as well as the book Airman by Eoin Colfer (also steampunky and cool). They might fall under the category of MG, actually - I know the first Airborn book probably does, as I read it in middle school. Still, they're pretty awesome.

  9. Vee this is such a great list. I have to admit that I've probably only read about 6 of these books. Oddly enough, I was just on B&N and saw that they have all 3 John Green books on sale for 2$ and Twisted on sale for 4$. I'm gonna go broke soon getting me some good guy reads. Love your post. :)

  10. Wow, what an impressive list! I need to get on it :)

    ...as in read those books, not as in become part of the list...


    ...though...that would be cool, too!

  11. oooooh shiny recs :)

    I'm afraid I don't have anything to add (maybe The Demon's Lexicon?), as most of the books I read with boy MCs are middle grade.

    awesome post, and thanks for linking to maureen johnson's post. I hadn't seen that one yet--makes a good point that girls have to read boy books for most their lives, aside from YA

  12. @Karla -- thanks and happy reading :)

    @Caitlin -- omg, I am such a huge Eoin Colfer fan but I didn't know whether to include his stuff because I've always thought it was more MG? But definitely a great author for boys.

    I haven't heard of Kenneth Oppel, so I'll have to check that out. Steampunk is so cool :)

    @Angie -- yay for baragains! :D

    @Kat -- it would be pretty cool if you became part of the list indeed ;)

    @meg, Maureen's post was so interesting. I was like "Huh, very true, very true..." But I just think there is a lot out there for boys in YA, that isn't getting spoken about.

    And The Demon's Lexicon! I've heard lots of great stuff about that one :)

    Okay, I have more to add to this list. Some very duhhh ones.

    BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (although, I dunno, it is a romance which is supposedly not appealing to a lot of guys).

    Annnnd ERAGON, which is probably the biggest YA fantasy for boys out there, barring...

    HARRY POTTER (I know, MG vs. YA debate, which was why I didn't mention this in the initial post).

  13. Great list. I'm familiar with many of those authors and books.

    I'd also add Darren Shan and Sam Enthoven.

  14. @Medeia, ahhh Darren Shan, another I can't believe I left off this list.

    Haven't heard of Sam Enthoven, before. Awesome! New recs :D

  15. Adding another (although this may be kinda MG?) HATCHET by Gary Paulsen -- I looooved this book when I was twelve :)

  16. Brent Weeks- The Night Angel Trilogy. The best read you'll ever have in your entire life. Trust me. I dare you to try it. Brilliant for both males and females. The lead character is male.

  17. The Legend of Kevin the Plumber by Scott Garner is also good guys

  18. Oh and The Messenger by Markus Zusak