Thursday, December 13, 2007

Challenge: Good YA Books for Boys?

And now, another twist on the books for boys arguments.

To begin, in my meandering way, let me say I am a bit fascinated with the idea of making something look good by comparing it to something else and saying, the first thing is bigger/taller/smarter than the second, rather than just discussing the first.

Thus, it isn't enough to say Sally is smart; one must say Sally is smarter than Jen (and pity poor Jen.) Also, it then begs the new question: not whether Sally is smart, but is Jen smart? Etc. I always feel it is insulting to all three involved; poor Jen, whose smarts have been called into question, and poor Sally, whose smarts get lost in the comparison (and, who apparently, just has value when compared to another), and the person making the comparison, who felt it necessary to drag Jen into the mix to make Sally look smarter.

Anyhow. This often is a shorthand used in book reviews.

Critical Mass's series on recommending books includes Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. And I absolutely agree it's a great book; I plan on posting on it as soon as I have the time, and adding it my personal Best Books list (see sidebar).

But, the recommendation includes this line: "At a time when good YA books for male readers are few and far between".

I'm out the door on the way to work, otherwise I'd take time to snark about whether or not it was necessary to include that line; and about how Alexie's book is great, and that snipe at YA for boys shouldn't stand in your way of picking up Alexie's book; and how much YA has the recommender read, anyway?

My real point, and I'm there now, is let's take this challenge!

Name a few"good YA books for male readers" in the comments. Are they truly few and far between? How many titles do we have to get to prove that statement false? I know we are all busy, but c'mon, readers and lurkers! Help me out.

I'll start.

Looking for Alaska, John Green
An Abundance of Katherines, John Green
Postcards from No-Mans Land, Aidan Chambers
Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher.

Ack. The time! Please leave some more suggestions in the comments!


tanita✿davis said...

Deadline, by Chris Crutcher
Repossessed, by A.M. Jenkins
Standard Hero Behavior, by John David Anderson
Darkwing, by Kenneth Oppel (younger guys)
Defect, by Will Weaver

This is just to start you off!

Gail Gauthier said...

Hellbent by Anthony McGowan
Everlost by Neal Shusterman
Firegirl by Tony Abbott

Leila said...

Boy Toy, Barry Lyga
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl, Barry Lyga

I'll probably be back with more.

Susan T. said...

Rose Kent's "Kimchi & Calamari" is on the younger end of YA.

If you broaden the YA definition to include nonfiction, I think you'll find lots. One that I'm reading right now would be great for teenage boys. It's "Black and White Airmen," by John Fleischman. WWII, bomber aircraft, and so on, plus an explantion of racism in the armed forces and civilian life.

Certainly books in Houghton Mifflin's "Scientists in the Field" series would have a lot of boy appeal, but I doubt teenagers would pick up something in a picture-book format--which is too bad. The subject maatter and writing level are great for teenagers.

Susan T.
Chicken Spaghetti

Carrie Jones said...

Big Slick by Eric Luper

I know Sherman Alexie has really compelling reasons for considering FLIGHT an adult novel, rather than a YA, but I've watched a copy get passed around here by some great guys, and I'd say it's easily one of their current favorites.

Anonymous said...

Bucking the Sarge?

Anonymous said...

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Tadmack mentioned Deadline and I was going to mention Whale Talk, but I'll say ANYTHING by Chris Crutcher would be good YA boy reading.


Brian Farrey said...

Can an actual boy pipe in? ;-)

CLAY by David Almond
WISH YOU WERE HERE by Barbara Shoup
BOY MEETS BOY by David Levithan
KING DORK by Frank Portman

That's off the top of my head. I'll probably be back.

*=Disclaimer--I work with this author. But I still love his book.

max said...

I write action-adventures & mysteries especially for boys 8 - 13, who also may not like to read.

NEWSPAPER CAPER, TERROR AT WOLF LAKE, NORTH WOODS POACHERS, MOUNTAIN CABIN MYSTERY, BIG RIG RUSTLERS, SECRET OF ABBOTT'S CAVE & LEGEND OF THE WHITE WOLF, are compared by readers and reviewers to Tom Sawyer, The Hardy Boys, Huck Finn, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Scooby-Doo, Lemony Snicket, and adventure author Jack London.

My blog, Books for Boys, ranks in the top 5 on Yahoo and the top 20 on Google and you can find it at There you will also find links to my author's web site and another blog with 50 pages of reviews.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Thank you,

Max Elliot Anderson
Now, from an author who hated to read...comes books kids hate to put down.

Camille said...

