Monday, January 11, 2010

High School Books for Boys (& anyone else for that matter)

As many of you know, I've spent some time working at a bookstore. And the shelves I know best would undoubtedly be those of the children's section- from picture books and pop-ups to teen lit. Now, the pre-teen and teen shelves are choc-full of covers that look like pages from a teen fashion magazine. These are books marketed to girls, full of fashion, boyfriends, and the drama of rich lives (this is a staggering generalization, but certainly grounded in some fact- take a peek yourself). But when it comes to books specifically about the high school experience of boys, there are staggeringly few books with a publication date in the past five years.

However, I am proud to announce two new books featuring male protagonists for the high school crowd! Libba Bray's Going Bovine and (appearing February 2nd) The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had to by DC Pierson.Libba Bray may be known to you as the author the the Gemma Doyle trilogy. I had the pleasure of attending an appearance by her at Red Fox Books in December, and Libba is a riot. She jokes and teases the audience and makes you feel comfortable and entertained. She says her humorous writing stems from her love of Monty Python, something which is evident in the first few pages of her novel- the acknowledgments. But a bit on the story. If His Dark Materials is Paradise Lost for teenagers, then Going Bovine is Don Quioxte. Protagonist Cameron has given up on his family, who are all too wrapped up in their own lives, particularly his twin sister, who will not even acknowledge his existance. But Cameron's world is shaken up when he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob, or, mad cow disease. A boy, who at sixteen has never truly lived, is finally given a chance to experience the world as he sets off on an unlikely quest to find a cure and save the world. Mentored by Dulcie, a punk angel with pink hair and spray-painted wings, and assisted by a hypochondriac dwarf and a rescued garden gnome, Cameron sets off on a hilarious road trip in which shenanigans ensue and truths are revealed.

DC Pierson's The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had to includes a host of things you'd expect: boring classes, sex, drugs, and video games. But Pierson's characters defy stereotypes. Darren, our narrator, doodles in class and is developing a story line that spans movies, comic books, video games, and tv shows- called TimeBlaze. When uber-smart Eric sees some of his doodles, and thinks they're pretty sweet, a friendship and collaboration results. Cyborgs, men in dark glasses, robots, superheros, space, and time travel are all a part of their creations. But then Eric tells Darren that he cannot sleep and has never been able to. Additionally, Darren must never tell anyone of this, or The Man might become involved and cart Eric off for tests. After Eric proves the truth of this, it's as if proof of the science-fiction they've been creating has been found. But when a love triangle arises with the appearance of a Girl, what will prove to be most important? TimeBlaze or sex and theatre kids (it's a bit more complicated, but I don't want to give anything else away!)? With well-developed characters and wonderful twists and turns, Pierson's novel is an enjoyable and realistic romp through a high school friendship. Not only that, it's well-written and includes moments of true insight. I'm impressed by it- especially as it's Pierson's debut novel.

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