Are we losing some young readers after middle grade publications?

I recently watched a discussion, and then online hate pile on author Shaun David Hutchinson after he tweeted that currently the YA market is dominated by books targeted towards female readers. Which is true – mainly because the biggest market share is female. You don’t see as many boys reading for recreation in the tween and teen years.

When I was in my teen years, there was no YA, so we just had to flounder around the libraries and book shops and find our own way. Boys reading were seen as geeks and nerds and socially shunned. It was the boys who rough-housed and played sports who were the most influential members of the scholastic microcosm. But granted, back then there was little representation of girls in literature.

In recent years with the popularity of YA and a surge in representation of strong female characters – and female authors breaking into what was (and in some places still is) an ‘old-white-man’ dominated industry. Finally feminine voices are thriving in literature. But has the pendulum swung too far?

The heated responses I saw as I fell down the twitter black hole were mostly about how the publishing industry was gatekeeping women out for so long, and now they have their moment in the sun and you want to wind back the clock? Which is obviously not what Shaun David Hutchinson was saying. He merely commented on a current market trend – and has seen firsthand through the experience in publishing – and things like school visits, that after middle grade titles, the young adult market has a majority of female led protagonists. Which means there aren’t a lot of books for boy to identify with.

I don’t see anything wrong with that statement, and not overly bothered with the publishing landscape because it ebbs and flows with trends and marketing gimmicks. I love the current upward tick in diverse books and socially aware characters. It’s adding some fresh blood and perspectives to literature – and reflecting the interests of the next generation.

And at the end of the day – if you look hard enough, you can find plenty of novels that fit your interest.

Looking at YA today – a genre that been around since the 1800’s but came into popularity in the 1970-80’s (remember the ‘choose your own adventure’ books?) In the late 90’s the Harry Potter franchise started to move publishers towards marketing young adult as a genre and we started seeing sections appear in book stores – separate from children’s or younger readers.  Following that with the success of Twilight, Divergent, and the like – we get a surge of female-led young adult titles dominating the market. And since 2017 we are starting to see an explosion of diversity in this category. So it’s easy to see every 10 or so years the publishing landscape shifts and we see popularity in a different genre or style. It’s a little awkward at the moment where there is a growing number of diverse titles hitting the shelves – but that is coinciding with the number of books getting added to ban lists. (I can’t wait to see how that turns out!) I still think there are plenty of titles out there with male protagonists in the YA market and I don’t necessarily believe this is a gatekeeping thing from the publishers, it’s simply a fashionable trend. Plus I think this is more a social issue relating to values placed on reading in childhood. There are so many gender stereotypes enforced – girls should be seen and not heard, boys will be boys… I think there is more blame to place there for lower engagement of younger male readers. How many families encourage boys to read recreationally? How many younger boys have access to reading? It’s a much bigger social quagmire.

What’s your take on this issue?

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


I love the sentiment of this quote – how a simple act by some may not be so simple for others. Be it through challenges like discrimination, social justice, disability, I hope there comes a time somewhere in the near future where the simple act of loving someone, or showing love and affection is accepted by all – without it having to be some sort of statement.

Book Review – ‘Winger’ (#1 Winger) by Andrew Smith

A masculine approach to some heavy themes.

Winger (#1 Winger) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

No. of pages: 439

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Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids in the Pacific Northwest. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

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A realistic contemporary coming from a uniquely masculine protagonist.

Winger’ was a challenging read for me. On one hand, the narrative is quintessential for our protagonist Ryan Dean ‘Winger’ West. Short satirical chapters resounding clearly from his fourteen year old brain as he navigates private boarding school, playing rugby, bullies, girls, and having a best friend who happens to be gay. The writing style is perfect for the main character and the target market. It deals with themes and issues expertly through this lens.

Alternatively, it was really hard for me to swallow all the toxic masculinity and immaturity. I just about tore my hair out. But this is my personal choice – I tend to shy away books that blatantly wave these flags in my face. Understandably, as difficult as it was for me to stomach, if you set foot in any private boys’ boarding house, you’ll find this atmosphere front and centre.

