Monday, August 23, 2010

Teen Male Readers and the Train

Thursday's post nudged at a debate raging in the writing world: What are older male teens reading?

It seems guys are happy, engaged readers up until they hit about 15 or so (younger?), and then in the same way our young ladies stop pursuing math and science, our young men stop pursuing literature.

Not being a MOB (mother of boys), I can't speak to this issue. And I don't have any older teen guys near me to quiz. I would go grab one on the street, but, well, school's back in...

So I ask anyone who might know: What are your young men reading?

If you have a male aged 13-19 in your house, grab his PSX and run behind the couch. Don't give it back until he answers one/two question(s):
  1. What type of book(s) would you read if you had to (or wanted to)? 
  2. What's the last book you read and liked?
  3. Why aren't you reading???
OK, that's three questions, but inquiring minds need answers...

Is there a YA male audience? Or do our boys go straight from MG to the adult section. If so, can that be changed?

Older male readers please weigh in--Did you stop reading at this age? Why or why not? What drew you to a book? What made you toss it out the window? (Ladies, quiz your men...)

And what's all this business about Trains?

I've decided to save that for Thursday, so come on back and we'll chat more then.

P.S.
Mockingjay drops tomorrow... woot-woo! :o)

34 comments:

Rayna M. Iyer said...

If you can wait ten years, I might be able to answer that one.

Hart Johnson said...

My boy reader isn't old enough to answer, but I have some suspicions. I think boys divide strongly at about that age. Girls and women like to escape in a lot of different ways, but boys, it seems, don't like 'almost real'. Some dive sharply into 'NO FREAKING WAY' (fantasy, sci fi and horror) and the rest veer into DEEP REALITY (non-fiction). My husband won't read anything fictional. Once upon a time he read some horror and thriller type stuff, but in the time I've known him, he generally complains about things either being predictable or stupid (unrealistic)--the problem with having to be unpredictable and stil realistic is that is a very fine line to hit.

I think women are better at 'letting go'. Men either don't want to, or need the book to take them FARTHER in order to do it. Or so I see it.

Good luck getting going again! I might recommend not forcing yourself to start where you ended... skip ahead a little to something that flows better, then come back and fill in later.

LTM said...

@Rayna: What does your husband read? Or does he...

@Hart: I think you're onto something w/the fiction-nonfiction thing. JRM reads Stephen King and other depressing stuff (Phillip Roth)... I got him those Larssen books and he says they're not so bad. I haven't read them yet. You?

LTM said...

P.S.--Thanks, T. for the suggestion re: getting going again w/writing. I decided to save that for Thurs, but that's a great idea! :o)

Ted Cross said...

My boys are that age, and they love reading (and my younger one loves writing!). They picked it up from me, I believe, since I read to them most nights even now. They read a lot of stuff, from war history to YA (Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson), and...they have reread my own book (fantasy aimed at adults) 3-4 times each, too!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't have any teens to ask, but when I was young I went straight from kids books to adult fantasy and science fiction.

Matthew Rush said...

This is a great question Leigh (nice to meet you BTW, I'm now your newest follower). I don't have any male children, but I have two daughters and they know some boys. My 14 year old daughter's boyfriend reads what she tells him to, which right now is Ranger's Apprentice Book 3.

Personally I was a total nerd at that age and was still reading the Fantasy of my youth (mostly Tolkien) while also moving into Military/Spy Thrillers like Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and the like. I stopped reading for a couple years in my early 20s because I was a fool, but I picked it back up pretty quickly.

Hope that helps!

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

At twelve, my son is right below your sample demographic, but he's been an avid reader since early boyhood and I can't imagine him stopping in the next couple years. He loves all the fantasy series out there, and he's devoured every work Tolkien ever wrote. We're going to fight over who gets to read the first copy of Mockingjay to make it into our house! (I may have to buy two copies.)

Hubby likes nonfiction -- all historical stuff (*snore*). The only fiction he reads is historical fiction, but that's rare.

I'm going to ask these questions whenever I get the chance with teen boys -- very interesting subject!

LTM said...

now, see, that's what I was thinking... it sounds like the guys are jumping straight from the MG aisle to the adult section.

Seems like my older brother did that, but I was too busy reading Judy Blume...

But can it be changed?

Hey, Ted/Matt/Alex, I wonder: what would you think about writing one of your "adult" books and making the MC 16 or 17? Would that work? You know, just in theory...

(I don't have a dog in this fight. I write YA for girls--100%. My books come wrapped in pink chiffon w/a complimentary box of tampons. ;o)

THANKS for your input~

LTM said...

@Nicole: I wonder if your son will transform in the next year... And I would love to hear what you discover--please share! Like I said, this doesn't really effect me as a writer, but I think it's a fascinating issue.

And possibly the answers will be helpful to some~ :o)

Stephen Tremp said...

Ah ... a little marketing research. Good blog. I just have girls, but when I was that age I shifted from happy endings to more epic novels, like sci fi and trilogies. There needed to be war and battles. Some characters needed to die, some unexpectedly. Sometimes there was only partial justice while some of the antagonists lived to do their rvil deeds another day.
Hope this helps.
Stephen Tremp

LTM said...

