Random Thought at the Bookstore's YA Shelves

Does everyone realize that young males in our society are seeing themselves less and less in the literature that is supposed to reach out to them?

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27 Responses to Random Thought at the Bookstore's YA Shelves

  1. alixwrites says:

    . . . only chick lit and fantasy sells? I have it from a reliable source.

    Apparently, boys are never assigned to do book reports.

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  2. halseanderson says:

    Ahem….. TWISTED is available March 20th.

    Let me know what you think.

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  3. thunderchikin says:

    I’ll be glad to, and I’m sure it will be terrific.

    But I’ll have to order it from Amazon because the local B&N only stocks SPEAK, which a friend and I hand-sold to a middle school teacher this past weekend.

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  4. thunderchikin says:

    Or maybe they don’t do them…

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  5. alixwrites says:

    they just do them on Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

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  6. professornana says:

    David:

    I have been musing about this for a while, especially as I look back at my own blog and see how many girl books are there. I make a concerted effort to read books for boys. They do seem to be in shorter supply. Yes, we can depend on the usual suspects: Paulsen, Crutcher, etc. However, I do think there are fewer guy books. Wonder why?

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  7. thunderchikin says:

    Somewhere in a classroom, my teen son is in anguish, just from the mention of such an atrocity.

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  8. thunderchikin says:

    I think the answer lies in the usual suspects. Paulsen, Crutcher, Curtis, Salisbury et al are terrific writers, yet there are so few new voices to join them. When I look through publishers’ catalogs, I see some new authors for male readers, but when I go to bookstores, I see none of those names on the shelves.

    I have other theories, but they aren’t things I’d like to post to the blogosphere.

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  9. marypearson says:

    This is a intriguing, David. Because in terms of awards recognition, I look at the dire lack of stories that center around the female experience. If you look at this year’s Printz/Top Ten, 13 out of 15 books have male narrators. This makes me wonder at how we value the female voice and experience.

    And yet, as you say, the shelves at the bookstores are dominated by girl type books–but only of a certain sort. The megas, like Sisterhood, Gossip Girls, etc. Maybe just the ones that move quickly off the shelves?

    There doesn’t seem to be a balance. What do the shelves of your local libray look like?

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  10. alixwrites says:

    Boys wear pants;)

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  11. thunderchikin says:

    Yes, but they don’t SHARE them.

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  12. thunderchikin says:

    For the record: I’m not criticizing authors. They don’t make the decisions about what books are marketed or put on the chains’ shelves.

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  13. marypearson says:

    “I have other theories, but they aren’t things I’d like to post to the blogosphere”

    well, darn! Inquiring minds want to know!

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  14. alixwrites says:

    I think you’re doing your part, Teri, by trying to read all the books that are out there, and not just the “push” books — the ones that there are a gazillion galleys, posters, bookmarks, etc. for. It’s easy to see these books as the most important. These books are, for the most part, chick lit and fantasy, but chick lit doesn’t appeal to boys, obviously, and fantasy only appeals to a certain sector of boys.

    (Now, I feel guilty because Diva was for girls, and my upcoming book is fantasy. But it’s written in a realistic way, and I think boys and reluctant readers will like it if they can get past the big, beautiful white rose the publisher is putting on the cover . . . which may be a lot to ask).

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  15. professornana says:

    But Alex, can you make a conscious decision that the next book will be for boys? I think David is correct when he points out a couple of things. First, we need more authors coming along to back up Crutcher and Paulsen and Hobbs and the others who have consistently written great stuff for boys. I hope there are some out there, but it seems lately to have skewed to more books for girls. Of course, another part of the paucity is, I think, that education and librarianship are still estrogen heavy. We know what girls want in books because they are the things we want in books. We (of the estrogen persuasion) need to find the boy books, read them, celebrate them, and get them into the hands of the kids.

    Take a look at the Newbery winners for this year and you will see they are all female books. This in itself is not bad; it just is. But perhaps this underscores some of the problems? Just some random thoughts after drinking a new fizzy green tea product that I noticed after drinking it is loaded with caffeine! Yikes!

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  16. professornana says:

    But male narrators do not a boy book make IMHO. I wonder how many more girls read AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES given the cover? Did boys find OCTAVIAN NOTHING? I do not know the answers to these questions. But I suspect that more girls are reading even the boy narrator books.

    I smell an article here, David…..

