So, a customer came up to me while I was cleaning the kids section and asked me what I would recommend for a teenage boy. At that moment, I had nothing. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to recommend in the Young Adult section for teen boys. First we must consider what kind of boy the recommendation is for. If he doesn’t like fantasy then it’s going to be more difficult.
Walter Dean Myers has a large body of work consisting of realistic and historical fiction, interesting to boys and girls alike. Key titles include: Fallen Angels, Monster, Slam! and Hoops. Gary Paulsen is also an author boys may enjoy; his work consists mostly of survival stories such as Hatchet, The River, and Brian’s Winter. I also feel that John Green offers some solace for boys in need of something to read– An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Looking for Alaska are all about the boy’s side of romance. David Levithan would be a good recommendation for boys that are more on the sensitive side, exploring male characters that are not as represented in Young Adult fiction (Boy Meets Boy, Love is the Higher Law, Wide Awake and his collaboration with John Green: Will Grayson, Will Grayson). Another great writer for boys is Markus Zusak, an author that crafted a story about a female protagonist from death’s point of view as well as a novel about a young man who needed to turn his life around through the mysterious messages left by an anonymous guide (The Book Thief and I am the Messenger). King Dork by Frank Portman is a modernized Catcher in the Rye, often alluding to its inspiration in order to keep the story moving. Lastly, Tweak by Nic Sheff opens up a pathway into the dark world of drugs, something that boys should learn about sooner or later.
Fantasy is an easier genre to develop recommendations for, since boys that like fantasy are more willing to forgive the slightly gushy goings on between characters. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments may have a female protagonist and teen angst, but there is enough focus on the inner workings of both male leads that a teenage boy could be interested (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass). Amelia Atwater-Rhodes also offers a lot for both genders of teen reader, her Shapeshifter series shifted between female and male narrators, continuing the story. None of the female characters spend time on angst (Hawksong, Snakedance, etc). James Patterson expanded into the Young Adult genre with several titles, Maximum Ride, Dangerous Days of Daniel X, and Witch & Wizard are all worthy titles for boys. I would also recommend Maggie Stiefvater’s Faerie series. The first book, Lament may not seem like something boys will like due to the main character being an Irish girl that can see faeries and plays the harp, but the sequel, Ballad, was told from the point of view of Deirdre’s bag-piping smart ass best friend, James. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is often recommended for teen boys; my hesitation with this series is that it is independent reader, not Young Adult. Though, Harry Potter is also independent reader but developed into an adult read as well as one for kids. A very popular title for boys, though I’m not sure how I feel about it, is the Inheritance Cycle series. The writing isn’t great but if it’s story you’re looking for then Paolini has great organization and elements of story telling (Star Wars but with dragons). My last recommendation for boys is Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, a story about a young boy in a literal prison and a young girl in a cultural prison.
I hope this helps parents looking for what to get your boys in order to spark their interest in reading. If you have any questions about the books listed here, feel free to e-mail me.
All books mentioned above available through your local bookseller.