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Month: March 2013

“Boys Don’t Read.”

My name is Pab Sungenis, and I write books for boys.

That may surprise you. If you look at the “young adult” shelves at your local bookstore, how many books do you see there that are aimed at boys?

Not many, I’ll bet.

You know why that is? Because boys don’t read.

Stop laughing.

I’m serious. Stop laughing.

I know that for a fact because I’ve been told it on good authority by people who supposedly know. I’ve been told it by a number of literary agents (including one who once signed me, then told me she couldn’t sell one of my novels because, and I quote exactly, “boys don’t read”) and at least one editor from a major publishing house.

That’s why all you see on shelves are romances with female protagonists. Or if there’s one with a male protagonist it’s actually a male that’s designed to be cuddly and non-threatening because they want girls to read it and fall in love with the boy. They do this because, of course, “boys don’t read.”

Never mind that the first young adult novel ever, The Catcher in the Rye, featured a male protagonist, was written by a man, and has a reader base that is largely male. Then there’s The Chocolate War, where you can count the female characters on one hand. Critically acclaimed novels that created modern young adult literature.

And neither would get published today, because “boys don’t read.”

Of course boys read. But they don’t read young adult literature. And do you know why?

Because no one will take a chance on books for boys. Because “boys don’t read.”

This is called a vicious circle. If you’ve never heard it before go look it up.

Boys don’t read YA because there’s almost no YA published for them. So publishers look at the sales charts of YA titles and see title after title all aimed at girls. So why aren’t there any titles for boys on the charts? They don’t think it’s because they don’t publish any books that boys want to read. It’s easier for them to assume that boys don’t read.

Even when a publisher takes a chance on a book for boys, guess what happens then? Bookstores don’t stock it. Libraries don’t order it. No one gets a chance to buy it. Why don’t they order it and stock it?

Because “boys don’t read.”

Well, guess what? Boys do read! I used to be a boy (back in the dark ages before the internet) and I read everything I could get my hands on. There are boys out there right now who love to read, but their choices are limited because agents, publishers, and bookstores have all bought into the stereotype that boys don’t read.

So how do we break them of this misconception? We have to show them the uncomfortable truth they refuse to accept: that boys do read.

First, let’s give them some visual evidence. If you’re a boy who reads, and are between the ages of 12 and 17 (the target audience for young adult literature) I want you to to snap a photo of yourself holding whatever book you’re reading at the moment. If you’re reading it on a Kindle or Nook, photograph yourself with the title page on the screen. Then post it to Facebook, or anywhere else you hang out on-line with the caption “I’M A BOY AND I READ.” Feel free to E-mail it to me here or post it as a comment, too. Let the publishers and agents know that you want them to give you something to read.

Then we need to give them something even harder to deny. On Saturday, April 27, 2013, I want every boy who reads to descend upon the nearest bookstore at 1 PM local time. You don’t have to buy anything (although it might help our argument if you do) but I want you to make an appearance. If you can make yourself a T-shirt that says “I READ” to wear while there, all the better. Let those bookstores see that you want them to stock books for you, too.

Reading is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not something to hide away from everyone else. And until all you book-reading boys come out and show your faces, your reading options will continue to be severely limited. So show your pride. Shout it out loud.

Just don’t shout it while in the library, please.

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The Secret Origin of the Scarlet Knight

Six years before I wrote Sidekick, I co-created another superhero named the Scarlet Knight. Along with my friend Kris Leeds, I wrote and submitted a sitcom pilot called Local Hero for a writing competition held by Bravo. Needless to say, we flopped. Needing a name for the hero when I got the idea for Sidekick, I just stole the name of that rejected hero. (I stole the name of another hero I created as well, but you’ll need to listen to the Author Commentary Track for more on that one.)

The Scarlet Knight of Local Hero was considerably different from the hero of Sidekick. This Scarlet Knight was a hero named Ed Roberts who was forced into retirement when his powers started fluctuating. He finds himself a suburban house-husband, trying to adapt to a mundane existence while his intrepid investigative reporter wife brings home the bacon. The logline for our pitch was “Bewitched, starring Superman.”

