I liked James Preller’s blog entry yesterday about “boy books,” and the example he posts of an atypical (and oddly touching) “boy book” about friends growing apart.
“Boy books” is an interesting topic to me, and one I should blog more about, but I find myself confounded by the topic. What are “boy books”? I mean, I write them, so I must know something about them, but at the same time, I’m not completely comfortable with the idea that boys and girls are supposed to read different books. Moreover, the “boy book” genre seems to entail a lot of assumptions — that boys are reluctant readers who need to be constantly stimulated, that their books need to be action-packed, with plenty of monsters and/or booger jokes–or, for teen readers, hard-hitting sparsely written books with car crashes and fist fights.
At the same time, I do understand that boys don’t read as much as girls and we’re trying to give them what they want. More monsters, more booger jokes. It seems to work. And don’t get me wrong, I love monster stories and don’t mind the occasional booger joke or car crash. But we don’t just give boys the books we think they want, we tell them what they should want. We tell them who boys are. It’s like giving a girl a Barbie doll.
The current truism in “boy books” is that boys don’t care about feelings. They need violence and action. And the books we give them makes it so. At least until they grow up to enjoy Judd Apatow movies, which are all about masculine relationships and how awkward they are because guys aren’t brought up to think about feelings.