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Cher-y-lynne {sher-uhl-lin} –noun 1. One who formerly sold and recommended children’s books at a bookstore; a specialist in young adult, middle grade, and picture books. 2. A para-educator at a middle school. 3. A struggling young adult writer. 4. A lover of chocolate and popcorn. Archaic: An Audiology and Speech Language Pathology major at Brigham Young University. Questions? Suggestions? Books you'd like me to review? E-mail me at cherylynne1 (at) gmail (dot) com.
This is a blog for my ranting, raving, and occasionally brilliant opinions. You have been warned. Enter at your own risk.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Room on the Shelf: YA Books for Boys

Every few days, I have the exact same conversation. A teenage boy comes in looking for recommendations. He’s read Percy Jackson, Fablehaven, and Harry Potter.

My first suggestions are always novels in the same genre, things like Suzanne Collin’s Underland Chronicles, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, or Rick Riordan’s new Kane Chronicles.

Then I get this response: “Yeah…you know, Percy Jackson was great when I was twelve, but I’m actually sixteen now. Do you have anything…older?”

Short answer? Not really.

Here’s a quick list of the YA books that boys are buying:
1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. Maze Runner by James Dashner
3. Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
4. Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
5. Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan
6. Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer

And that’s it. Really.

Now, I’ve heard a number of people say that teenage boys aren’t reading. I don’t think that’s true. They’re just not reading YA, because there aren’t enough books for them. They go straight from Brandon Mull to Michael Crichton, James Patterson, John Grisham and Robert Ludlum.

YA, on the other hand, is oversaturated with books for girls, particularly paranormal romance. And even the books that boy should like (Uglies, anyone?) have covers that look so ridiculously girly that no boy would be caught dead reading it.

What we’ve got to remember is that teenagers are all about appearance. Their entire existence revolves around “looking cool.” This is where I think e-readers can come in handy. No girlish cover, no dog-eared paperback, just the newest gadget. But that’s a discussion for another time.

What am I trying to say? Authors, editors, agents, we need books for teenage boys. Not just any books, but fantasy packed with action. Think about what someone would want to read after finishing Percy Jackson. Eragon used to fit the bill, but Christopher Paolini has taken so long between books that his audience has grown up.

In short, there’s room on the shelf. So get writing!


  1. monstrumologistmonstrumologistmonstrumologist..... And the Alfred Kropp books are OK. And Leviathan was alright. And boys here in Kansas are NUTS for Carter Finally Gets It, which I like, but have issues with (it isn't really the author's job to dissuade teenage boys from latent homophobia, and he makes a relate-able book my making it so accurate... but still.. I guess it rubs me wrong either way).

    But, do these very few examples make up for the oversaturation of YA books aimed at female audiences? No. You're absolutely right about that.

  2. Both Monstrumologist and Leviathan crossed my mind when I was making this list. However, the sales on those, for whatever reason, are no where near the sales of the ones on the list. I agree completely that they are books boys SHOULD be reading...but they aren't. I put both of those books on our Teen Summer Reading table, and it barely increased sales at all. On the other hand, when the newest Maximum Ride came out, we could barely keep it in stock.

    I'm hoping the Monstrumologist series takes off when more books come out...we all know how teens love series. If you have any advice on how to get kids reading them, let me know!

  3. I think one of the problems is that many fantasy books featuring older teenage boys are published in the adult market. For example, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks and Orson Scott Card have all written books about teens that sit in the adult sections because that's where they make more money. I think it's kind of a publishing double-standard, not an unbalanced market.

  4. You bring up an interesting point. For me, however, the genre a book belongs in has less to do with the age of the protagonist as it does with the style of writing. Generally with the books in fantasy and sci fi, even if they do have tons of action, the descriptions and politics are expanded on enough to make up a significant portion of the novel. It's normal to have a sci fi that's over 1000 pages long, while that's totally unacceptable in YA.

    Some of the books you mentioned, however, would work well as YA, and the publishing companies have noticed this. Something they've done lately is republish certain titles with new covers so that there are paperbacks in both sci fi and YA at the same time. Ender's Game does this, as do some of the Terry Pratchett books. What I've noticed, however, is that these books still sell better in their adult sci fi version.
    Hopefully they'll start taking more risks with those kinds of books, though (Robert Jordan in teen, I think that'd be awesome!) and maybe the boys will come back....
    Thanks for reminding me of such an important aspect!