Disclaimer: Yes, I realize all boys are not alike. Yes, I realize that there are lots of boys who are natural readers. However, as a teacher, I can tell you that there are a group of students who are very reluctant readers. These are the kids who will resist all gentle nudges (and forceful shoves) towards the bookshelf and who will stare blankly at the wall for an hour rather than participate in silent reading. I can also tell you that the large majority of this group are made up of teenage boys. The teens I am referring to in this post are those boys - the frustrating, tear my hair out, just pick a bloody book already, teenage boys. They are often the most difficult group to reach and are missing out on valuable opportunities for development of language, empathy skills and sheer enjoyment. Reading may never become their favorite activity, but finding the right book can make a world of difference to their attitude about the whole reading experience. This list below may help you get started. This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list, but I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of each book to engage those reluctant readers.
The Ascendance Trilogy features Sage, a character who is intelligent, witty and infuriating - in the most wonderful way. All of my students love the first two books and the third is being released on Feb 25th (I can vouch for it being fantastic!). It features kingdoms at war, but does not have the trappings of high fantasy that can bog some students down.
The Darkest Minds Trilogy has released two books and is due to release the third (as yet untitled) at some point in 2014 - I expect the fall. In this dystopian world, a disease has swept through the young population, killing many and those left behind are revealed to have dark and dangerous powers. The government, frightened of anything they cannot control have rounded the kids up in, essentially, concentration camps and we follow one of them as she attempts to break out. This fast paced series is a hit with almost all readers.
The Lorien Legacies opens with I Am Number Four (yes, that movie) and continues with The Power of Six, The Rise of Nine and The Fall of Five. There also appear to be a series of Novellas which can keep a kid reading this series for ages. It features a mysterious group of teen who fled their home planet and have lived their lives on earth on the run from the Mogadorian, a race bent on their annihilation. The series follows the different characters (each bearing a number) as they learn more about their powers, their past and how to defeat their enemy.
Rick Riordan has several series that tend to appeal to boys. Each features a different set of gods and goddesses and there are some crossover characters that allow for easy transitioning. The original (and most well known) Percy Jackson and the Olympians follows demi-god, Percy Jackson as he learns of his mysterious father and a world he never knew existed. The Heroes of Olympus series crosses into the territory of Roman Mythology and The Kane Chronicles follows a brother and sister and features elements of Egyptian Mythology.
Each of these books features a strong male lead and has enough action to interest most boys. I have never met a kid who didn't like Holes, or most books by Louis Sachar, for that matter. The same goes for A.S King. Ender's Game is fantastic for the kid who likes a little Sci Fi and is an easy sell with the recent movie still on people's minds. How to Lead a Life of Crime is a lesser known novel, but a great read about a deadly school that trains young criminals.
I was actually surprised by how much the boys enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares. The series has a strong male lead, but the real star of the show is a ghost who can be sad and sweet one minute but ghastly and fearsome the next. These books both have lots of action and the romantic element does not overtake the story.
These are probably the go to classics for boys, and I am sure they find themselves on many similar lists. There isn't much new to say about them as they have been around forever, but they still stand the test of time and still hold that same appeal for many young readers.