"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

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.


  1. It's so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it, especially boys. In fact, I've recently completed a feature magazine article on this subject that came out in October, "Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers."

    I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

    My blog, Books for Boys http://booksandboys.blogspot.com is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading. And my new book, Lost Island Smugglers - first in the Sam Cooper Adventure Series - is coming out in July-August. Contracts are also signed for Captain Jack's Treasure and River Rampage.

    Max Elliot Anderson
    PS. My first 7 books are going to be republished by Comfort Publishing later in 2010

  2. Max, I look forward to reading your book, Lost Island Smuggler. What age group is your intended target audience? I should have said that another "rule" for high school boys is they want to read about other high school boys, not boys younger than themselves, at least not by much.

    What books did you enjoy as a reluctant reader as a boy? Perhaps there are some books out there that have stood the test of time that I could still refer my boys to read.

    Where will your article "Help for the Struggling, Reluctant Readers" be published? I'll look for it, too.

  3. Depending on what interests them my answer would vary of course but books/authors that I think would be enjoyed or target the young male reader (that I have read and recommend) are:

    - Author Garth Nix (he has two young adult series)
    - Canadian author William Bell (a variety of books)
    - Harry Potter of course
    - Scott Westerfeld
    - Robert Jordan
    - Lord of The Rings

    I guess it really depends on the age group as well as I haven't read much that would factor in to the 0-12 age group.

    Hope you get them reading!

  4. My son is not yet a teen, but he does read beyond his age, for example, "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman. Right now, he's running through the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books, though! (more his age). Thanks for this review, because I can see him enjoying some of these even now.

    I came over from Book Blogs!

  5. I love the voracious male readers who will read anything or the ones who love to read the long fantasy series like the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. But the average reluctant reader will not touch these books because they are intimidated by them. I will have to try some of the Garth Nix books. I haven't read anything by him but I do have a few of his books in the library. I'll have to look into William Bell, as well. I hate to admit it, but I've never even heard of him before. I forgot to mention books published by Orca publishing in my diary. They publish books designed for reluctant middle/high school students. They are considered hi/lo books. High interest. Low reading levels. A challenge for high school students reading below grade level is finding reading materials that are directed at their interests and their reading levels. All their books are around 100 pages and there is plenty of white space on each page. I shelf all my Orca books together in one shelf in the library so kids don't have to go searching all over the library looking for these books.

  6. I like Stephanie Perry Moore's 'Perry Skky, Jr.' series. This female author has created a believable character dealing with issues todays teenage boys face.


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