We'll be back

What with Christmas time being here and all, we might not be posting much next week, so look for more reviews and such starting again after New Year's.  It's only a week and a half away, so don't fret.  That's unless I get some time-sucking video games as a present.  Who has time for books when they have video games, right?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Steven (and Virginia and Melanie)
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100th Post and the End of the Year Roundup

This post is our 100th at Boys Do Read.  If you've read our "About Us" page, you'll find that this blog was created from a presentation at the British Columbia Library Conference with the intent on broadening the possibilities at what we can offer teen boys to read.  We've covered a little bit of everything, from the obvious (comics, sports books) and the not-so-obvious (Across the Universe; have you seen that cover? No boys would want it).

We've seen a lot of material in our quest to find good boys' reading.  Some was great, some not so much.  So, without further ado, we present our recap of 2011.

Teen books no boys will ever borrow:

We know that these aren't intended for boys, but they both certainly aren't doing any favours to anyone who claims that boys should read anything.  I'll venture there are a lot of girls (two of the bloggers here perhaps?) who feel the same way about these books

Teen books no boys will ever borrow, but they should:

Yeah, the handsome dude and the kissy lips aren't really helping on these ones.  But the books were good.

Teen book trends we'd like to see killed off:

Melanie: Zombies that go to high school. Surfer vampires. Fairies. Mermaid struggling with self identity. Pegasuses (pegasi?)?  They are really scraping the bottom of the barrel. I hope with the approaching finale of the Twilight film series, the book industry will take the hint. 

Unless they all go back to old school vampires and sirens whose bloodsucking and cannibalistic tendencies .  Then we'll welcome them back with open arms.

Steven: First person, present tense.  Seriously.  It seems lazy.  I mean, the narrator, in the midst of all this action, has time to write down their every thought?  I don't buy it at all, and it's too distracting and I can't suspend my disbelief.

Virginia: Romance novels disguised as dystopian, especially those in which the guy characters serve no purpose other than being the love interest. My second vote would be for series. Stop writing series!

Genre that should come back (but without any girlification)

Science fiction a la Asimov/Heinlein/ClarkeNot that it should be specifically for teens, but there doesn't seem to be much of it around.  Eric Walters' End of Days gives me hope, though.

Writers who should write more, more, more

Ransom Riggs (two votes for him!),  Lish McBride (yeah, it's paranormal.  But at least it's funny).

Adult authors who should never write for teens again

James Patterson, Harlan Coben (really couldn't get through Shelter)

Books for kids that you wish you could give to teen boys

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
All of them can be enjoyed by all ages, but let's face it, it's hard to convince a teen to take something kiddie, and you don't want to insult their intelligence.

Book that, despite all its shortcomings (including being just awful), we still recommend:

Assassin's Creed.  The video game tie-in is a big draw.

Books that should be included in library teen collections even though some of them seem completely  useless:

Novelty books like F in Exams, Five Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth and Ten Ways to Recycle a Corpse. Why? Teen guys will read them -- and you will find that the rest of your library customers will like them too!

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Invasion by Jon S. Lewis

First book of the C.H.A.O.S. series
Colt McAlister has spent a day with real life aliens. Not that he remembers it. CHAOS (Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural) made sure of that when they invited Colt to a facility posing as a regular military academy to test his abilities and potential. Colt may have lived his whole life in ignorance and bliss, but when his parents were killed in a car accident, he got a tip from a stranger: Your parents were murdered. Your mom was about to expose the omnipotent Trident Industries' mind control scheme and so they had to get rid of her.  And from that point on, Colt's normal life is turned upside down, when he discovers more than he ever wants to know about a secret organization and his grandpa's secret past.

I want to like this book, and when I read the first six chapters, I did kind of like it. A little thrown off because you were hit with the story without much explanation, but kids training to be secret agents battling extraterrestrials? Nothing super original, but it can be fun. The story then took a turn once the first CHAOS scene is over, and Colt and the readers both have to go through a lot of secrecy from all the other characters, and impatience started to seep in.  There was too much conspiracy talk and the escaping from evil guys scenes got a bit repetitive. Some of the alien creatures and the high-tech weapons and vehicles were pretty cool, and there were some interesting story threads, but not enough to hold my attention. Danielle and Oz, the other two major characters in the book, are much more personable than Colt, which doesn't help either. Invasion did receive positive reviews, and a sequel is coming out in January 2012, so this may be a good one to include in your teen collection for your sci-fi readers.
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Bioshock: Rapture by John Shirley

Listed on Metacritic as one of the best video games ever, Bioshock is the story of a man who is trapped in a mysterious city under the sea.

Set in the 1960, Jack finds himself in a plane crash, only to be rescued by a mysterious man named "Atlas".  The city, called Rapture, was built by an industrialist names Andrew Ryan as a utopia, but, inevitably, it collapses.  All that remains are the unlucky survivors who have become addicated to mysterious substances known as ADAM and EVE.  These give suporpowers to users.  As the story proceeds, you discover that Jack is in fact Andrew Ryan's son who was bred and brainwashed to come back and kill him, then take over Rapture for "Atlas".  Most of the story is relayed through audio diary recordingsof various characters that you find along the way, none of which are required to complete the game.

