Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Boy Books (or Girls Who Are Boys Who Like Boys to Like Books*)

*with apologies to Blur

Tip of the Day: Take Airbone when you take an airplane. It's worth a shot to not end up with plane plague.

What books do boys like? From polling wise LJ friends and recent observations of my library patrons, it appears that it depends on the age of said boys.

1) Middle-grader boys like graphic novels, and series books like THE MAGIC TREEHOUSE and STAR WARS.
2) Tween boys like manga, graphic novels, and some popular adventure novels like THE LIGHTNING THIEF and THE GOLDEN COMPASS series.
3) Teen boys like manga, graphic novels, and "adult" books on subjects they are interested in.
*Please keep in mind these are EXTREME generalizations.

Notice in (3) above, I have not listed any YA novels! Gah! The AGONY! To try to remedy this, I did a display in my YA section: "Time for Spring...Time for Sports!" and I featured a bunch of YA sports novels that showcase a wide variety of sports (football to rollerblading to tennis) and MCs (girls and boys). I thought maybe this would catch some boys' attention.

Fortunately, some of my display books did go out -- but they were mostly the "girl" novels, like DAIRY QUEEN and OPEN COURT. So probably my teen girl population checked them out. Yay for those books, but what the heck?

Now don't get me wrong; I'm thrilled when guys come in and check out handfuls of manga or Stephen King or non-fiction on the philosopher they're interested in. But there's so many awesome YA books that I KNOW guys would like if they just gave them a chance!

I was THRILLED when a mom came in one day to check out YA books for her three teen sons. She saw my badge and asked while I was arranging my section, "Do you read all of these books?" I said I read many of them and could I help her find something. When she told me about her three boys, man I went NUTS! She went home with, among other things, TWISTED, THE WEDNESDAY WARS, and a handful of fantasy and contemporary books. It was AWESOME!

All that said, us writers STILL hear about the "need" for "boy books" by publishers. But how many of them are selling compared to books that more girls will likely buy and/or read?

And when I'm doing YA library displays, I try to evenly distribute the "boy" and "girl" books -- but with limited display space, obvious checking out of the girly books, and obvious lack of boy-y book circulation, should I bother making my distribution even?

What do y'all** think?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

**I've been wanting to say that since I got back from Texas.


Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

I've often worried/wondered about that very thing, too. Is it marketing? I just don't know. I do know that my soon-to-be 11-year-old son eats up all those great YA novels, The Golden Compass, Rick Riordan's books, Eion Colfer, etc. From what I can tell, boys do read YA, but maybe not the boys we think.

An interesting anomaly (probably only in my house!), but aren't girls supposed to mature faster? What does all this mean!?

amuse me said...

Check out "Guys Write for Guys Read", (2005) edited by Jon Scieszka. Jon is my cousin, who has written numerous children's books (Stinky Cheese Man, True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and a whole bunch more), plus Time Warp Trio. In the Guys Write book, he complied memoirs, essays, and drawings by famous writers, all directed at getting boys to read. His essay, in particular, is hilarious, involving six brothers, a road trip, and a cat.

Kate Fall said...

Aaah, I LOVE Jon Scieszka! The Time Warp Trio rocks.

I'm an optimist. It will change. But I think girls talk about books more among themselves and are more likely to read during lunch, study periods, etc. It's cool to read a cool book like Twilight! Loan it to your friends and chat about Cedric playing Edward. It will be cool for guys to read books in the cafeteria someday.

Emily Marshall said...

This is a hard one. I try to play fair with library display space, but I can't help I'm drawn to display books I like (which, okay, tend to have a lot of pink covers). It's hard to resist.

Emily Marshall said...

And I do think a lot of boys read. But I would say more of our girl books get checked out too. I don't know if it's a supply and demand thing or what.

DeenaML said...

Meryl, you're related to Jon S???? Wow! I feel so blessed by association! :) I'll definitely check out that book. Thanks!

amuse me said...

Yes, Deena, he is my claim to fame, vicariously, until I can get something published too! Jon is as funny in person as he gets down on the page. We grew up together with 34 other cousins, all vying for too much attention -- that's probably why he's so "out" there sometimes with what he's getting published.

Lisa Schroeder said...

My 13 YO is an avid reader, but he hates picking out books. Maybe other boys are similar? Right now we have a whole list on-hold, and I'll just go in and pick them up when they come in. He is a big fantasy/sci fi reader, like most boys, I guess. :)

Emily Marshall said...

It's interesting a few people have mentioned their sons don't like to "look" for books, but love to read. I can totally see that, and never really made that connection before. I think alot of teens are like that too. If I tell them or hand them a book, they are like "cool," I'll try it. Me, I actually want to read the back cover. They could care less, even the girls. Very influenced by others. Maybe I should feel honored they listen to my opinion, as they would a peer :)

DeenaML said...

Really interesting stuff, between Jon S and boys not wanting to search for books. I'm putting together a Deena's Picks booklet and display for the YA section that will go up in June, so maybe that will help since I have a mix of mostly contemp that features boy and girl MCs.