I second Bucking the Sarge and add A Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos.

Fantasy: Warrior Heir and Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Andrew Karre said...

I'd post a list, but it would basically be Brian's (with the addition of MT Anderson's THIRSTY, perhaps).

The bigger issue here is that librarians and other advocates who worry about the perceived paucity of books for boys are coexisting with a book trade where, in my experience, the label "for boys" is largely the kiss of death. unless the author is well established.

I never pitch a book to our salespeople as "for boys." I would not pitch a single book on Brian's list as "for boys." To do so would make it MUCH harder to sell the book at all stages of the process.

There's a weird sort of sel-fullfilling prophecy when it comes to boys and YA, but I think this is really a more a question of packaging and presentation than actual content.

xemilyx said...

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
Runner by Carl Deuker
Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Pena
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks*

*Actually, I only read the first page of this one before the kids stole it from my desk, so I don't know, personally, that it's awesome, but my spies tell me it is.

Captain Elizabeth said...

Geography Club or anything else by Brent Hartinger

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman

Slam by Nick Hornby

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Cohn and Levithan

The Strongbow Saga: Viking Warrior by Judson

Spud by van de Ruit

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Cameron

There are really a lot of these...

Stasia D said...

Here are some popular titles at our school...
Feed, Anderson
Artemis Fowl, Colfer
Ranger's Apprentice, Flanagan
Son of the Mob, Korman
Airborn, Oppel
Fablehaven, Mull
Septimus Heap, Sage

Anonymous said...

Lightning Thief
Maximum Ride
Heir Apparent
HALO books
Faerie Wars
Mister Monday series
Pendragon series
Boot Camp
Alex Rider series
Raven's gate
Spy High

just a few off the top of my head
~ Jennifer aka yabooknerd

Sarah Rettger said...

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
(and Trouble, also by Schmidt, which comes out in 2008 - even better than Wednesday Wars!)
Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth, by J.V. Hart
The Highest Tide, by Jim Lynch (first marketed as adult fiction, until someone realized that a book narrated by a teenager would probably be interesting to teenagers too)
Shackleton's Stowaway, by Victoria McKernan
Spacer and Rat, by Margaret Bechard

Charlotte said...

I just finished a post on what 2007 YA books to give as presents (with the stipulation that they be more or less cheerful), and came up with only 1 boy book --Peak, by Roland Smith. But it's a good one.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a mistake to think too much about whether a book is "for boys" or "for girls". As the main recommender of books for my sixth-grade brother, I can testify that if he doesn't like a book that I liked, it's usually more a matter of personal taste than gender. That said, here are a few that I don't think have been mentioned yet:

The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones
The Redwall series by Brian Jacques
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (can't vouch for it personally, but I trust the recommendation from bookshelves of doom)

And I second Airborn, Percy Jackson, Bartimaeus, and Artemis Fowl.

Anonymous said...

Rat Saw God by Rob Thomas
Peep by Scott Westerfeld
So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon (publish as an adult novel but won 2006 Alex Award)

Anonymous said...

- many by Pete Hautman
- Inexcusable, by Chris Lynch
- Tyrell, by Coe Booth

Anonymous said...

Feed by MT Anderson
I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusack

Abby said...

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie and Notes from the Midnight Driver both by Jordan Sonnenblick. (On the younger side of YA.)

Libby said...

some of these are perfectly fine "boy" books but maybe not so much YA? Like the Sonnenblick books and the Percy Jackson series. But I second the mentions of MT Anderson's books (all of them). Of course there are also S.E. Hinton's books, for oldies but goodies. And Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville, even if the main character's a girl. The Discworld books that are being marketed as YA feature a female main character (Tiffany Aching) but I think most of Terry Pratchett would be great for YA.

Anonymous said...

The Burn Journals, Acceleration, Into the Wild, How Angel Peterson Got His Wings, Heavy Metal & You, How to Survive a Robot Uprising, 33 Snowfish, Private Peaceful, the Dangerous Book for Boys (J, I know, but really for any age, IMO), Doing It, Smack, America

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone's mentioned Gail Giles, Paul Volponi, or Blake Nelson. Well, maybe not all of Blake Nelson's books (don't think many guys would be interested in reading Prom Anonymous), but The New Rules of High School, Rock Star Superstar, and Paranoid Park.

Also, Crackback by John Coy
Rat Life by Tedd Arnold
Monster by Walter Dean Myers (kinda old, but still)
Street Pharm by Allison Van Diepen

... said...

