Late last week the Boston Book Bums team put a post about the apparent gender discrepancy in readers: women read, men don’t. And while that topic is still rolling along, reader and fellow book blogger Bostonbibliophile (who’s also a librarian) noted some issues with Young Adult books and the offerings out there. Publishers seem to be building on the perception that girls read more, thus the YA field is flooded with stories geared towards them. Leaving us to wonder what does this mean to future male readership rates?
We figured a quick dash around the net for some fact finding was called for. Of course it would be silly to leave out the Twilight series, but the sheer cultural force and volume of books sold (throwing in pseudo inspirations/knock off versions) somewhat pollutes the overall picture of Young Adult reading.
Pretty much if its vampires, its hot. If it’s teen vampires, even hotter. And honestly, doing a little testosterone check, no 14 year old boy is going to read about a girl his age pining for some hunky loner, who is also a lycanthrope/vampire/zombie.
That is pretty foreign territory to an adolescent boy.
However, if the book was written about a shy boy, who falls for a vivacious female lycanthrope/vampire/zombie that might get a male reader’s attention; so long as it has action in it and some level of age appropriate titillation. Heck, to boys that age action is still car chases and titillation is the showing of a bra strap!
But if you look around, there are a handful of potential works that just may appeal to the under-18 crowd of guys.
Interestingly, there is a author writing for teen boys who hasn’t gotten much attention here in the States but is well known in the UK, due in part to him being a famously mysterious solider turned author, Sgt. Andy McNab. An Iraq War I veteran, McNab (a security pseudonym) wrote some non-fiction and fiction bestsellers before turning up the adrenaline dial for boys.
His newest book is called Drop Zone, follows a 17-year-old caught up in a miserable life who turns to B.A.S.E. jumping to amp his thrill seeking needs. Of course the sky diving team he ends up with turns out to be a covert British intelligence team. A book like that proves the modern adult thriller model can be tuned and toned down to suit a younger, yes male, audience. But books like that don’t seem to have traction, so we wonder, why?
Back to what’s being read. We were curious as to see how/if the trends of YA skewed differently on both sides of ‘The Pond.’
Stroll through online bestseller lists here in the States you’ll find, in the top ten, half are vampire related books with female leads. Another is a young couple caught up in a strange ancient conspiracy, another trio follows a young girl caught up in a dystopian future and the final work follows a young Sex in the City Carrie Bradshaw. Over in the UK, a top ten list shows seven titles are linked to two vampire series, another is a paranormal romance and yes, Carrie Bradshaw leaps the Atlantic to their list too.
Interestingly, two books pass inside the top 20 loop are considerably more male oriented. In the UK you have Brigands M.C., the story of a young man whose family is murdered. Soon after he is recruited as kid-spy to monitor the motorcycle club that slayed his parents. And here in the U.S. you have John Grisham’s Theodore Boone- Kid Lawyer. Ummmm, yeah. Next up, Martin Willowby: Adolescent Insurance Adjuster? We kid! Anyway, while the latter title doesn’t have the immediate shelf appeal to boys only, it at least efforts to engage both genders.
However, there is hope when agents of note start rattling their pens looking for YA books for boys. Over on Media Bistro’s Galleycat an interview with literary agent Laura Rennert nails the conversation perfectly, “I think that editors frequently ask for smart ‘boy’ books, but that so much of the market is driven by girl readers, that they’re not getting many submissions that fit the bill. Also, when they do get these kind of books, sometimes they take them to acquisitions and then sales and marketing won’t get on board, again, because the industry is so girl reader focused.”
We hope that reading, in the minds of the next generation of men, does not become a 21st century version of parlor activities for girls, and girls only.