Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teen Boy Readers: What They Like and What They Wish Writers Knew



Big thanks to everyone for your support with my latest release, The Summer of Crossing Lines! Also, my redesigned web site is live and looking fresh. If you want to check it out, click here.

I have twin 14-year-old sons who will be high school freshmen this year. *sigh* I honestly can't believe my little premie boys will be in 9th grade.

As a writer of YA novels, it's helpful to have teen sons in the house. As kids head back to school, I thought it would be fun to ask both of my boys and two of their friends some questions about what teen readers like and what they wish writers knew. It's good for writers to hear from their target readers, yes? So here's Nathan, Loker, Blake, and Garrett.

1) What are your favorite types of stories? Science Fiction? Fantasy? Dystopian? Real life/contemporary?

Nathan: "I don't care too much about the type of book as long as it is fun to read. But if I had to pick something that would immediately catch my attention, it would be Dystopian."

Loker: "As long as it catches my attention, I'll be glad to read just about anything. But I like Dystopian because it's a twisted version of our world. I like fantasy because it's a completely new world."

Blake: "Fantasy, because they let me get lost in a book and a new world."

Garrett: "Dystopian, because those plots are interesting and keep me in suspense. They show a messed up world that can possibly happen. I like fantasy because I like the thought of an imaginary world."

2) Do you like to read "older" books--books with main characters who are older than you?

Nathan: Yes is the simple answer, but they can also be my age. Once again, if it's well written, I'll read almost any book."

Loker: "If I can find a book with characters who are my age, I'm glad because I can picture myself as the character. If I had to choose between characters who are younger or older than me, I'd choose older."

Blake: "Sometimes. But the age of the character doesn't matter to me, as long as the story is good."

Garrett: "Yes, because those characters are more mature and they can think through problems."

3) What do you wish writers knew about teen readers?

Nathan: (Spoiler alert!) "Sometimes a happy ending isn't always exciting. It makes it predictable. I have read a series where the author throws many unpredictable twists. I like this as long as there was not so many that it made the story hard to follow. This author's name was Darren Shan, and I liked is work a lot because not only did he create an intriguing story, but throughout the series he created a future that had been laid on the main character that in the last book he changes in an unbelievable way that killed him. The ending of that book has made me a fan of all of his books."

Loker: "Sometimes when I'm reading a book and a hear about a new, imaginary religion, I'm curious to know more about that religion and their customs."

Blake: "I wish writers would write more action in the beginning. Some stories begin too slowly. Most stories have big battles at the end, but I wish there was more of that throughout the story."

Garrett: "I wish there were more books with extreme suspense that builds, like in The Maze Runner. I like it when there's action to keep me interested."

So there you have it! A small sampling of teen boys--what they like and what they wish writers knew about them. Did any of their answers surprise you? Were they on target with what you assumed? Any other questions you'd like me to ask them?

photo credit

32 comments:

  1. Obviously dystopia isn't dead. When I was a teen, I preferred books with older characters though. Fantasy was my first love, followed by science fiction.

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    1. Alex, dystopia is definitely not dead! Same with sci fi and fantasy. Plus, I found it interesting that teen boys, like most of us, just want a good story.

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  2. Aren't teenage boys fun? It's great that they want to read and not a surprise that they like action and suspense. Enjoy those teen years.

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    1. Susan, teen boys are soooo much fun! Of course, they never stop eating :)

      They do love to read, and my only complaint is that a lot of times they can't read what they WANT to read. Their summer reading lists are packed with books the boys have no interest in. But at least that exposes them to books they wouldn't ordinarily read.

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    1. Thanks, Anna! It was fun to get their input.

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  4. Pull them back over. I need to know how much flirting, courting, interest with girls appeals to the boys (I won't dare call it romance).

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    1. Ooooh, excellent question!

      Nathan and Loker aren't here, so I asked my three sons.

      My 17 year old says this: he thinks romance is important. He even likes it when romance distracts the main character, such as a football player who's in the big game and and his head isn't in the game at all--it's on the girl. Or even when there's a save the girl element to the story--like the main character has to fight off the bad guy, and saving the girl becomes an added layer of conflict. 17 yo says 50/50 is a good ratio for romance, and nothing too gooey. He also likes it when friends become more than friends and help each other solve the story problem.