The other thing that had me going ‘hrmm’ was the plot twist at the end. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t know how it affected the protagonists journey… he’d resolved and changed by this point. Then, in the aftermath of the event, I don’t think it was dealt with sympathetically. It felt an emotionless observation. And while it did affect Ryan Dean, it did not seem to have a resounding permanence. What was the lesson learned? How did it change him? Maybe we’ll explore these themes further in  the sequel ‘Stand-Off,’ but I failed to see what its inclusion in ‘Winger’ was apart from shock value and driving home the theme of toxic masculinity, bullying, and homophobia.

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The characters were summarily interesting, but not altogether complex. I did not really find myself investing much in any of them… apart from maybe secretly shipping Ryan Dean and Joey. But, even considering ‘Winger’s’ length and simplistic plot and character outlines, the development and world building was fantastic and held up the story. So too did the witty anecdotes, short chapters, and large formatting of the hard cover. So ‘Winger’ was a relatively fast and easy read.

There is a certain type of dry immaturity to the humour in ‘Winger’ that would really appeal to a certain type of reader, and while it was hilarious in some spots for me, I did not find it as funny as I was expecting. I guess as an older female, all the young teen boy amusements were lost on me. In fact I was in danger of my eyes falling out of my skull from the excessive eye-rolling.

All in all, ‘Winger’ was an okay read for me. I’d only recommend it for younger male readers, or those looking to experience a new perspective. I appreciate this novel for all its merits, but it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable read. But I will finish the series with ‘Stand-Off’ as I am curious to see how author Andrew Smith addresses the themes presented towards the end of this novel, and whether protagonist Ryan Dean grows because of the experience. I’ll be very disappointed if it is another journal-esque account of boarding school and fails to address the damaging attitudes of Pine Mountain boarding school.

Overall feeling: Teen boy tunnel vision.

Winger (Winger #1) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Winger (Winger #1) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Real Live Boyfriends’ (#4 Ruby Oliver) by E. Lockhart

The final book in the Ruby Oliver Quartet… boys and mental illness.

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 225

From Goodreads:

Ruby Oliver is in love. Or it would be love, if Noel, her real live boyfriend, would call her back. Not only is her romantic life a shambles:
* her dad is eating nothing but Cheetos
* her mother’s got a piglet head in the refrigerator
* Hutch has gone to Paris to play baguette air guitar
* Gideon shows up shirtless
* and the pygmy goat Robespierre is no help whatsoever

Will Ruby ever control her panic attacks? Will she ever understand boys? Will she ever stop making lists? (No to that last one.) Ruby has lost most of her friends. She’s lost her true love, more than once. She’s lost her job, her reputation, and possibly her mind. But she’s never lost her sense of humour.


‘Real Live Boyfriends’ was a pleasant end to the Ruby Oliver series. Overall, I didn’t enjoy it so much – it’s all high school drama and teen angst, and the writing style E. Lockhart uses in this collection is skewed for a tween demographic. So it left me feeling old and unsatisfied. At least they are quick reads and lightly entertaining in that watching your younger siblings or nieces and nephews go through those years when appearance, and boys and girls are EVERYTHING. Reminds me of similar books like ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.’

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI enjoy realistic fiction in this target market and ‘Real Life Boyfriends’ is an important novel because it deals with love, crushes, parental relationships, and mental illness in a light-hearted but serious manner. Plus, protagonist Ruby seeing a Councillor (and recommending it in the footnotes) shows some great practical devices to deal with the issues brought up in the series as a whole.

It ends on a lovely note and we do see some character development from Ruby (finally) though I wouldn’t say it was as fully formed as I’d liked – but hey, she’s still a teenager and has a lot of growing up to do and life to experience. As with these novels, there are a lot of boys and flipping from one opinion to another on a dime, but Ruby seems more grounded in her convictions.

My favourite character has to be Polka-dot, the Great Dane and loving canine pet of Ruby and her family. At times he had more personality than his human counterparts.

Real Live Boyfriends’ was a cute reading experience, but on the whole, not something I particularly enjoyed or would want to read again. I’m too old and cynical to enjoy the writing style or subject matter. But that’s just because I’m not the intended audience, so duh! But I would recommend this to my tween nieces in a pinch. They would think these novels are hilarious.

I was entranced by some of E. Lockhart’s other works, hence the addition of this series to my collection. I’m glad I got to have read them, but it not a series that will resonate with me past the day I finished the book.

