Guys Read/Girls Read

Recently I’ve noticed a lot of dicussion about girl readers versus boy readers, and whether or not some books are inherently “girl books” or “boy books.” Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read initiative, for instance, spotlights the need to connect boys with books they will love and relate to, so they don’t grow up to be nonreaders. While I know this is hardly a new topic of conversation, I’ve become more aware of it as I’ve been promoting the Percy Jackson series. Often my series is touted as a good series for boys, especially reluctant readers, and while I’m delighted that the books appeal to boys, I’m always happy when some librarian speaks up and says, “Hey, they’re for girls, too!”

Last week I got an email from the librarian at Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls in the West Midlands, UK. She wrote to let me know that The Lightning Thief had won the school’s ‘book of the year’ award. She said this must be a small thing compared to the other awards the book has won, but to me it was a very big deal. Hearing from individual schools, especially an all-girls school, means a lot to me. It tells me that the books are working for girls as well as boys.

One of my first interviews for The Lightning Thief was with a teen reporter from Newsday. She asked if I meant the book to be for girls or boys. It was a simple question, but one I hadn’t considered. True, I first told the story to my son, so in a way it was all for him, but when I wrote it out I pictured my own middle school classes as my audience, and my classes have always been co-ed.

Now, eighteen months since the series debuted, I’m happy to report that my mail from fans is equally divided — about half from boys, half from girls. The books appear on the reading lists for girls’ schools about as often as they appear on lists for boys’ schools. So guys, thanks for reading! And girls, too!

Rick Riordan