Saturday, April 14, 2012

Books for boys

A friend recently asked me for some recommendations for his thirteen year-old son. Apparently he doesn't read much. I asked what he did do, what he's interested in. Soccer, it turns out, skateboarding. Oh, I said, so he might like some kind of punk skateboarding rebel-type story? No problem!

Except that then my mind went blank. So I asked Twitter. And people came through with a raft of suggestions.

So, just in case you're in a similar position, here are some of the books recommended that sound as though they might be worth trying.


Ian McDonald, Planesrunner.
When Everett Singh's scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this teenager has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse—the Infundibulum—the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it. They've got power, authority, and the might of ten planets—some of them more technologically advanced than our Earth—at their fingertips. He's got wits, intelligence, and a knack for Indian cooking.
recommended by @CherylMorgan and @FredKiesche

Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
many recommendations, including @bylisagold
Mark Zusak, Underdogs trilogy, ,
Cameron and Ruben Wolfe are champions at getting into fights, coming up with half-baked schemes, and generally disappointing girls, their parents, and their much more motivated older siblings. They're intensely loyal to each other, brothers at their best and at their very worst. But when Cameron falls head over heels for Ruben's girlfriend, the strength of their bond is tested to its breaking point.
 recommended by @greenspace01 ("Brother, boxing, wanting girls...")

Scott Westerfield, Uglies
Tally Youngblood lives in a futuristic society that acculturates its citizens to believe that they are ugly until age 16 when they'll undergo an operation that will change them into pleasure-seeking "pretties." Anticipating this happy transformation, Tally meets Shay, another female ugly, who shares her enjoyment of hoverboarding and risky pranks. But Shay also disdains the false values and programmed conformity of the society and urges Tally to defect with her to the Smoke, a distant settlement of simple-living conscientious objectors. Tally declines, yet when Shay is found missing by the authorities, Tally is coerced by the cruel Dr. Cable to find her and her compatriots–or remain forever "ugly." Tally's adventuresome spirit helps her locate Shay and the Smoke. It also attracts the eye of David, the aptly named youthful rebel leader to whose attentions Tally warms. However, she knows she is living a lie, for she is a spy who wears an eye-activated locator pendant that threatens to blow the rebels' cover. Ethical concerns will provide a good source of discussion as honesty, justice, and free will are all oppressed in this well-conceived dystopia. Characterization, which flirts so openly with the importance of teen self-concept, is strong, and although lengthy, the novel is highly readable with a convincing plot that incorporates futuristic technologies and a disturbing commentary on our current public policies. Fortunately, the cliff-hanger ending promises a sequel.
Many recs, including @sleary ("Post-apocalyptic hoverboard adventure...")

Arnold Spirit, a goofy-looking dork with a decent jumpshot, spends his time lamenting life on the "poor-ass" Spokane Indian reservation, drawing cartoons (which accompany, and often provide more insight than, the narrative), and, along with his aptly named pal Rowdy, laughing those laughs over anything and nothing that affix best friends so intricately together. When a teacher pleads with Arnold to want more, to escape the hopelessness of the rez, Arnold switches to a rich white school and immediately becomes as much an outcast in his own community as he is a curiosity in his new one. He weathers the typical teenage indignations and triumphs like a champ but soon faces far more trying ordeals as his home life begins to crumble and decay amidst the suffocating mire of alcoholism on the reservation. Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt. A few of the plotlines fade to gray by the end, but this ultimately affirms the incredible power of best friends to hurt and heal in equal measure. Younger teens looking for the strength to lift themselves out of rough situations would do well to start here.
recommended by @SalamanderHouse

Jumper, Steven Gould
What if you could go anywhere in the world, in the blink of an eye? Where would you go? What would you do?

Davy can teleport.

To survive, Davy must learn to use and control his power in a world that is more violent and complex than he ever imagined. But mere survival is not enough for him. Davy wants to find others like himself, others who can Jump.

And that's a dangerous game.
and Wildside, Steven Gould
Forget the lottery.
Teenager Charlie Newell has just discovered something that will make him and his friends billionaires. What if a world existed in which no humans ever evolved? No cities. No pollution. No laws. A fantastic world filled with unimaginable riches in which everything--everything--was yours just for the taking?
Charlie has found that world. And he plans to use it to make him and his friends rich.
There is a problem: How do you keep something this big a secret?
recommended by, well, me.

And a trove of good old-fashioned adventures, e.g. Treasure Island, King Solomon's Mines, War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, Kidnapped, Beau Geste, and Lawrence of Arabia, recommended by @JemFoxy

Also, try Guys Lit Wire, a blog full of reviews about, well, Guys' Lit.

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6 comments:

  1. another great author-made site is

    http://www.guysread.com/

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  2. I recently read Steinbeck's Ghost by Lewis Buzbee (2008) and plan to give copies to the boys I'm fond of in my life.

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  3. I grew up hating to read and now write adventures & mysteries for readers 8 - 13 that might interest him and others.

    Books for Boys Blog http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

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  4. a. Kenneth Oppel, a Canadian author, has written a three-book steampunk series: Airborn, Skybreaker, Starclimber. The first book features lighter-than-air ships and airborn ecologies, with much of the swash and buckle of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
    b. Rick Riordan's series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a 5-book series about misfit kids who are the children of Greek gods and human women. The series has been popular with young teen readers over the past several years. From what I hear, skip the movie and stick with the books.
    c. I definitely agree with your suggestions of Jumper and Wildside. What do you think of Steven Gould's book, Helm? I think it's for a slightly older audience, but it's one I've read more than once.
    d. Lois Master Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan saga begins with the meeting of his father and mother in Shards of Honor and continues with Barrayar. Miles takes center stage in The Warrior's Apprentice. It's military space opera stuff with real characters and a lot of humor. Sex starts showing up a few books into the series. The father might want to preview a few of the books before recommending them to the teenage son.
    e. Megan Whalen Turner's series, starting with The Thief, followed by The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings, is adventure non-historical historical fiction, caper stories, with layers of political intrigue and sword fighting. Fun stuff.
    f. I read A Wrinkle in Time way back in the 60s just after it won the Newbery Medal. (My mother was a librarian and she tested it on me.) At that time, the books for girls were mostly treacly sweet and by the end of the books even the most rebellious were brought into proper and approved societal female roles. There were few or no girl books with clever, non-conforming girl protagonists. Meg in A Wrinkle in Time was an intelligent misfit with a supportive family and her mother was a scientist. If you consider the book as one of the early children's science fiction titles, it succeeded. If it was published now, it would have had a more cinematic approach and would have been a different book. Thanks--
    Jane Cothron (jcothron@actionnet.net)

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  5. I don't know Helm. Cool: something to check out! I am, however, v. familiar w/Turner Attolia series: liked the first, really liked the second, and loved the third (you can see my thoughts on the trilogy here). Sadly, I thought the fourth was a real mess. So I pretend it doesn't exist.

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