Dear Aunt Debbie,
You and I are clearly on the same wavelength. I was planning to write about Lois Lowry tonight, and then on Friday to talk about my conversation with Jeff on the same exact topic. (I also have in the pipeline recommendations for YA books about queer teens and multicultural YA books -- this thread is inspiring a lot of great conversations in my life.) So I'll save Lowry for another day, and get straight to the question: what is the boy version of YA chick lit?
When I asked Jeff what he read obsessively as a teenager, he didn't have an exact equivalent to the stable of authors I remember loving. The closest, he said, was probably The Lord of the Rings, which led him deep into Tolkien's other works, the ones where he made up more than 17 complete languages and societal histories. Tolkien definitely provided Jeff with immersion in another world.
Then there's Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. We have Jeff's old beaten-up copy on our main bookshelf; I read it a few summers ago and really enjoyed it. Human society is at war with an alien race (the Buggers), and Ender is one of a number of kids bred to be a super-intelligent soldier. He's taken from his family to a training camp where he plays intensely difficult war games (including battles in zero gravity) with a group of similarly talented kids, under the tutelage of a group of adults. Ender is the boy version of some of the heroines we've been writing about: very smart, lonely, and sensitive. The major difference, of course, is that he's fighting battles rather than engaging in more domestic questions.
*Spoiler Alert -- skip this paragraph if you don't want to know the end of the book.* In the climactic scene, Ender acts as the general in a giant video game simulation in which he successfully eradicates his opponents. Turns out that it wasn't a game: he has, in fact, led the eradication of the Bugger race. The triumph is tainted with intense guilt, which is explored in the sequel, Speaker for the Dead. Orson Scott Card is extremely prolific, and he's written many, many other books, some of which also involve Ender and Ender's world.
From what I remember of Ender's Game, it probably feels a little dated in the way that some of my favorite old chick lit does -- but is that necessarily a bad thing? Is it current teenagers who are determining that they don't want to read late '80s books, or is it publishers?
So there's a start -- historical war, historical war in fantastical places with newly-created languages, and science fiction video game-type war. I'd love to hear from other people on this subject.
P.S. This is our 200th post. Pretty awesome, no?