@Stephen: Great insights! My husband is often my first reader, and he always wants me to kill a character.

I think he's just not such a fan of commercial YA romance/chicklit... LOL! :D

THANKS!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Boys want adventure. A pretty girl is nice but not so overtly done as most of the girl-oriented vampire novels.

I got so tired of going down the YA book aisle and reading titles like : WHY IS MY VAMPIRE BOYFRIEND PRETTIER THAN ME?

I started my own YA for older teens, CAPTAIN OUTRAGEOUS. It's sort of like AUNTIE MAME meets THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

It's in the same time frame as FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, right before and right after Katrina. Samuel McCord is "Auntie Mame," and a fourteen year old boy, mature for his years, is a modern-day Kim. A street orphan who gets involved with Sam, a ghoul who looks like Alice in Wonderland, and creatures of myth coming from out of the shadows to take advantage of the chaos brought on by Katrina.

Whew!

I got sidetracked. Older teens want what speaks to them : where am I going with my life after school? Who am I underneath this mask I wear to fool others and blend in with the crowd? Who would like the real me? Do I have what it takes to face what scares me, like intimacy, like death, like fear of rejection?

Hope that this helps. Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting. It gets lonely playing to an empty house. Roland

LTM said...

Great insight, Roland!

And AUNTIE MAME meets TWILIGHT ZONE??? LOL! :D The premise sounds interesting, thought... Katrina aftermath = instant postapocalypse.

I think your insights apply to both male AND female YA readers, you know?

Thanks~ :o)

RosieC said...

Leigh, I emailed my sister-in-law, whose son is 14 and an obsessive reader. I don't know what he's reading, but I'll let you know what kind of insight she has.

LTM said...

Awesome, Rosie--can't wait to hear back! :o)

RosieC said...

Okay, so apparently he's reading the Ender series by Orson Scott Card and is waiting on Mockingjay. He also reads anything Manga he can get his hands on. I haven't read Hunger Games, but those and Ender don't seem too young adult to me. Graphic novels, though, seem more age appropriate? Maybe that's not the best description. But they all seem to fall into Roland's explanation of wanting more action and less gooey love story.

Angie said...

I am a MOB and have a mob, so I might have some answers. My fourteen year old loves to read. He's mostly into epic fantasies. He loves Brandon Sanderson's books. My oldest, who is seventeen, did stop reading for a while, but he got back into it this summer. He likes to read Star Wars novels and fantasy, but he also picked up an adult drama that I had on the shelf and he really liked it. It was nice to see him out of his reading comfort zone. They both like the Rangers Apprentice series, and Pendragon and other fantasy series. My 12 and 9 year old sons are also voracious readers.

LTM said...

@Rosie: Manga/Fantasy seem to be the top choices for YA male readers. Hunger Games are excellent and I would def. think appealing to YA males.

@Angie: You're the second to ref: the Rangers Apprentice series. I'd never heard of that, but it must be good...

I wonder how the YA by Patterson & Grisham are faring. Grisham's is a young lawyer, right?

lora96 said...

I'm not a target demo male, nor is any member of my household. Despite that disclaimer, I, of course, have an opinion anyway.

Dearth of strong male protagonists in YA who are anything other than a love interest. The rich, relatable female protags have overrun the genre to excellent effect. I love it. Just wish for equal representation there.

DH was an avid reader as a teen but leaned toward the Robert Jordan/Frank Herbert stuff b/c big fat fantasy with lots of detailed world building appealed to him.

Ezmirelda said...

A lot of boys at my school read. They love the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini...and surprisingly Twilight. Most of them are interested in epics, but they seem to only like reading books written by male authors. I think that's why JK Rowling didn't want her name to sound female--so that male readers wouldn't feel uncomfortable picking up her book.

Jen said...

I'd love to help but I know nothing about boys and what they read. My husband loves Dean Koontz and very thriller like novels but as for teen boys I wouldn't have the slightest idea... but I would be curious as to find out!

LTM said...

@lora: good point about male MCs, but does that hold up in books targeted at YA males? That's more what I'm thinking about... Which books like that are doing well?

@Ez: Twilight? wow. SO unexpected! Do they get it? And if so, what romantics--I love them! :D In addition to male authors, I think book covers are also a big factor, yes?

@Jen: I know--me either. This question was actually posed by a blogging friend of mine who DOES write for this audience. I just thought it was an interesting question. It's the journalist in me... ;p

Carolyn Abiad said...

Mary Kole has been addressing YA male MCs lately. I can't find the specific post, but the answer was agents don't want it because they can't sell it. My boys have moved on to more escapist things...like Patterson and LOTR. In short, I think boys would buy it if we could figure out what they want. Must be why Patterson is writing YA, huh?

http://kidlit.com/2010/08/18/voice-in-mg-boy-books/

DL Hammons said...

