Newsletter: Books for Young Men by Michael

Tuesday Aug 04 2015

We have really had a tough time, over the years in getting truly good genre appropriate crime fiction for the older teenaged male (14 ). It is a discrepancy made even starker by the vast amount of such works available for their female peers.

As the member of Whodunit? who was most recently a teenage boy, I have attempted to tackle this particular gender gap.  While established crime writers like John Grisham and Rick Riordan have created compelling characters in Theodore Boone and Percy Jackson, they are really more middle school characters.

When one of my favourite writers as a teen, Gordan Korman, published Masterminds, (hardcover $17.99), I had hoped that he would help to fill this gap. Teenaged boys and their strange adventures had at one point been Kormans’ bread and butter. While not precisely mysteries, Don’t Care High, Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag, and Son of Interflux were re-readable staples of my time as a young reader. Unfortunately, this latest work is both too young, and a little too gender neutral to be a perfect fit for our target group. While an interesting concept, and a growing series, it does not offer a relatable set of characters for the age group.

A better, though still imperfect, alternative is Blake Nelson’s Prince of Venice Beach, (tradepaper $11). Nominated for the Best Young Adult Edgar, the novel features a young beach-bum named “Cali” and his first forays into being a private detective. Specialising in finding young teens, Cali and his friends show a perspective on modern life, on alternative lifestyles, and on growing up. Unfortunately, they do not offer much of interest to the mystery novel.  Those familiar with private detectives will quickly identify the tropes and the plot progression. I would argue that modern teens would be just as well served reading Chandler. With little difference in terms of mature themes, the masters of the private eye still do a better job.

That said, if finding a more relatable, modern character is the desire of the reader, Prince of Venice Beach will more than serve as an introduction, and perhaps a jumping off point to those same masters.

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