      Blake says this: he likes it when romance plays a big part in the story. He loved The Fault in Our Stars. He liked how two imperfect people found each other and fell in love. He likes it when it's not the perfect hot guy falls for the perfect hot girl. He also likes it when a poor boy/girl meets the rich girl/guy and shows them a different world. Aladdin came to mind. He doesn't like it when it's just making out. He wants the love to be "magical."

      Here's what Garrett had to say: he likes it when romance is a sub plot, like in Divergent. He agrees that 50/50 is a good ratio for adding romance to the story. And he says love triangles annoy/frustrate him.

      I have to say, I learned a lot about my own sons by asking this question. I had no idea they liked that much romance in their books. Good to know!

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  6. That is so great having your demographic at the dinner table. Thanks so much for sharing that with us. :)

    Edge of Your Seat Stories

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    1. Raquel, it does come in handy! Especially with character details and language. It was interesting to hear their answers to R. Mac Wheeler's question about romance, though. They surprised me!

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  7. What a great interview!!! It's helpful to know that endings don't have to be all sunny, and that guy readers want action right from the start. And alt universes.

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    1. Catherine, I also found it interesting that they don't care too much about all the details we care about...genre, word count, etc...they just want a good story. Like the rest of us, I guess :)

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  8. How great to be able to interview your readers in the comfort of your home! I liked that it was the genre that caught him up as much as a good story.

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    1. Lee, I have to say, I'm spoiled by having teen readers (and their friends!) in the house.

      They're such goofballs, so it was surprising to learn that they appreciate some romance in their books. I would've never guessed!

      Once these boys find a series they love, they burn through it quickly. Maze Runner, for example.

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  9. My son had me chasing Darren Shan books and now I'm a fan too. =)

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    1. Seriously? I'd never even heard of him or his books! I had to Google it. Isn't it funny how boys latch on to things we've never heard of? Like Minecraft :/

      It's great that you're also a fan of Darren Shan's books. You and your son read the same books and probably enjoy discussing them. I liked it when my sons and I read Divergent and Hunger Games. It's fun to chat about books with them.

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  10. I love that 14 year old boys know what dystopian fiction is. Some great writing advice here.

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    1. Shell, when they first read Hunger Games and I called it dystopian, they were a bit confused by the term. Now they know it and love it!

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  11. Your sons and their friends sound very smart. And it's refreshing to know that there are young people who like to read; several of my students don't like to read, which makes teaching literature even more difficult.

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    1. Neurotic, they are smart! Thank you. It's a good group of kids. They love to read, but only when it's what THEY want to read. They rarely like to read what the teacher assigns them to read. They have to be dragged into reading classics, but they'll gobble up series like Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, etc.

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  12. What a great idea to interview your sons and their friends - and very informative for us writers! Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Marcy. Here's the thing...they don't think their opinions matter, but I reminded them that they are the target readers for many writers, and their input is priceless. I learned a lot from them!

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  13. Julie, your website looks great. Thanks for sharing with us what young male readers like to read.

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    1. Susanne, I'm glad you liked the web site! I think it's darn cute.

      As for the young teen boys, I hope their input is helpful to writers. Heck, I was quite surprised by some of their answers, especially answers to the follow up questions about teen guys and romance.

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  14. Julie, your new release sounds amazing! I am in the middle of another YA right now, but I am definitely going to read this one. Love the premise. I have boys, too. A little younger, but my 10-year-old is good at giving feedback. Glad I found you through Alex's blog.

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    1. Susan, I'm so glad you stopped by! About my new release...thanks so much!

      It's so cool that your ten year old is already good at giving feedback!

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  15. How awesome to hear what teen boys want in a book! This is just awesome and it was so interesting to read their responses. Thanks for sharing. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. Jess, thanks for stopping by! I also thought their answers were interesting. I was also surprised to hear they like romance as much as they do. I thought that was just a teen girl thing.

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  16. I think the message here is if the story dignifies its readers for being both soulful and intelligent - they'll dive in. Loved the boys' take on romance.

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    1. Leslie, I tell ya, my boys surprised me. When I first asked the romance question, the 14 year olds got embarrassed. Not my 17 year old--he dove right in.

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  17. Great interview! Personally, it just makes me happy that they're all reading and enjoying books--something that's a little rare these days it seems!

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