1. Bright Shadow
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    Bright Shadow Member

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    Why isn't more YA made for boys?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Bright Shadow, Apr 11, 2011.

    Everybody knows the whole "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" thing. Well, I look at the current YA lit is ask the same question: is there almost no YA books for teenage boys because boys don't read YA, or do boys not read that much YA because there are few books in that market published with them specifically in mind?

    Go to the "teen" section or your local BN, and you'll be confronted with cover after glossy cover of vampires or angels with six pack abs, shirtless and holding some plain-Jane sixteen year old in their arms. I can't tell whether it's the romance section or the YA section. Either that, or a bunch of stuff about girls fixing their make up and worrying about their friends not wanting to hang out with them anymore. In other words, almost nothing that your average teenage boy would find interesting.

    When I was a teenager (way back in the late 90s, MAN time flies) I didn't read YA, reason being it was all girly crap or something that would question my intelligence. Granted, things are different now, and there's actually some out there that I would have read (Leviathan, The Hunger Games, and Incarceron come to mind) but for the most part it isn't really YA that gets published as much as it is teen girl fiction.


    I think it might have something to do with the crappy myth that boys don't read. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. When I was in school, it was the boys that read the books and the girls usually just read magazines. Only the biggest jocks or thug types never read anything. The big thing for most of us teenage boys was Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, ESPECIALLY Lovecraft. Granted, the fact that our new librarian banned him from the school library was probably a big reason why we all had to read him. I remember reading "The Shadow over Innsmouth" and not getting to sleep that night at age sixteen. The next morning, what does my father say? "hey son, how about we head to the beach today?" :eek:

    I couldn't help but think God was laughing at me. Anyway, we all loved Lovecraft and manga and a lot of mainstream fantasy novels, but we didn't read any teen novels. Why? I think it's because publishers still don't get that boys are very sensitive to people questioning their intelligence. A vampire in high school at the age of two hundred is not going to go over well with boys. Some cosmic horror stuff, on the other hand, that's something we would eat up.

    I just wish publishers would actually study the reading habits of teen boys and see what kind of adult fiction they read and try to mimic it in YA. I mean, I don't see too many teenage girls reading "Naruto" Manga or Dresden Files novels. If they only sought out things like that with believable characters and plots that don't assume the reader is stupid just because he's young and skipped the romance crap that boys aren't into, they would have something marketable to the other 49% of the teenage population.

    But why don't publishers do this already?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well depending on your age there is Tales of the Otori, The God Box, Spy Dog, Cows In Action, Toilet of Doom, Harry Potter, Dark Materials, Artemis Fowl - I am sure many others - going back in time to the eighties there were plenty - I read both boys and girls books - I love Tom Brown's Schooldays, Kidnapped etc
     
  3. Bright Shadow
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    Those are mostly middle-grade, not YA. I'm talking about the "teen" section, which is mostly a bunch of chick lit for 9th graders.

    There is good middle grade books for boys. "The Giver" and "A Wrinkle in Time" come to mind when I think of books I read when I was about eleven or twelve.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I certainly wouldn't be comfortable with my eleven year old reading Lian Hearne's books, Toilet of Doom is older as well, some of the Harry Potters are deeper, The God Box certainly is not for younger children, neither is Sprout. Dark Materials is not for younger children really. I am sure there would be others but being 34 I only read the occasional modern YA book.

    Some of the Hardy Boys series are really aimed older than they are placed in the library. Tom Brown's Schooldays, Tom Sawyer etc are enjoyed by older teens. You have to look for them but the books are there. Just like you find the middle school aged books and younger in amongst the bubblegum pink girls books. Catcher in the Rye and I know there are others on the more literary side.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    because most teenaged boys don't read books!
     
  6. MOJOrising
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    MOJOrising New Member

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    I was reading Chuck Palahniuk in 7th grade so i never read any young adults books but i used to hate reading about kids my age. Books like that have never see very real to me.
     
  7. Bright Shadow
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    Those books are still not YA. Harry Potter is a middle grade children's book, even though it appeals to everyone. Just because YOU might not be comfortable with kids reading a book doesn't mean that it's not marketed towards them. I'm not comfortable with a thirteen year old girl reading a book with the title "On the bright side, I'm now the girlfriend of a sex god", but that's exactly who it's marketed towards.

    Dark Materials is YA, but is kind of in between, by admission of Scholastic its self.


    All of those books came out an age of the world ago. I'm talking about in the last ten years or so.
     
