One of the hardest groups to get reading is boys between the ages of ten to thirteen. Avid readers, after making their way through Harry Potter and the Eragon series, are at a loss for something to read. Boys who never read before would rather die than try. What is the problem? Tweenagerhood. All tweens are appearance focused, but boys in a different way than girls. Girls start worrying about their clothes and, sadly, their weight. Boys worry about appearing grown up and manly.
What does a new macho obsession have to do with reading? Everything! If a book looks too ‘babyish’ or ‘girlie,’ a tween boy won’t touch it. These qualifications apply to content, book cover, and even the title. My husband still claims he is scarred from having to read and even carry the book Little Women for his seventh grade English class. It was true twenty years ago and is even more true today.
Luckily, more authors and book publishers are focusing on the tween boy crowd and their dilemma. There are a lot of options, but an entire section in the library or book store can be hard to sift through. I have some books that I’ve read and enjoyed, and other tricks for finding good books maybe I haven’t seen yet. For simplicity, I will divide them by some favorite guy genres.
First of all, if your tween reader doesn’t know what he likes, a good place to start is the Guys Read books. These books, edited by Jon Sceizka, include a collection of short stories by some popular tween authors. The first book is Guys Read: Humor and the second is Guys Read: Thriller. The back of each of these books includes a biography of the authors and lists of their books. If the short stories catch the reader’s interest, they can move onto the author’s books. There is also a website, guysread.com, with some good suggestions as well.
Speaking of Harry Potter and Eragon, fantasy is a favorite for tween boys. These are some of my favorites (some known and some lesser known, but equally great—click on the links for longer reviews):
- The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordon—These are well known and well advertised, so most kids will at least have heard of them before. Percy Jackson, a mostly ordinary teenager, finds out he is actually the son of Poseidon and the adventures begin.
- The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordon—This series is not as well known, but I like it because it deals with a brother/sister duo and Egyptian mythology. Also, the audio books are great.
- The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer—This series is one of my personal favorites, but the start is slow. I suggest listening to the first on audio book, because reader Nathaniel Parker brings the characters to life. By the second book, I was hooked. (see my review for a longer summary)
- The Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy—My other personal favorite, Skulduggery Pleasant is a witty, well-dress, skeleton detective. He and his sidekick, Valkyrie Cain, solve crimes and fight evil in a most amusing way. One warning, these books are a little harder to find. I’m still waiting for book 6 to come in print in the US.
- Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson—Alcatraz is a klutzy hero who saves the day by breaking things. He finds that evil librarians are corrupting our view of the real world by the books they persuade us to read.
- The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan—This series has a J.R.R. Tolkien feel, but is lighter and better for younger teen readers.
- Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson—Filled with humor and adventure, this is the story of how Peter Pan became Peter Pan. However, this is not the Disney version. Along with the humor, there is suspense and overcoming real evil.
- The Pyrdain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander—A story fill with magic and amazing characters, these books follow the pig keeper Taran and his accidental quest to save his kingdom.
- The Gregor the Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins—Gregor and his young sister fall through a heating vent into an underground world beneath the streets of New York. In this world, humans travel on giant bats and fight battles with human-sized rats.
Adventure, Sports, and Spying
- The Young James Bond Series by Charlie Higson—These books give us some idea of how James Bond becomes the famous British spy. The stories include engaging mysteries and puzzles as well as some James Bond gadgetry.
- The Young Sherlock Holmes Series by Andy Lane—With high adventure mysteries, we see some of how Sherlock became the legend he is today. These are also a little harder to find, and sometimes have different titles in the US than the UK. If you search by the author, you should be able to find them.
- The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz—For spy lovers, Alex Rider is the teenage and US equivalent of James Bond.
- The 39 Clues Books—This series is written by a variety of popular young adult and children’s authors. It is about a brother/sister spy duo.
- Most books by Gary Paulsen—His most famous book is Hatchet, but many of his books are about wilderness survival and adventure. He has also written some historical fiction, but most of his writing is centered on boys in the tween stage.
- Heat and Travel Team by Mike Lupica—He writes about sports themes, but his stories are interesting for sports lovers and anyone who just loves a good story.
Tween boys face a reading dilemma, but it is not insurmountable. These books are just the ones that I have read and more are coming available all the time. I hope by the time my boys, now 5 and 3 years old, reach the tween stage, there won’t be a problem at all.