Overall feeling: Oh my hip! Boy I feel ancient!

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Real Live Boyfriends (#4 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Treasure Map of Boys’ (#3 Ruby Oliver) by E. Lockhart

Ruby Oliver does it again in her boy-obsessed crazy world.

The Treasure Map of Boys (#3 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 208

From Goodreads:

Things are looking good for Ruby Oliver. It’s the thirty-seventh week that she’s been in the state of Noboyfriend. Ruby’s panic attacks are bad, and her love life is even worse, not to mention the fact that more than one boy seems to giving Ruby a lot of their attention. 

Rumours are flying, and Ruby’s already not-so-great reputation is heading downhill. Not only that, she’s also:

* running a bake sale
* learning the secrets of heavy-metal therapy
* encountering some seriously smelly feet
* defending the rights of pygmy goats
* and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances.


This didn’t feel as annoying or juvenile as the previous two books in the series. You can feel our protagonist Ruby is growing up. But she is still all-boy-consumed. Boy-crazy. I kept wondering if she was going to find something else in life other than her obsession with the opposite sex and what everyone thought of her… and we get a glimpse of it.

I feel like she slowly starts to come to the realisation of how the people around her actually treat her. What their real motives are. It was the first refreshing moment I’ve had while powering through this series.

The Treasure Map of Boys (#3 Ruby Oliver) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe addition of Polka-dot was also a breath of fresh air. So too was working at the zoo. Something about animals and Ruby’s interactions with them humanised her more than anything else I’ve read so far.

It was nice to read that all the boys had faults and good points. That they were real. That there are no movie styled endings or plotlines to how life pans out.

And this book actually felt like it had some substance and an ending. Ruby finally had a turning point, or and epiphany that spoke to me. I’d been breezing through this series with no real connection or interest, waiting for E. Lockhart to dazzle me like I have experienced in her other novels, and I finally got a tiny glimpse of it. While I’m not yet ready to shout about this book series from the roof tops, I’m beginning to grow an appreciation for it. Yes, it is pitched at a tween girl demographic, and usually the writing is easy enough to digest – but with all the footnotes, the ‘ags!’ and goldfish attention span, it was very difficult to connect with the material. But I’m sensing a shift in the dynamic. With only one book left in this collection – and the glimmer of hope I’ve gotten, I’m actually looking forward to the final book. Slightly invested in Ruby’s plight.

Stay tuned to what will seal the deal of my opinion of the Ruby collection in ‘Real Live Boyfriends’….

Overall feeling: mmm I’m starting to like it…

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Storm’ (#1 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Trashy and terribly addictive.

Storm (#1 Elementals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 432

From Goodreads:

Earth, Fire, Air, Water – they have more power than you dream.

Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her, Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys—all the ones she doesn’t want. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water—just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They’re powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.

Secrets are hard to keep when your life’s at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who’s hiding the most dangerous truth of all.

The storm is coming . . .

This was so typically YA. It had so many of the tropes. But I did enjoy it somewhat. It fell into my guilty pleasure category like the Lux series from Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Cue damsels in distress. Cue a love triangle. Cue stubborn boys who treat girls badly. Cue hormone addled teenage boy brains. It had so many tropes I was rolling my eyes. But I also like bad sci-fi and horror movies – I get a delicious kick out of them, and so too did I get a kick out of ‘Storm.’

I was frustrated with all the testosterone being flung around at many points. The possessive nature of the love interests. And everyone seemed okay with putting their hands on Becca to stop her, hold her, it was all a bit misogynistic. That aside, it was also dramatic, and tension-filled like so many pop culture tv movies. It’s the type of thing I enjoy to read every now and then. A quick easy fun adventure.

With so many of the elements that usually annoy the heck out of me in a story, ‘Storm’ could have been a massive flop, but something about this worked… I was always eager to see what was going to happen next. Curiosity, pace and tension were constant throughout. I think if some of the tropes had been eliminated or satirised, I would be singing the books praises, instead, it hit a middle-of-the-road vibe for me. Enjoyable and interesting, engaging even, but not too original.

Storm (#1 Elementals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgTold from dual perspectives of the ‘couple’ Becca and Chris, there was a heavy element of ‘tell’ and not ‘show.’