  8. Bright Shadow
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    Bright Shadow Member

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    That has got to be the biggest load of sexist BS I've heard in my life. Like I said, I was in highschool just ten years ago, and everyone except the biggest jocks, the biggest thugs or the biggest idiots read novels. I would say about 70-80% of the boys in my HS read something.

    Take a look at R.A. Salvatore. Mostly it was boys age fourteen and up who read his "Drizzt" books.
     
  9. Bright Shadow
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    But was it because they were about people that age, or because of the way they were written?

    I never read Fight Club in HS, reason being it was esoteric as hell and I couldn't figure out what the hell it was about, and still can't.
     
  10. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I would expect a YA male to launch directly into Asimov or similar. I remember the required reading for High-School and I puke at the offerings. "Sugar isn't Everything" and "No Dragons to Slay" were probably the most pedestrian titles that I would read without reward, and those were real-world, but with extraordinary premises. The rest were effing boring. Andre Norton was my teenage crush. Then again, my husband keeps joking that more males would read books with pink covers if they could appreciate them. I have read maybe three such books, though I now wish that McCaffrey would stop holding back on the sex, since that's where my fandom was beyond the internet.


    There were the books I read just for free pizzas. (Something about Pizza Hut deciding that my coupons were bogus because my tiny pre-teen stomach couldn't handle that much grease anyway, or because they couldn't cook them fast enough. My mom was probably consuming more of my coupon-pizzas that were healthy for her, even if she did have the metabolism to eat them at the time.)
     
  11. Cthulhu
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    It's the same thing with some of the boys I knew in school, (As you can tell from my user name I was one of them)

    Anyway, about the real point,

    Speaking as someone who was [more] recently 11/12 I must say that your list is longer than any I could have created.


    I never seen the point of writing books for kids about kids, after all every child wants to be an adult.

    Come to think of it 11/12 was the age I first read Lord of the Rings, don't know if that's relevant

    Also what I want in a book now, and what I wanted in a book at the age in question hasn't changed that much (excepting romance elements) My tolerance for content has and because I realized early that teen (or younger) books couldn't give me what I wanted, and it changed faster than normal as I exposed myself to things I wasn't really ready for.

    I think it has to do with publishers not understanding what boys at that age want in a book, but they have a reliable formula for girls, so they go with the formula, to the detriment of both boys and girls who don't fit the formula.

    Further what few books that are published for boys and featured extensively in school English programs or libraries.
     
  12. Cthulhu
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    I ended up reading David Drake at 13-14, 2 or 3 years before I was ready for it, but I kept reading that kind of thing because I liked the stories and nothing appropriate could give them to me.
     
  13. clockwise
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    I'm no expert on this, but for me, I think YA is one of those genres where the marketing side has taken over a bit too much. Trying to separate things into books for boys and books for girls certainly isn't helping things, except making for a lot of writing that many people of either gender wouldn't want to waste their time on. I mean, you look at the really great books for boys and books for girls and you're likely to discover that the opposite gender is reading them just as much. I remember having some good times reading Naruto back in the day, which was also read by other manga-loving female friends of mine (and the manga I read now isn't "girly" by any stretch of the imagination), I actually borrowed/stole The Giver from school to read that, The Outsiders is a classic... People just need to write more books that young adults want to read. Problem is, that's not an easy thing to do.
     
  14. Smoke
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    YA should probably be expanded to any mature theme that doesn't include sex. The dis-inclusion of sex is half of ickiness and half non-suggestion.

    My latest non-used book is "Nurk" which is because I've been stalking the author for a decade. She was conversing quite freely about sex in her blog at the time I started stalking her, but "Nurk" has elements of why I can't stand 'The Hobbit' and 'Chronicles of Narnia' despite liking the latter at one point... form of language. There is talking-down, and then there is consciously talking-down.

    Anyway... even if someone is too young to experience sex, a teenager should be having he first tempering against death... heck, at the current generational gap, it's surprising that they shouldn't have had a brush of funeral, even if it isn't a relative that they conversed much with in life.
     
  15. Bright Shadow
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    Lovecraft is one of those writers that people seem to either get into when they're in middle/high school, early in college, or don't get into at all. I think majority of the Lovecraft fans I've ran into starting reading him in HS or a little earlier.

    Some titles boys ages 13-17 just can't say no to. "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Doom that Came to Sarnath" and "Herbet West-Reanimator" are some of them.





    Thing is, the characters should be some one the reader can relate to. Most young people are NOT going to be able to relate to the MC from fight club.


    This is the year 2011. If you look on youtube you'll see "reaction videos" to those AWFUL shock sites featuring two girls and a single cup or a guy with a jar. Sad part is, half of the people filming the reaction to those things are well under the age of 16.