My little guy is just 12, but he's an avid reader. He's read all of the Percy Jackson books and starting on a new series that I'm not familiar with, but its fantasy also.

LTM said...

@Carolyn: omg--LOL! I heard the opposite. That agents *want* good boy books... Which made me think the same as you (must be why Patterson is writing YA...) HA! :D

I'll check that link! Are your boys reading the Patterson YA?

@DL: It'll be interesting if he continues in that direction or if next year he makes the jump to adult books... Or in two years. Thanks for your input!

I feel like now I need to write a paper based on all this unofficial "research"! ;p

RaShelle said...

Well Leigh, this has been fantastic!! My boy is 7, so I'm no help, but it seems either no fiction or still fantasy/sci-fi. Even still adult. Interesting. =D

Ellie said...

My son(21) is into sci fi and fantasy, when he isn't on hulu or gaming! He is in college and between school n' work, well, reading isn't happening, as much as before!

Cruella Collett said...

No boys who fit the bill in my immediate circle, but reading these comments I couldn't help but tell you something about Twilight and boys. I (in shame) finally went to see "Eclipse" last night, and behind us there was a group of adults between 30 and 40 if I am to guess. One woman, and three men. She got three men to go with her to see the third Twilight movie!!! Who is this woman, and what did she do to get these men to accompany her?!?

Great post, by the way, but again - I have no helpful insight to offer.

LTM said...

@RaShelle: from what I read, they're good little readers at that age. The change comes later, and I think it's what Ellie says~

@Ellie: That's a big part of it, I think--LIFE getting in the way. I know babies pulled me off reading a few years... Matt said the same thing about his no-reading days.

@CC: OMG--a friend of mine's husband had the guts to say out loud in front of all of us he wanted to see Eclipse. Natch we ridiculed him mercilessly (e.g., what team are you on? If we'd known you were coming out tonight, we'd have thrown a party, etc.) I think they're marketing them to the guys more...

Personally, I think the movies are just awful. ;p And no worries re: insight. It's all for learning~

Morgan said...

Literary agent Mary Kole of kidlit.com did a really interesting post about the male readership in YA fiction. Link is below.

Most of the guys I know went straight from middle grade to adult mystery, crime or fantasy.

http://kidlit.com/2010/07/16/boy-protagonists-in-ya/

JRichard said...

As a former older male teen, I will tell you that up to 15, I had moved through Narnia and Prydain and into the Dragonriders of Pern. I had tried to tackle some of the Ursula K. Le Guin Earthsea books but wasn't really into it. I also found LOTR fairly difficult really until I was in college. I don't recall there being much in the way of a male-targeted long fiction market in the mid-80s, but am prepared to stand corrected. Anyway, I read my first Stephen King during my freshman year in high school, sick with strep throat one weekend. It was Christine, on reflection not among his best, but it was a fast-moving story written in King's unparalleled readable prose. In truth, Christine, along with The Stand, The Dead Zone, and probably Salem's Lot (like The Dark Tower---sorry kids), are written in a style most likely to appeal to young men aged 15 to 25 or so.

Anyway, that really jump-started my reading and I became a voracious SK reader. In addition, in high school I really got into the first five Chronicles of Amber books by Roger Zelazny. However, I also started to get into more idea-driven novels. Two that stand out are Orwell's 1984 and Camus' The Stranger. Both of those really got me as a teen.

Then in college things opened up a little more. More King, of course, but also all the things I had to read as an English lit major. Anne Rice came along (for a class initially), but also groovy cats like Kundera and Julian Barnes, and, finally, a reasonably deep immersion in African-American fiction---Baldwin, Wright, Huston, Morrison, Walker, Toomer, and my personal favorite, Gloria Naylor, who is now largely out of print.

With law school came, unsurprisingly, John Grisham, who also went fairly quickly, if you dig. But my sort of self-guided fiction reading really expanded once I started working and had exclusive control over what I was reading for pleasure. That's when I first discovered Walter Mosely and Easy Rawlings; Margaret Atwood, whose The Robber Bride remains a favorite; later on, Philip Roth, whose oevre I have been working through fairly enthusiastically; and Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, which is exactly how I wish I could think and write. Along the way I have picked up the odd Don DeLillo, Tom Wolfe, Cormac McCarthy, Barbara Kingsolver, etc. And, of course, Harry Potter appeals because it's just so appealing. More recently I am enjoying the Steig Larson books. And, over the last 12 years or so, I have developed a serious enjoyment of twentieth-century American history and biography non-fiction, including in particular a focus on the Nixon years, his personality and his legacy.

So this is one former male teen reader's progress, for your edification and/or boredom.

LTM said...

@Morgan: Super-interesting link--Thanks! And welcome~ :o)

@JRM: LOL... and sigh. I keep saying you're The Book Devourer. Not sure anyone believed me before... While I don't know if you qualify as the typical male reader, your literary journey def. follows his... on crack. ;p

Matthew MacNish said...

Wow. Talk about taking a ride in the wayback machine. I even had a different name back then.