Thursday, April 12, 2012

Where are the good books for boys?

I have been meaning to write this post for a while, it is something that has bothered me for some time.  I have three kids, all of them readers.  My oldest is my only girl and we have always enjoyed reading books together and picking books out to read at the library.  With my sons it has been a totally different experience.  My thirteen year old loves to read but he is very picky about what he reads.  He of course loves Harry Potter and has read the series over and over and over again.  I finally told him enough and dragged him to the library to pick out some new books.  We could not find anything that would interest him, not one.  When we went to the teen fiction section  it seemed like 75% of the books were aimed toward teenage girls and vampires.  I have nothing against the vampire craze, I have read a few and enjoyed them, but that is not what my 13 year old wants to read.  He loves historical fiction and books about battles and wars and we could not find anything for him to read.  I talked to the librarian and she informed me that there are not a lot of books for teenage boys being published because "boys do not read".

I have two boys that do read and it is very frustrating that I cannot find books for them because according to publishing companies all the other boys today are too busy playing video games.  My boys play video games too but that does not mean that there is no room for a book also!    I did a little research for this post and found a New York Times article that discussed this topic.  The author, Robert Lipsyte has some interesting points to make:

"But I think it’s also about the books being published. Michael Cart, a past president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, agrees. “We need more good works of realistic fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, on- or ­offline, that invite boys to reflect on what kinds of men they want to become,” he told me. “In a commercially driven publishing environment, the emphasis is currently on young women.” And then some. At the 2007 A.L.A. conference, a Harper executive said at least three-­quarters of her target audience were girls, and they wanted to read about mean girls, gossip girls, frenemies and vampires.
Naturally, authors are writing for this ready group. The current surge in children’s literature has been fueled by talented young female novelists fresh from M.F.A. programs who in earlier times would have been writing midlist adult fiction. Their novels are bought by female editors, stocked by female librarians and taught by female teachers. It’s a cliché but mostly true that while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters. "

The entire article can be found here.

 I have tried looking for good historical fiction for my son in the adult fiction but a lot of these that deal with battles and wars that he would enjoy reading about almost always contain a lot of bad language and rape scenes that I do not want him to be reading about yet.  So what to do?  I will continue on my search for good books for my boys to continue their love of reading and hope that there are authors out there who will write some good books teenage boys and most importantly be able to get them published in a time when books for boys are not big sellers! 

If anyone knows of some books I could get my kids to try I would love some suggesions!


  1. This is a very interesting topic. I hadn't thought about the lack of YA books geared towards boys, but now that I think about the YA section at the bookstore I agree completely.

    I'm currently working my way through John Flanagan's Rangers Apprentice series, which is fantasy. It's definitely age appropriate for your son (I think it's in the kids rather than YA section) and, if he likes fantasy, I think the series would appeal to him. The main character is a 15-year old boy. I think the books are very well done.

    As for historical fiction, he may want to give Conn Iggulden, Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte or Steven Saylor a try. However, while I've read a few books by each author, I honestly can't remember if they would be appropriate you a 13-year old or not, it depends on what you are comfortable letting him read.

    I do recommend Stephen Lawhead's King Raven trilogy, which is based on the Robin Hood legend. I think that would be okay for a 13-year old.

    I started reading Tom Clancy as a teenager. He might like Clancy's earlier novels - Patriot Games, The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Thanks for the great book suggestions Melissa. I will definitely be checking these out!

  3. If your son likes fantasy, I'd recommend you try to find the Pendragon series, by D.J. MacHale. Each novel is set in a different universe, sometimes bordering sci-fi, sometimes more like an alternative-Earth. Quite a few of the novels are told like historical novels, even if the universe is not ours, and the main character grows with the reader. I never finished the series, but I've read the first four or five books when I was a teenager and I loved them.

  4. Great post! I've often thought the same thing...here's my recommendations:

    1. Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy - I read this when I was your son's age and really liked it! It's the Arthurian tale written from Merlin's perspective.

    2. Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness- MC is a 13 yr old boy named Todd...it's a bit science fictiony but it's really a coming of age story. One of my all-time favorites!

    3. The Giver by Lois Lowry - again, MC is a boy...dystopian tale with great themes!

    4. The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer - about 3 siblings in futuristic Zimbabwe...I loved this book as a kiddo.

    5. The Pox Party by M. T. Anderson - I haven't read this yet but it's supposed to be really good. It's about a young African American boy brought up during the Revolutionary War.

    Haha - did I go overboard? :)

  5. James Patterson has a lot of books for young boys. He wrote them for his son who was a reluctant reader. The Angel Experiment books are good.

    A friend of mine with boys suggests the Percy Jackson books, kind of Historical fiction, if the the greek myths were real. :)

    Hope you are able to find some good ones. :)

  6. Brigitte, Kat, and Mari Reads- thanks so much for all of the great book suggestions! I am so excited to get some of these for him, they sound like ones he will enjoy!

  7. A lot of John Green books have males as the main character, though these may be a little old for him.

    Percy Jackson or Rich Riordan's spin-off series The Heroes of Olympus are really great books.

    I am Number Four and The Power of Six are both told from Male POV.

    Some others I enjoyed were The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Beastly, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Notes from the Midnight Driver, Twisted, Life of Pi, The Curse Worker's Series, Jolted, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and Infinity. All of these range from middle grade to older teen.

  8. Lisa-

    Wow! Thanks for so many great recommendations. I cannot wait to start ordering some of these books for him!

  9. I've heard other mothers mention the same thing, it's very hard to find book geared toward boys. I think this is something that really should be looked into. Publishers need to understand that boys want to read, but struggle finding the right book.

  10. Mrs Q,

    I totally agree with you. Publishers do need to make an effort to publish more books for boys!

  11. Ugh, that's so frustrating. Young adult fiction definitely seems to be geared way more towards girls and it can be really difficult to find historical fiction for adults that's also appropriate for younger readers. I'll have to think a little bit on some possibilities. It's so unfortunate that there aren't more books for younger males....

  12. I agree. They are just not putting out enough. Sad.

    Good luck on your searching! You're a good mama.

  13. My son is only 7 so we're not quite to YA books yet but I experience the same frustration going into Barnes & Noble to look for Chapter books for him and finding the ones they have are all geared towards girls. I'm glad you tackled this topic. I'll be making note of everyone's suggestions here for future reference :)

  14. Hi Anne. This is the first time on your blog, so I'm sliding in late here. My oldest is a girl (11) and my son is just 7. But I homeschool and I've seen other teenage boys with the Eragon series. Also G. A. Henty published a whole series of historical fiction for young readers. Not sure if they're Christian-based...most homeschoolers I know are. (I'm not.) Hope this helps!

  15. mkstelmack,

    I have heard of the Eragon series but not books by Henty. I will definitely check them out. Thanks!

  16. Definitely try out the Percy Jackson books - Rick Riordan also has two other series, the Kane Chronicles (Egyptian mythology) and a follow on series to the Percy Jackson books with many of the same characters. My younger brother loves them.
    Anthony Horowitz' Alex Rider books are good - fourteen-year-old Alex Rider is enlisted as a spy for MI6 (the English CIA) and is sent on deadly missions around the world - and even, in one of the books, into space! HEAPS of action but a clean read - I don't remember any swearing, not really any romance, and there is violence, but not graphic or gratuitous.
    One of the other commenters mentioned Flannagan's Rangers Apprentice series - they're fantastic, and there's about nine or ten books in the series.
    If he likes fantasy, maybe try Terry Pratchett's Discworld series?
    Good luck!