The Guy Section

Why is there no “Guy Section” in book stores?

I tend to go to Barnes and Noble a lot. It’s a great place to think. When I find myself among shelves of books, miles and miles of endless words, it’s easy to become inspired. Living in Westchester, Barnes and Noble is a lot more convenient than The Strand or Books of Wonder (two of the best bookstores known to mankind), and usually the stores up here have a lot of empty floor spaceto spread out and think.

The first thing I do upon entering Barnes and Noble (or any bookstore for that matter), is find the Young Adult/Teen section and glance at the New Releases. And every time I do, I’m hard-pressed to find a book that appeals to guys. There’s an abundance of glossy covers dripping with girly imagery, like bleeding roses, puckering lips, overly made-up tweens behind swirly calligraphic fonts. It’s easy to find books about falling in love with sexy vampire boys or How To’s on dating the unattainable football quarterback. Half the books have the word “Girl” in the title, and the other half have pink covers. These sections might as well be called the “Young Girl Section,” and get rid of the unisex “Adult” all together. I doubt anyone would notice, anyway.

I was at the Barnes and Noble in Poughkeepsie once and a mother was browsing the Teen shelves with her son, who was about thirteen or so (if I had to venture a guess). The mother was combing the shelves for something, anything for her son, to no avail. I even heard him say something to the effect of “all these books are for girls.” He wanted something exciting, with action or sports or anything without the word “Girl” in the title. Now, usually I’m a loud person, and I would have jumped right in to recommend something for the poor kid, but I thought about it, and I truly had to wrack my brain for a title that he would enjoy. While I was thinking, the mother asked one of the workers to recommend something. And when I heard the words “Twilight is really popular,” I nearly fainted.

What exactly can be done to get boys to read? Well, for starters, bookstores can start displaying books for boys on their shelves, instead of hiding them in between more popular girlish covers. Now, I know that’s not even half the battle. The biggest hurdle to leap is at the fingertips of the writers out there. Book series like the Hunger Games appeal to male readers, but only to an extent. The themes and ideas of those books are great for guys, but every time I read and teach it in my classes, I find it hard to relate to Katniss at many points. There’s something about the promotion of a female lead character that only appeals to a certain demographic of male readers. The books written for guys need to be promoted just as much as the next Twilight series. Librarians and book store clerks need to know the material and what appeals to their male readers so that they can properly and aptly recommend titles. Of course, simply stocking boy-friendly books won’t do any good without that extra bit of promotion. I know that I can’t walk into a store without seeing something forTwilight or The Hunger Games.

Why not have a separate store display for boys?

Right now on my “Books I Need to Read” shelf, I have Michael Hassan’s debut YA novel, Crash and Burn, which is about main character Steven Crashinsky, “Crash,” and how he helped stop his classmart, David Burnett, “Burn,” from taking their high school hostage. It’s taking the school shooting stories and bringing them to the YA table, and even though I just started it the other day, I’m already hooked; the voice is very teenage male with ADD, and immediately the reader is immersed in Crash’s world, written as if he’s talking directly to the reader. Look for my review next week when I finish it!

Other books that I would recommend for guys: Holes by Louis Sachar, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, I also have Chris Colfer’s Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal, John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back, Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. Also, I’m VERY excited to read Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower again. I read it in High School, but I didn’t quite get it or appreciate it. But I connected to the movie on every level now, as an adult, so I’m hoping that the book will resonate just as strongly.

My personal summer goal: Read (or re-read, as the case may be) one book in my Guy Section per week and write about it. Lofty, but I can do it!

As a writer, I feel the need to write for the guys – gay or straight, I think what I have to say speaks on a basic guy-level. Right now, the book I’m shopping around doesn’t totally scream GUY, but I think the themes are relatable enough for all audiences. I have a few projects in my head, though, that will definitely fit this proposed “Guy Section.”

Guys need the same cutting edge books that girls get. Guys need the same fresh voices that girls are privy to. Guys need relatable books, books to get lost in, books to fantasize about, just as much as the girls out there need to dream about winning the heart of the all-star quarterback. Guys grow up and deal with growing pains too, just as much as girls. Should I say the word “guy” one more time?

Guys (sorry…) have anxieties over school and homework and social lives and girls and first kisses just as much as girls.

So, don’t guys deserve the same amount of escapism as girl readers?

Don’t guys deserve a voice that’s strictly our own?

Don’t we deserve to read?

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I look at pensive when I read, don’t I?

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