A dear friend of mine recently asked me for some suggestions for her 14 year old son. My first reaction … AWESOME!! He’s still reading and hasn’t ‘dropped out’ as so many boys do around about this age. My next reaction…PANIC! Quick, we need to work fast! We have to find an author, a genre, a title – ANYTHING – that will keep him engaged in books and reading through the tumultuous years from 13 to 19, when the pressure to fit in, been seen in reasonable proximity to girls, have a job, generally hang out, and in no way appear nerdish, geekish or, heaven forbid, bookish, is at its greatest!
I recently read a great article, ‘Cool Books for Tough Guys’, by English teacher, Lawrence Baines. Although written nearly 20 years ago it still rings very true today. Baines describes, with great realism and empathy, how tough it can be to get a ‘complacently a-literate’ teen boy to read. He includes some great suggestions for selecting teen boy books: choose books that – have a “decent title”; do not have an embarrassing cover (unfortunately some teen wonderful books out right now have excruciatingly girly covers); include some gross content (blood, violence and the odd zombie or two); and have perhaps made it to the big screen (think ‘Hunger Games’ or ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’). His most resonating advice though is that books your teenboy reads do not have to be selected from “great literature”. Many of you will remember enduring at least one mind numbing work of great literature at high school and, although I would not for one minute suggest we abandon the study of the classics, perhaps for the 15 year old boy who is proud of the fact that he has “not read a book since grade 6”, this is not a strategic choice! As long as he is reading some fiction (more later on why reading fiction, not just boy friendly non-fiction, is so important), its quality is not so important. That, to quote Baines, ‘can come later’.
But back to my friend’s 14 year old son! He has apparently read and enthusiastically re-read John Flannagan’s now famous Ranger’s Apprentice series and now suffers from what I will call ‘series grief’. Millions suffered it after the release of the final Harry Potter instalment, whole web pages are devoted to ‘What to Read after The Hunger Games’ and hoards of fans still haunt the Twitter and Facebook pages devoted to the Twilight saga, now that not only the four volume book series, but also the five part movie saga, have come to an resounding end. I have, however, good news for my young friend: there are a number of great reads that one can ease into after emerging from the forests of Goran (that is, of course, only after you have fully explored the awesome Ranger’s Apprentice website, started Flannagan’s new ‘Brotherband’ series, and for those in the US only, installed and played repeatedly the RA app … BTW when can we have that in Australia???). Here are my top 10:
Powder Monkey (Book 1 in the Sam Witchall series) by Paul Dowswell
Pagan’s Crusade (Book 1 in The Pagan Chronicles) by Catherine Jinks
The Hound Of Rowan (Book 1 in The Tapestry series) by Henry H Neff
Keeper of the Grail (Book 1 in The Youngest Templar series) by Michael P. Spradlin
The Spook’s Aprentice (Book 1 in the Spook’s series) by Joseph Delaney
Fight For Freedom (Book 1 in the Gladiator series) by Simon Scarrow
Eye of the Beast (Book 1 in the Moonshadow series) by Simon Higgins
The Way of the Warrior (Book 1 in the Young Samurai series) by Chris Bradford
The Outcasts (Book 1 in the Brotherband series) by John Flannagan
Eye of the Crow (Book 1 in the Young Sherlock Holmes series) by Shane Peacock