My dear friend Lori (who humbly took on the moniker “the other Lori” when I met her my second year of doctoral work and her first year, thus making me just “Lori”), messaged me the other night that her 13 year old nephew was staying with her for the summer and she was trying to push books on him in lieu of his natural affection for gaming. She wrote in frustration, asking for titles.
He had already read three books:
But he had read those reluctantly.
Oh, those reluctant young male readers. Any of us who have taught middle school or high school (or even college!) know them well. I am here to tell you there is immediate and long term hope. Let me give you some immediate remedies first.
The following books read like movies and while I can’t guarantee that they will make your tween/teen/young adult male reader become a book aficionado, they might make it through a few without grumbling too loudly about you making them read in the summertime:
Feed by M.T. Anderson: This takes place in the not-so-far future when each person (of certain financial class) has a feed implanted in his/her brain. Think of Google Glass but it’s permanent. The male narrator, Titus, and his friends receive streaming information, email, messages, and ads constantly and never question it until their brains are HACKED. Then the fun begins…So much to talk to your kid about in this book about our growing technology addication. Reading level = loosely assessed to be about 7th grade-ish. (Oh, I just looked it up and you can find all that here, and it’s rated a 6.7 grade–I was close!)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: First let me say that anyone who grew up in the 1980s should read this book for the pop culture references alone–they are brilliantly woven in and will take you back in time. Wade Watts is a teenage kid in 2044 who is a wizard gamer. In this post-oil landscape, everyone logs into life/work/school through a virtual reality program called OASIS. A bazillioniare guy who created OASIS dies and leaves no heir, only a very intricate game and the person who gets through all three levels of this game will inherit his fortune. Individual gamers and corporations fight to win. The cover quote says, “Enchanting…Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.” What could be better!? Reading level is higher, though. I would say 11-12th grade-ish.
The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer: The second first book in a four book series, Alex Morales, a Puerto Rican kid in Manhattan, struggles to survive after an asteroid hits our moon and messes up life here on Earth. Good NYC setting, a sweet high school kid as the narrator who struggles with the ethical questions of survival and suddenly being the adult over his two sisters. Reading level is about 9th grade? Maybe 8th.
The Living by Matt de la Pena: Oh, I saved the best for last. I could not put this book down because it reads like an action movie. Soooo good. The protagonist, Shy, comes from a poor Mexican family in San Diego and takes a summer job on a fancy cruise line for the good money. While out at sea, California has the “big one” (massive earthquake) and a tsunami heads towards their cruise ship. But it’s not just natural disaster book –there’s another layer of intrigue and mystery involved as well. Now I want to reread it. Reading level I’m guessing is 8th/9th grade.
My friend Lori was worried that these books (especially the last two natural disaster ones) might scare her nephew, so I said a great antidote to the fear is some non-fiction reading of survival guides! They are fascinating and worth reading just because they have good info in them.
Now a note of hope: When I met Adam I was 26 and he was 25 and he didn’t really like to read. I have no idea why I even dated him when he admitted that (that’s how desperate NYC had made me), BUT, as he’s gotten older he reads more and more and he is a reader by choice now. I think many guys come into reading later in life than girls. I’m sure there’s a ton of research out there on why that is.
I’d say if you can get your tween/teen boys to read four books over the summer you’re doing pretty well for yourself.
Happy summer reading!
(Nico & Miles, sons of two English teachers–you better read!)