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  17. marypearson says:

    But male narrators do not a boy book make IMHO

    Agreed. BUT does it work the other way around too? Does a female narrator mean that a boy won’t read a book? Do we encourage boys to read books about the female experience? I know every girl in America has probably been assigned to read Hatchet.

    I just wonder if there is a stubborn double standard that still exists. At a young age are we giving boys books to read about girls the way we give girls books about boys?

    Yes, I agree, I see an article here!

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  18. thunderchikin says:

    Y’all write it and put me down as third author.

    🙂

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  19. thunderchikin says:

    And seriously, I think boys *will* read a story with a female narrator, as long as the story is about something that interests them.

    For example, last week, the book fairy visited me and left boxes of books. I was making my way through the stacks, but I thought I’d share some with the kiddos. One of the kiddos is a teen guy, and I expected him to pull out a good dozen books for himself. After all, his picture is next to “voracious reader” in the OED, and he reads thick tomes like people read the funny pages.

    But (you know where this is going, don’t you?), he didn’t take any of them. Nada. Nada one.

    Why? “Because they all about angst and other crap. I’m looking for some sort of high tech or magical addition that makes it different. People fighting or going after something. If I had to, I’d read about emotions or back story, but what I really want is action, not ‘let’s go sit around and talk about why my life is so messed up.'”

    He also said he wouldn’t read a book just because it had a male narrator.

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  20. alixwrites says:

    The idea I’m toodling with at the moment is a shifting viewpoint book, similar to Fade to Black. Fade appeals to reluctant readers of both genders, but especially boys. The ms I just sent my editor is female.

    I prefer to write in the male viewpoint. It’s more fun to write about a character who is less like myself. I had fits, writing Diva because the MC was not only female, but shared many of my life experiences. So yeah, I don’t see myself staying permanently female, and I definitely can’t write true chick lit (I don’t consider Diva to be chick lit. I also don’t consider books like Sisterhood/Pants or Gingerbread to be true chick lit). I can barely read it. One Shopaholic book was enough for a lifetime for me. I don’t scorn it or anything. It’s just not my cup of tea.

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  21. alixwrites says:

    I know every girl in America has probably been assigned to read Hatchet.

    My daughter is, at this moment, reading Dogsong. She’s not liking it. In one of conference speeches, I have a lengthy gripe about being forced to read Shane in 7th grade.

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  22. marypearson says:

    Can’t blame him for wanting action. And that is cool that he is open to all narrators.

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  23. marypearson says:

    ha! Being forced to read something you are not currently interested in, is often the kiss of death for that book. That’s what happened to me with Catcher in the Rye in high school.

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  24. dlgarfinkle says:

    I noticed this year that the Newbery books were focused on girl main characters, while the Printz books were focused on boy main characters. I noticed this about the Printz award books last year also.

    Do we subconciously think that books about girls’ concerns are simpler and maybe sweeter and thus appropriate for children’s book awards, while books about boys’ concerns are more sophisticated and important and thus deserving of awards for more mature (teen) readers? Or was the skewing of the protagonists’ genders just an odd coincidence?

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  25. thunderchikin says:

    I think it was luck of the draw this year. In the past, the proportion of male/female protags weren’t so skewed as this round.

    Either way, those Printz honors and winners aren’t on the local chain’s shelves.

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  26. mbcatmiller says:

    I think one of the things that is missing in books for boys is male humor. Many of the things that my three boys find hilarious girls and women feel is gross or else that the boys are being cruel. Bodily functions, aka bathroom humor, as well as humiliation scenes (accidents, not things done on purpose as in someone falling off their skateboard while riding a rail and cracking their privates) are prime examples.

    My eleven year old has pointed out that girls fight and stay angry forever whereas boys fight and are over it in an hour. This may be why the angst books don’t appeal to boys. Some of the authors mentioned in the earlier messages are able to combine action with humor, which is why boys love them so much. One author consistently on the bookstore shelves is Colfer, and his books never stop. Boys love them. They have technology, magic, action, and a boy and a girl as main characters.

    To get a better handle on the male mentality, I immerse myself in the boy world (having two brothers and no sisters and three sons helps), and by this I don’t mean sports. I watch Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Stunt Junkies, and programs like them. I read gaming magazines and check out the gaming sites that boys haunt. I also read science magazines like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science to get an idea of what’s new. I eavesdrop a lot too.

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