Books for Boys

I’m on my bandwagon again. I can’t help myself. When I see inequality I have to talk about it.

This is an edited extract of my letter which appears in the April issue of Good Reading.

We see a lot of books coming through the gr office. They cover all genres and every subject, which is perfect, as gr is for readers of every type of book. We also receive a lot ofbooks for children and young adults, which is terrific because we not only review them in gr, but we also send a mountain of books to high school students for them to read and review in SpineOut, the sister (why not brother?) online publication of gr.

But over the last six months, one type of book has stood out to us all as ‘missing in action’. And that’s books for teenage boys. But before you start shouting out the names of great YA authors and books for boys, let me acknowledge that they are out there, but there just aren’t as many as there are for girls. If I look at the books we have here, I could make a pile of them for teenage girls that would teeter near the ceiling. But the books for teenage boys … well, Baxter could trot over them and hardly lift a paw.

But why does the subject matter of these books skew so much towards girls?

Do primary-aged girls naturally gravitate to books and reading more than boys? When it comes to adults, more women read books than men. Does this reflect what’s available for them as teenagers? Do women read more because more books were available for them as teenagers, leading to the habit of reading carrying over into adulthood?

I’m not sure I have the answer to those questions, but I do know that when boys hit the teenage years, a large part of the publishing world seems to abandon them. But if they do keep reading, they often leap from books for kids straight to fantasy novels by great authors such as Raymond E Feist, David Eddings or to action novels by JamesPatterson, our own Matthew Reilly or even Stephen King. I love all those authors, and I’ve read and enjoyed them myself (and I’m not even a boy!).

But I would love to see the fantastic range of books being written and published for girls to start appearing for the boys. We need to try harder. We need to find a way for them to feel excited about a book. To be eager to jump into bed and read. To have them discover a book that gets them talking.  We need books for teenage boys to go viral.These books need to be infectious! How great it would be if books were part of their idle chat.

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4 responses to “Books for Boys

  1. Absolutely true. There is such a wide range for girls or those interested in fantasy but very few books published lately for boys who are passed the usual series and ready for something a bit more challenging. I would love to see some new offerings to bridge the gap between young boys and adult fiction.

  2. I like writing for what I feel are under-served audiences, because I believe that everyone should be able to find him or herself in a book. My latest novel, Why My Love Life Sucks: The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer (book one) is for geeks, particularly boys. It’s a funny, smart, charming, geeky, teen science-fantasy novel that should appeal to fans of funny sci-fi, like the works of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, or TV shows like Doctor Who and Eureka.

    But here’s the thing I’ve discovered about writing for an under-served audience: it’s very difficult to promote books for them.

    Women have book clubs, book blogs, and lots of other ways they work together to share and promote the books they love. You can get a romantic, YA paranormal book reviewed by hundreds of book bloggers, literally hundreds. You can hire over a dozen companies to run a blog tour for your book.

    But what do you do if you have a sci-fi novel for geeks? How do you reach them? I’ve tried, and I can’t find any sci-fi book bloggers who are open to submissions. With the exception of dystopian (primarily ones with female heroines, like Katniss from the Hunger Games) I haven’t found anyone who does blog tours for sci-fi. And there’s no one doing blog tours for YAs for boys.

    Of course, I’d like to believe that if you build it, they will come. How they’ll find it is the question.

  3. I think the issue lies in age and gender labelling of books. To me, it really is no issue what someone rea as long as they like it. I just don’t think it is right to assume someone will read something based on age and gender. I think the better way to go is by ability and interest, just let kids look around, the results may be surprising!

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