    In this day and age, MOST kids are exposed to things they're not ready to be exposed to...and you know, that just got me thinking about why Lovecraftian horror is appealing to kids. One of HPL's biggest themes was people being exposed to things that humanity isn't ready for. Well, kids are often exposed to things they're not ready for now adays, so I guess there is something there they can relate to, even if it's on a subconscious level.

    I was exposed to some pretty heavy things when I was little, and it made me kind of crazy, so I guess I can relate to Francis Wayland Thurston in "The Call of Cthulhu" when he discovered the existence of Cthulhu and it made him go crazy.


    You would think that as profit driven as these guys are, they would be all over figuring out how to make something 49% of the market would want to read.
     
  16. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Most kids aren't ready to be exposed to...... my first exposure to sexuality was furry > bestiality. I consider explicit acts in furry costumes to be weird, yet any act that is mostly unclothed to be tame. Of course, the crossover porn between furry and latex probably puts gimp costumes in the same category as ****ing in mascot costumes.

    Of course, I can still be turned on by anything where it's not a costume, but a genuine furry story. Just don't try to challenge me IRL with the whole anthros-are-real scenario. I'm likely to discover a new turn-off.
     
  17. Cthulhu
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    I agree, but I don't think that necessarily means someone their exact age.

    I know a fourteen year old who lists it as one of his favorite books, but in general I agree.

    That's a very interesting point, I'll have to think about that.

    You know, I wasn't actually thinking of sex when I posted that. My main exposer was to Ultra graphic violence, and I was thinking of that, but you make a good point.


    Yes one would, but I think that it may have to do with the risk of trying something new, coupled with the myth that teen boys don't read (because there must be some explanation, Right?).
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    my comment wasn't made without personal experience to back it up... i'd been running a free books program for over 5 years up until a couple of months ago and i can testify to the fact that 3 to 4 times more teenaged girls came to get pleasure-reading [as in not school-related] books, than boys... and there was no other place on the island where anyone could get books to keep, even if they could afford to buy them...

    at the public library, the gender gap is even wider...
     
  19. Bright Shadow
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    That might be the case where you are, but in Jersey and I imagine most of the states it's the opposite. Boys read graphic novels and fantasy and horror while girls? For about 60% of them if it isn't thin, glossy and has Justin Bieber on the cover and includes articles on make up, they have no interest in reading it.
    The rest read that awful YA that seems like Chick Lit for sixth graders.
     
  20. Cthulhu
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    Here in Michigan and where I've been in Canada that is mostly true, with equal readership not unheard of.
    That is even in the face of some of the most pathetic supplies of YA for boys I've ever seen, [Espeatuly in public and school libraries]
     
  21. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What happened to boys? I was reading sci-fi (Clarke, Verne, Heinlein, Asimov) when I was 10-11 years old. After that, I was reading tons of adult fiction (Hemingway, Steinbeck, Huxley, etc.) because they were in my Dad's bookshelf. When I was in high school, boys loved sci-fi and action and other genres. Alistair Maclean was a popular author among high school boys. Did boys stop reading in order to pick up video game consoles? I wouldn't be surprised if boys these days are receptive to good books, but don't underestimate their intelligence. Boys are bright and they want to be treated as bright.
     
  22. Bright Shadow
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    No, they didn't, and that's what I've been saying. I was in highschool not an awfully long time ago and just about every guy I knew read, they just didn't read YA crap because there wasn't (and still isn't that much) YA made with boys in mind.
     
  23. L.H.J.
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    That's for me to know and you to not know.
    maybe boys just don't read as much so publishing houses stopped selling ya for them? i know my older brother doesn't read that much at all..and he's only seventeen
     
  24. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's my guess about it...

    The majority of the YA books are personal drama or vampire/werewolf-type tales. Guys generally aren't in to coming of age/drama stories or twilight ripoffs. But you also have to accept that women read more than men, and I'd expect the same with teen readers. For those who think it's sexist to say such, just look at the articles out there in which publishers lament the lack of male readers today. Here's something about it from NPR:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14175229
     
  25. Silver_Dragon
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    Not where I grew up. I'll say that most of those I knew in school (male and female) did not read a lot. Those who did read, of either gender, were mostly into the latest blockbuster books (Harry Potter, for example) and otherwise didn't bother much. I did not find that boys read a lot more than girls, nor the other way around. I was an avid reader and read mainly literary fiction and mainstream fantasy. Many of my current friends were the same way in high school.

    However, I agree with you that marketing YA books for boys is a good idea. Maybe publishers are just too reluctant to take risks, and are focusing instead on cashing in on what's already been working.
     

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