Winning Back the Teenage Male Reader

Posted: 08/09/2012 - Eric Kester, author

Every high school English teacher knows that to control the classroom you must earn your students' respect, a difficult task when part of your job is frowning at giggles induced by the term "dangling participle." As a young teacher who occasionally swears in class, though, I figured I was safely entrenched in the "cool" zone. Or so I thought.
I recently ran into one of my students, who, I was relieved to see, seemed ecstatic to see me. "Mr. Kester, I read your book. You're a huge loser!"
It wasn't exactly a good sign for either my teaching or writing careers, and frankly my self-esteem could have done without being called a loser by a 15-year-old with a case of the sniffles. But I couldn't have been happier. This was exactly what I wanted to hear from him.

The literary world has lost the teenage boy. When school begins in the fall and I ask my students who read a book this summer, only a few male hands will reach skyward. I'll be ostensibly upset because there was a summer reading assignment, but deep down I'll somewhat understand.
I read all the time in my youth, but that's because there was only so much stimulation a young man could get from saving a princess with a mustached Italian plumber. Today's teenage boy, on the other hand, has an unlimited menu of electrifying entertainment for their instant gratification: Movies and video games so pulse-poundingly crystalline that they come with epilepsy warnings. Facebook newsfeeds saying Your Crush has added the album "WET HOT SUMMER 2012!!!" Clever musings delivered in 140 characters from friends and celebrities. And let's not forget the curtained-off section of the Internet, where not much happens other than the fulfillment of every teenage desire. But here, try this inanimate hardbound hunk of 10-point font!
The reason why teenage boys stopped reading is plainly evident. It's the question of getting them back that presents a seemingly insurmountable challenge for parents, teachers, authors, and publishers alike. But there is a solution, and it is found within the adolescent male's Bible, a book that, despite its age, has survived the transition to our HD culture.
J.D Salinger's Catcher in the Rye hasn't reached cult status among teenage boys because Holden swears on like, every other page. And, believe it or not, it isn't popular because a prostitute enters the picture Chapter 13. It's the fact that the prostitute leaves Holden in the lonely hotel room, services unrendered, that makes Catcher in the Rye the pinnacle of adolescent male literature.
At the end of movies, the witty, six-packed hero gets the girl. At the end of video games, the warrior defeats the enemy. Holden's failure to consummate this now famous sexual encounter, and his general inability to escape the nebulous limbo that agonizes his life, is a major departure from contemporary entertainment. But it's the most relatable.
The full story at HuffPost

Eric Kester is the author of That Book About Harvard: Surviving the World's Most Famous University, One Embarrassment at a Time.