For those with morbid curiosity, I’ve made the final revised version of the script, along with the pitch documents and an introduction, available for download. Just a little peek into the writing process, and a concept I hated having to leave behind me. Especially since it means that the follow-up episode Crisis on Infinite Ex-Girlfriends, will never be produced.

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Sidekick: The Official Novel Soundtrack


In advance of the release of Sidekick: the Misadventures of the New Scarlet Knight, I’m pleased to announce the release of the novel’s Official Soundtrack. If some of these songs aren’t already in your library, links are provided. The resourceful reader will find ways of assembling the entire album.

Many of these tracks were in rotation in my library while I was writing the book. Some of them struck me as appropriate for specific scenes. Some seem appropriate for characters. Some are the kinds of songs Bobby would listen to.

Prozak (Be Like Me) by Dexter Freebish from the album Tripped Into Divine.

Isn’t that every boy’s dream? “To be the guy that gets the girl and saves the world.” Bobby gets to be the guy that saves the world. Will he be the guy that gets the girl?

What to Do by OK Go from the album OK Go.

This sums it all up in one lyric. “Mediocre people do exceptional things all the time.”

Girl All the Bad Guys Want by Bowling For Soup from the album Drunk Enough to Dance.

Far too often, guys don’t realize what they have going in their favor. Bobby certainly sees himself as the singer of this song. Guess who the girl is.

Don’t Stop Me Now by McFly.

If they made Sidekick into a movie, this would be the song playing over the scene of Bobby flying out of the Base for the first time as the Scarlet Knight, zipping out over the ocean and the beach. This isn’t available in the US digitally (at least not legally) right now, but it can be tracked down through an import or as the hidden bonus track on certain UK releases of their album Motion in the Ocean. If you have to, substitute the original by Queen

Goodbye by Fastball from the album The Harsh Light of Day.

This is the kind of thing I can picture Bobby having on his iPod while wandering the halls of Harbor City High. Definitely a track he goes to when he’s in one of his depressive moods.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Dial Drunk by Plain White T’s from the album Every Second Counts.

Another song Bobby puts on repeat during his emo periods.

Aces and Eights (Won’t Let Go) by The Knack from the album Serious Fun.

Deep down at heart, though, Bobby is an optimist. “There’s nothin’ wrong that you can’t make right.”

Hangin’ on a Heartbeat by The Hooters from the album Nervous Night.

“My heart is lying here naked.” Ever been in love that desperately? I’ll bet you have.

Let’s Dance to Joy Division by The Wombats from the album A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation.

Has no connection to the plot; just another song Bobby likes to play while zipping over the City while on patrol.

Frankford El by The American Dream from the album The American Dream.

You’ll know where in the story this belongs. You can’t get to Heaven on the Frankford El ’cause the Frankford El goes straight to Frankford.

Beach Baby by First Class.

This is what runs through Bobby’s head when he sees Sarah coming out of the ocean.

Perfect by Fairground Attraction from the album The First of a Million Kisses.

Bobby is a romantic, after all. It’s got to be perfect.

Fine By Me by Andy Grammer from the album Andy Grammer.

Again, you will know exactly where in the story this song belongs. Bobby may have the heart of a poet, but he has the mouth of an idiot.

The Trouble with Normal by Bruce Cockburn from the album The Trouble with Normal.

…is it always gets worse.

Secret Handshake by Too Much Joy from the album Green Eggs and Crack.

Another track from Bobby’s iPod, this song perfectly sums up his philosophy and his relationship with his friends.

Special Hidden Bonus Track

Superman’s Gone Crazy by Larry Good.

I first encountered this song on the late, lamented, and it’s not been widely released since. It was while listening to this song one day back in the summer of 2009 completely by chance that I had the idea for Sidekick. I’ve spent ages trying to track down a link for people to buy or at least hear pert of this song, but to no avail. That’s why it’s the hidden track on this soundtrack. Those of you who are more resourceful than I are encouraged to share whatever links you can find.

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