Friday, January 07, 2011

The Things a Brother Knows, and a Guy Friday Rant

Reinhardt, Dana. The Things a Brother Knows.

Levi is excited that his brother is coming home from serving in the army, but when Boaz finally arrives back home, he is changed. He stays in his room for days, worrying his mother and annoying his father. When he does emerge, he won't take a car anywhere, hardly leaves the house, and spends his time mapping a walk that has something to do with his military service. In the meantime, Levi goes about his life, hanging out with friends Zim and Pearl and trying to figure out what is up with his brother. Eventually, he follows Boaz on his trip to Washington, D.C. and finds out a lot about what his brother experienced that led to a clear case of post traumatic stress disorder.

Strengths: Interesting multicultural family (the father is Israeli and left the kibbutz to come to the US with Levi's mother) and treatment of a psychological disorder that will no doubt be a big concern for a lot of families of returning military personnel.

Weaknesses: More of an introspective, high school novel. Not much happens, and Levi spends a lot of his time drinking, becoming familiar with a girl named Celine, casually dropping the f-bomb, and being generally vulgar. One-Minute Book Reviews agrees with me. Stacked likes it a little better, but agrees it is a bit slow-paced.
Guy Friday Rant:
I thought about this a lot. Boys are reluctant to read. They think a lot about sex. If books mention sex, will they read them?

Probably. But it feels like pandering. I don't like vulgar books and I don't think they are particularly good for anyone, even adults. I'm also getting slightly annoyed by all of the articles I am reading about how boys are failing in school, whereas girls are doing very well, a reversal from the situation 40 or 50 years ago.

What changed? Women got involved and improved the performance of girls in school. Doesn't it follow that if boys are failing, MEN should perhaps get involved and serve as positive role models? Don't get me wrong; I definitely get that women teachers try to foist horrible books onto boys (yesterday some boys told me that their 4th grade teacher made the entire class read The Secret Garden. Wrong!).

Girls are usually more open to reading anything, and are better readers, so that's why I try to focus on getting books that are appealing to boys. But they've got to try. I had a boy in yesterday who turned down 15 different books because they didn't involve football or they "looked boring". At some point, you just have to suck it up, put in the time, and READ.

Am I missing something here? Women's Rights was about having equal chances; when given the chances, a lot of women became more successful than men. And now we have to feel guilty?

So, guys, if someone tells you you "read like a girl", I guess you should take it as a compliment!


  1. This whole "boys don't read" thing often confuses me because I have just as many thoughtful, smart boy readers as girl ones and I have just as many frustratingly "reluctant" girl readers. Where do all these amazing male authors come from if boys don't read? I also thing that many boys, well PEOPLE, don't read much in school and it's only later in life they get into it. Look at Jerry Spinnelli, a reluctant reading sports obsessed boy if there ever was one who later in live became a devoted reader and writer. I'm just sayin.

  2. I think growing up is as hard on boys as girls sometimes, and an older brother who has PTSD adds to this. PTDS is a horrible thing, my brother had it and like Levi's brother, completely changed.
    I agree that addressing the teenage problems of a boy does not need to be done with vulgarity.

  3. Couldn't agree with you more! That's why we need more Iron Guys to set good examples.

  4. Gosh! Aren't you right. Thanks for getting me thinking about today. And thanks for stopping by my blog...

  5. This book looks interesting and your thoughts on boys reading intrigues me. I find myself wondering what my 5 year old will be reading when he is a teenager. Currently he is an extremely voracious reader and loves both "boy" and "girl" books. Of course I was not a teenage boy, so I don't really have any first hand experience so-called boy books. It will be fascinating to see how his reading tastes develop.

  6. I found you through the Comment Challenge and I'm so glad I did. I read mostly YA and MG, but many of the main characters are girls. I pass all of my reads to my husband who always whines (only a little) that few of the books feature boys. I'm going to send him the link to your blog. :-)

  7. I like your rant, and Yes, I think we MEN do need to get more involved. I also think it's a lot about modeling - if we're reading at home, if we're reading out in the world, kids (boys and girls) see that, and think - hmmm... maybe there is something to this book thing.
    Oh, and I have to say I love how you structure your reviews here - with the strength and weaknesses, and links to other reviews. Nicely done!

  8. Anonymous1:00 PM EDT

    Great Review- told me just exactly what I need to know- too much sex and vulgarity, not a book for my students to read in conjunction with my history lit class. And I won't bother to waste my time reading it! We just need authors to write more quality fiction centered around the modern wars. Why do young adult books seem to come with the prerequisite of sex and vulgarity?