“But as we debate ad nauseam whether, for example, Bella Swan is a dangerous role model for young women, we’ve neglected to ask the corresponding question: what does it tell young men when Edward Cullen and Jacob Black are the role models available to them? Are these barely-contained monsters really the best we can imagine?”
"Why is it that in YA literature — a genre generated entirely to describe the transition to adulthood — there is so much fear and ambivalence surrounding manhood? When I read contemporary young adult novels, I see them asking over and over again a fascinating question, a question both for boys and for the stories describing them: are there any good men? And how can a boy become a good man, if he doesn’t know what that would mean?”
This particular panicked assertion is just the latest in a string that consists of various THINK OF TEH TEEN BOYS! outcries. If it's not about lack of teen books for boys, then it's about boys being intimidated by public libraries that are apparently too girly- and girl book-saturated, or male authors writing for teen boys being outnumbered by female writers, or the shortage of male protagonists in teen fiction, etc., etc. While we think that there may be a lot to examine about the reading culture at large and about how different genders participate (or not) in this culture and why (Book View Cafe might be onto something here, in the article Girls and reading, the social act), we strongly disagree that teen boys are overlooked, underrepresented and discriminated in the world of YA. Rather, in our opinion, more often than not the alarmists who raise all these questions/issues are not familiar with the variety YA fiction has to offer. The balance might not be optimal but there is certainly a large amount to choose from.
So today, we’d like to present this wall of over 140 books that we think will speak to the boys of YA. They’re full of adventure, magic, real-world issues, and romance. Some of them are even written by - *gasp* - women. They give us all kinds of male figures: strong, brave, struggling, emotional, confused, and yes - even a few great role models. Most of all, they give us great stories for any reader -- almost all of these books appeal to us as adult women even though we are probably not the target audience from a marketing perspective. That being said, while we do think that there will always be outlier readers who feel comfortable reading anything and everything (and we love them for it), we also realize that it might be a struggle to hand-sell a book with a girl in a dress on the cover or a romance-driven plot to the "average" boy. We'd love to think of this list as a tool for educators, librarians, parents, and teens to find a great read for the boys in their lives, but anyone who enjoys a great story will find something in this wall of books.
Tomorrow, we'll be back with a post filled with the recommendations of several authors represented here. You'll find out what they liked to read as teenage guys, what they read and enjoyed recently, and what they recommend to other readers. Some of their picks are included in the wall but many of them are not, so be sure to check back tomorrow! (Edit: Here's the link! Also, check out the many, many more recommendations in the comments section of this post.)