-Lord of the Rings
-The behemoth that is the Harry Potter series
-Miles Vorkosigan saga (not technically YA, but that's when I started reading them)
-Darren Shan's vampire books
-My Friend Flicka (about a BOY and his horse)
-The Black Stallion series (ditto)
-Dragonhaven, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley
-Freshman by Michael Gerber
-Holes by Louis Sachar
-The Outsiders by SE Hinton
-The Arm of the Starfish, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
-The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones
-The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol-Plum Ucci
-Vote for Larry by Janet Tashijan
-Nothing but the Truth by Avi
-Roald Dahl
-Terry Pratchett

Do comic books/graphic novels count? Because I'd say a high percentage of those are geared towards boys.

Anonymous said...

While trying to avoid buying into the view that books have to be either "boys books" or "girls books", anything by Westerfeld has to be an option, even though there are plenty of female lead characters. Of course there's also a question of what is meant by "good". How about The astonishing life of Octavian Nothing for a good solid meaty book, or of course Anthony Horowitz,Robert Muchamore and Matthew Reilly for the action/adventure readers. I agree with all Pratchett comments too.

Could go on and on really.


Angiegirl said...

Anything by Lloyd Alexander
Just in Case by Meg Rosoff
Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Big Mouth & Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant
Anything by Susan Cooper
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
The Ender books by Orson Scott Card

Anonymous said...

The whole genre of urban lit for YA (I'll let you debate its "goodness").

Liz B said...

Wow, great list. I cannot wait to put it together and post.

"boy books" -- a few of you mentioned the whole boy/girl book thing and that whole issue does desrve its own post. What do we mean? Do readers care? Is there enough variety for readers, period, regardless? Is there enough respect for the different interests of kids? And how come we talk about dearths of boy books (allegedly) yet male writers still are the ones who get on more lists? (ok I have not googled anything to double check that, except to confirm that for Printz, 4 of the 5 authors were male; so feel free to shoot me down with, you know, facts). Does labelling actually turn off readers or insult their tastes, thus turning them off?

I confess, I sometimes here a book promoted as a "boy book" and cringe at the either/or ness of it.

Anyway. Great list! Keep them coming!

tanita✿davis said...

Oooh, great list, great list!! I, too, try not to buy into the boy books/girl books thing; I stopped marking books on our blog like that, and have decided to just focus on GOOD books.

Has anybody mentioned the lyrically gifted Ron Koertge, who writes so well for boys and girls?
Stoner & Spaz
Shakespeare Bats Cleanup (poetry!!)
The Brimstone Journals
Strays and Boy Girl Boy

I love this list. I'm so glad "actual boys" are participating, too. So much for the snark!

Anonymous said...

Late to the party, but...

Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Salman Rushdie
The story of Haroun, a 12-year-old boy whose father Rashid is the greatest storyteller in a city so sad that it has forgotten its name. When the gift of gab suddenly deserts Rashid, Haroun sets out on an adventure to rescue his print.

by Gautam Malkani
This debut comic novel portrays the lives of young Muslim, Sikh, andHindu men in the ethnically charged enclave of one of the world'sbiggest cities--London. Malkani completed Londonstani shortlyafter the bombings in London last July.

Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon
Dhan Gopal Mukerji, illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff
The story of the training of a carrier pigeon and his experiences as an allied messenger in World War I.

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea **
Shyam Selvadurai
Fourteen-year-old Amrith is caught up in the life of the well-to-do household in which he is being raised by in Sri Lanka. Then, his cousin arrives from Canada and Amrith finds himself falling in love with the Canadian boy.

** Loved this book!

Vivian Mahoney said...

Wonderful list!

Alfred Kropp series
Percy Jackson series
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

Little Willow said...

Some more:

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I'd like to second or even third M.T. Anderson's FEED and also SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU. THE SHE was another one I think boys would appreciate.

Kidlitjunkie said...

Ordinary Ghosts by Eirann Corrigan is one of the best YA boy books I've ever read.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is SF, but it is also boy YA, and it is fantastic.

Saints and Spinners said...

I just finished reading SPANKING SHAKESPEARE, by Jake Wizner, and would recommend it for the list.

Ms. Yingling said...

Beaudoin. Going Nowhere Faster.
Bradley. 24 Girls in 7 days.
Deuker. Gym Candy. (And anything else.)
Horowitz. Anything!!!
Lubar. Flip.
Rees. Vampire High.
Selzer. How to Get Suspended and Influence People.
Shan. Cirque du Freak
Shusterman. Red Rider's Hood

Little Willow said...

I updated my list again!