Thursday, April 29, 2010
Runner and other books for teen boys
I read Runner by Carl Deuker two weeks ago. It is a very exciting story about a boy, Chance Taylor, who ends up as a runner for a very shady character because that person promises him money. Chance's father, a Gulf War Veteran and an alcoholic, can't seem to keep a job or pay the bills. Chance suspects that the items he is picking up are drugs, but he never looks because he really doesn't want to know. If he "knows" what he is picking up he will have to confront the fact that he is participating in illegal activities and he needs the money. He continues even when the activity seems riskier and riskier. The book has a tremendously exciting climax where Chance's dad has an opportunity to redeem himself and it ends on a note of hope.
Several boys at my school have indicated how much they enjoyed reading this book and have gone on to read other books by Deuker. This got me thinking about how few reliably good "boy" books I know about to recommend to these reticent readers. For the most part male readers are pickier than female readers. They want shorter books with action-filled plots and they often insist that the protagonist be a male. Some won't even consider the book if the author is female. No wonder so many fabulous authors hide their gender behind their initials: J.K. Rowling; K.L. Going; S.E. Hinton; A.M. Jenkins. So with all these 'rules' in mind, it is no wonder that I am always struggling to increase my list of reliably good books for boys (of the reluctant reader type.) Listed below are few I have found that usually work. I would greatly appreciate other suggestions from you, dear reader.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers--- this is written in a movie-script format. c. 2000
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (The Lightning Thief, book 1) --- these books are written at a much lower reading level than high school, yet my boys eat these up. Hot, hot, hot right now.
The Contender by Robert Lipsyte--- a coming-of-age story that centers around boxing. c. 1987
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going---I have to assure boys that this book is about friends and Rock-n-Roll not about diets before they will try it.
Cirque du Freak and Demonata series by Darren Shan--- both of these series have loyal followers. Cirque du Freak, especially, is written for younger readers but that does not deter my high school boys.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Michaelsen--- though action-packed, this book is a bit too long for many male readers at 241 pages.
DriftX series by Todd Strasser--- car racing; boys zoom through this three boy series and want more!
Raiders Night by Robert Lipsyte--- witness to a crime, steroids, football, this book has a compelling storyline.
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver--- one of our SPED teachers has more luck getting boys to read this fantasy series than I do.
I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak--- older boys really like this book even though it breaks all the "rules" about length. It is definitely for mature readers.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie--- Boys often tell me that this is the first book they have actually completed since they were very young. I only have hardcover copies of the book so I often have to talk boys into reading it since it looks longer than it is.
The Boxer and the Spy by Robert Parker--- Parker, who usually writes for adults, has written a perfect book for reluctant readers...it is short, a mystery, involves sports, and espionage.
With a bit of cajoling these authors usually work: Kevin Brooks, Chris Crutcher, Robert Cormier, and John Flanagan.