Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave "the Great Perhaps" even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.And Little Brother:
Marcus, a.k.a w1n5t0n, is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works, and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they are mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
And what's not to love about boy books? In my experience, they're usually geeky, funny, slick, smart, stupid, ridiculous, heartbreaking, sweet, disgusting, and, if you let the hormones do the talking, pretty darn sexy. For me, a girl, it is the ultimate escapist experience, because how far can you get from your own experiences than in the mind of the opposite sex? Even if I go into so-called *girl books*, especially the genre of paranormal romance, when I think of two of the ones that worked for me - Shiver and Beautiful Creatures - both featured a guy's POV. (That's point of view to the uninitiated. And when I say paranormal romance, I'm not counting full-frontal urban fantasies like The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare or anything by Holly Black, by the way, because the two are very different in my mind.) I even preferred Stephenie Meyer's draft of Midnight Sun to Twilight, and it wasn't because the writing was better. (And yes, you can snicker. I did go online and read Midnight Sun.)
What makes a "boy book"? Loosely, it's a story with a guy protagonist, preferably 1st person or close focus POV. But beyond that, I'm not sure how to define the elusive quality that makes them tick. Perhaps the general lack of emotional sentience? But I think what really turns a book from just a tomboyish good time in my mind to the literary other piece of the gender puzzle is how boy books talk about girls.
Literature, inevitably, talks about sex and gender in a way that no other art form can. It's the amber that traps the mosquito of our attitudes and paradigms, as anyone who's read Shakespeare can tell you. There is no way Shakespeare could get away with writing his plays today. (Can you imagine the feminist outcry after a modern-day debut of The Taming of the Shrew?) And yet, because he wrote them when he did, we are given an invaluable glimpse into the role of women in Elizabethan society through the equivalent of romantic comedies and swashbuckling action flicks.
We've seen the women of boy books go from damsels in distress to femme fatales to Manic Pixie Dream Girls as guys' attitudes toward girls have changed over the years. In my opinion, all of those are as cliched and more or less untrue as the mysterious tortured romantic type a la Edward Cullen and the dozens of other desirable stereotypes girls expect from guys. But cliches and all, I think girls could learn a lot from reading "boy books", just as boys could learn a lot from reading "girl books". I think it's important to receive that dose of perspective every once in awhile, to stop judging people for what they read, to realize that each book is a world no more or less important than any other. (Fine words, I know, from someone who criticizes books for fun.) When it comes down to it, as long as you're reading, I don't particularly care what.
And did I mention that there's something seriously sexy about listening to the guy's side of the story? (Sorry. Hormones talking again.)
So what do writers and publishers take away from this? Believe it or not, I think boys would read if there were more books geared toward them. Believe it or not, girls could read those books, too. And if we could all become a little more socially open minded, hey, you never know. You might see guys start reading Meg Cabot, too.