Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Do Teenage Boys Read?

On Monday, I blogged about “manfiction” as being what men like to read. Now, a Publishers Weekly author has a teen boy tell us what his kind look for in a book.

The author of the article, Max Leone, says:
The first problem with many books for teens is archaic language. Seriously. It is the kiss of death for teenage boy literature. Any book infested by it is destined to become an eternal object of derision around the cafeteria lunch table….

Another giant, oily blemish on the face of teenage literature (that was entirely intentional) is whatever urge compels writers to clumsily smash morals about fairness or honor or other cornball crap onto otherwise fine stories….

And then there are the vampires and other supernatural creature that appear in many contemporary teen novels. Vampires, simply put, are awesome….The vampire was always depicted as a menacing badass. That is the kind of book teenage boys want to read. Also good: books with videogame-style plots involving zombie attacks, alien attacks, robot attacks or any excuse to shoot something….

Finally, here is what I consider the cardinal rule of writing for young adults: Do Not Underestimate Your Audience.
Okay, I don’t have any teenage boys (or girls, for that matter) in my house anymore. I do know I like Harry Potter and I read Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. But I’m not a teenage boy.

Any writers of male teen fiction out there who’d like to comment? Any teenage male readers? Any parents, cousins, grandparents of teenage boys? If you go back and read my post on “manfiction,” you may agree with me on this point -- teenage boys don’t seem all that different as readers from grown men.


  1. I have a teenage nephew who is an avid reader. And I swear to god, his reply to me when I asked him about what he likes and does not like about male teen fiction was almost VERBATIM to this young fellow's!!!

    Hit the head right on the nail.

  2. My experience with teen boys and their reading habits is nearly nil and I've seen few of them reading, unfortunately. It seems that computers and video games have taken the place of books. Hopefully the uniqueness of hand held e-book readers has captured their interests.

  3. I have a 6 year old who is just starting to read so I'm going to extrapolate... He already likes police procedurals, horror/paranormal (ghosts, mummies, monsters), science fiction (anything with robots), superheros and fantasy. Books he has enjoyed Alice in Wonderland, the Bunnicula series, Wee Three Men among others that are slipping my mind right now.

  4. I really don't see teen fiction as being that different from adult fiction. I preferred more fantasy and adventure as a teen than I do now. I recall reading a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs and historical tales by Frank Yerby. I also know that most of us had books we kept under our mattress, but for the most part they were not dirty books. Manfiction, mostly--e.g. Richard S. Prather with a somewhat lascivious cover.

    My oldest son got turned on to Jurassic Park and my youngest by Ursula K LeGuin stories.

    I think the way to get teen boys to read is to put a racy cover on some high adventure and tell them to hide it from Mom.

  5. I have a 16-year old son. Yes, he has his video games and his IPod, but he also reads. Currently, he is burning his way through the Redwall series. He's also read some of my Burroughs' Mars books. He's in an Advanced Placement language arts class, and is reading The Great Gatsby, which he's not really enjoying, but he did love To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. I read the first line of Cannery Row to him the other night and he pronounced it "sweet".

    So, yes, some teenage boys do read. They are as diverse as adults in their reading habits.

  6. I don't have any children, but I remember when I was in high school I liked reading Dick Francis mysteries. I don't know if any teenage guys are interested in his books these days.

    Morgan Mandel

  7. The teen boy really sounds on target to teen boy tastes, or at least that was my experience as a teen boy who read. I loved Robert E. Howard, and science fiction with a lot of adventure. And comic books, of course. And sports books. Without comic books and the encouragement of my father and grandmother (who gave me her hardback editions of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer) I might not have been much of a reader. I thank my father, though, for an interest in history and nonfiction, which I also read. I loved biographies. My favorite was about Winston Churchill.

  8. Love your comment, Mark, of hiding it from mom.

    I have one son, grown now, but he was and is a big reader and he fits this article's author. He likes and liked adventure, comics, anime, fantasy. But he also is an avid reader of philosophy, history and biographies.

  9. Oh yeah, sorry guys for being so quiet. My hotel didn't have internet connection. But I'm baaaacck.


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