That's the game.  I played it, didn't like it terribly much, though the underwater setting was intriguing and impressive.  It is a well constructed game world that looks like something Walt Disney would have built had he had unlimited funds.  the game has since spawned to sequels, one in 2010 and the next coming in 2012.

Bioshock: Rapture is the story of Andrew Ryan and the rise and fall of his city.  If it wasn't connected by title to a game I had played, I would never have known any connection.  This is a surprisingly well written story, a great dystopian read.  Ryan builds his city on the premise of zero regulation, but won't allow anyone to lead for fear that infiltrators will come and ruin his perfect society.  Of course, internal pressure, claustrophobia and bad people do it just fine on their own.

Even though I know exactly how the story ends as far as the game goes, I was impressed at the end when it felt like the book really wrapped up the story.  It feels like it can stand alone, though I can't say for sure having come in knowing the plot. 

Even points in the game the would seem odd outside of a video game context (gun vending machines, special powers, little girls with scary diving bell-clad monsters) have been explained and used appropriately in the books.  Nothing is forced like it was in Assassin's Creed.

As far as video game tie-ins go, this is the best one I've read yet.
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What Boys Like: Playin' Guitar

... or the drums, or some weird instrument no one has ever heard of.

While we often think of sports books, comics and biographies of relevant boys' interest topics, there is one thing that doesn't seem to come up very often.  Music books.  The technical kind.  In every grade in high school, there are dozens of boys who dream to be rock stars, noodling about on their cheap guitars, hoping to get good instantly so they can pick up girls.

Guys and girls both like music, and teenagers in particular find themselves carving an identity out of their favorite bands and songs.  And music is even more personal than ever, since much is absorbed alone via headphones, and even more is downloaded in private at home from the internet.  Even so, kids just want to get it out and share their passion.  Some kids write songs, but some just aren't quite up to it, and have to figure out their favorite songs on their own.  They likely don't know many songs aside from the few they play on infinite loop trying to figure out a tricky chord sequence or a fancy riff.

The good news is there are plenty of books for that, called fake books.  These books contain the very basics of music: a single melody line, lyrics and the chords.  They aren't usually super complicated, and often aren't even 100% correct (one I have at home is missing an entire verse of Come Sail Away. For shame!), but they are close enough to the real thing that you can, as the title says, fake it.  This assumes the reader know the basics of their instrument, particularly the names of the chords, but generally they do.  If not, they is usually a chart in the book somewhere showing how it's done.  There are many different fake bookss out there, so be sure to choose appropriate ones.  I'm not sure that Disney songs or Broadway hits will cut it, but Beatles, Stones and Rock Guitar editions would be good choices.

Another good idea is Guitar for Dummies-type books.  Some have songs, some are more method books for learning the technical aspects of playing.  Either way, guys will appreciate it.

Your library might already have all these books in the adult section, but there is no reason they can't be highlighted for teens.  If you know any teenaged musicians who are just learning to play, these books are for him.
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Axe Cop by Malachi and Ethan Nicolle

I'm a guy, and I'm here to tell you that I have no idea how girls think, or the rationale behind what they do. Women and girls are a mystery to us guys. Likewise, I know that boys don't make much sense to them.  I would like to offer a hand in resolving this situation.  I present to you: Axe Cop!

This is how little boys think.  Yes, Axe Cop, the story of a cop with an axe. Created by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle, a pair of brothers who love to hang out together.  You see, Malachi is a kid.  He was 5 when Axe Cop was created, with his comic illustrator brother who was 29 at the time. They would play together, with Malachi inventing stories and characters on the fly, the same way all little boys play.  Ethan would just take these stories, streamline them, and put them out as a web comic.  The only editing he would do is just to make sure that the story flowed a little more logically.

Okay, logic is a stretch, but this is what I mean:  the stories are pure, unadulterated (literally) imagination.  They are violent, but only in the way a little kid obsessed with dinosaurs and superheroes could think of.  They are crude, using plenty of poop jokes because poop is funny.  They are utterly bizarre, with a T-Rex with sunglasses and machine guns for arms and a baby with a magical unicorn horn that grants wishes. 

Axe Cop has been going for nearly 2 years now, so you can almost track the growth of Malachi as he gets older, so you can sort of figure out how boys grow up (do we ever?).

The Axe Cop world is ever expanding.  From its humble start as a web comic intended for friends and family, it has expanded to print issues by Dark Horse, collections of the web material (Volume 3 in February), Hallowe'en costumes and a theme pack for the Munchkin card game.

The web comic is free and there is a full archive, so if you want to know what it's all about, get to it right now.  Otherwise, go ahead and get the issues from Dark Horse. 

And just for a taste, here is one of my favorites.
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