Beca annoyed me as a protagonist, she flip-flopped from one boy to another, always with some body part on her mind. It didn’t feel like she had much else going on except for all the beefcake circling her. She has her moments of stubbornness and empowerment which redeemed her character for me, but then she’d slip into a damsel in distress, or boy-crazy teen, and I was back to the eye-rolling.

Chris was aggravating, if it wasn’t for reading moments from his POV, I’d written him off completely. But he manages to pull a few rabbits out of the hat by displaying compassion and selflessness in between growling and getting all up in the faces of other males in Becca’s orbit.

Hunter was endearing. Charming. And then he fell prey to the possessive posturing too – seriously, I could feel testosterone dripping out of this book. There are a lot of unanswered questions about Hunter – even at the end I still did not get the resolution I was craving for – I’m guessing it will come in one of the following novels in the series. For the most part I’d have to say he was my favourite character. Whether he’s there just to add tension to the Becca-Chris relationship, or an actual viable option for Becca is still unclear.

Brigid’s writing is easy-going, and I read the book in a day. She manages to capture the frustrating teen boy nature perfectly. I literally wanted to reach my hand through the pages and throttle some of the characters. Many times. There are moments of swearing and bullying, and even moments of humour causing me to bark out loud.

As for predictability, I don’t know if I was having a good day or not, but I guessed the entire plot very early on, and even all the sub plots… so no surprises for me. But I still had fun.

It’s on the fence if I’d recommend this – I can see how some would find this derivative, and how others would love the teen angst and soap opera of it all. So if you love trashy paranormal romances – this one’s for you… if you like more intellectually challenging books, maybe skip this title.

Overall feeling: Overloaded on trashy teen drama!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Break-ups – Real vs. Fictional Boyfriends

Break-ups Fictional v Real Boyfriends Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

How do the ex’s stack up to some of the fictional ex’s….

I haven’t had a lot of relationships in my life, but those I have experienced, fall into three categories when it comes to describing their end…

Break-ups Fictional v Real Boyfriends Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

Break-ups Fictional v Real Boyfriends Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleWhen the guy somehow, magically disappears from the face of the earth. He’ll stand you up, refuse to call, text, or email for weeks with no explanation. One moment you’re happy and thinking of what to do on your next adventure, and the next…

Then you’ll get a visit or phone call after you’ve been worried he’s been abducted by aliens, or died in a car crash. And he just says that he’s met someone else, or got back with his old girlfriend… wtf? There are never any warning signs. Just a disappearing act and a lame goodbye.

Break-ups Fictional v Real Boyfriends Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

This guy will also give you no warning of your impending break up. In fact, one night he’ll take you out on an amazing date. Great restaurant and food, visit your favourite hang-out, shower you with compliments. And at the end of the night when you think he is the most wonderful boyfriend ever he says he want to break up. Then proceeds to give you a long list of everything he thinks is wrong with you.

Can. Feel. Anger. Rising.

Break-ups Fictional v Real Boyfriends Pic 07 by Casey Carlisle

In short, it’s the guy who dumps you over text. Then immediately blocks all forms of communication (and social media) afterwards. Again. Like a slap in the face with some smelly week-old cold fish.

All done. Period.

The one thing in common all these guys have is that they never spoke about being unhappy in the relationship. They made up their minds to end it before speaking (or texting) the words. They didn’t want to work things out, or start a dialogue. Just bam. Sorry babe it’s over.

Break-ups Fictional v Real Boyfriends Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Maybe it says that I’ve only dated guys who are afraid to talk to me? Immature guys; guys who don’t want a partner to laugh, love, and work through the hard times with – but are also some imaginary picture-perfect woman that swoons and agrees with everything they say (does that sound bitter?)

Some of the breakups in books have followed the same pattern as above, especially in YA. But at least you get some answers and closure in a novel. Real life – so sad, go suck an egg.

Mostly, though the fictional break ups are tension-filled, messy and executed in dramatic flair, I don’t think I’d ever want to experience anything like that in real life. I’d be ruined or comedown with PTSD. But at least the characters try. There’s a sharing of feelings, some misunderstandings, stubborn attitudes most of the time. And then at the end of it, the main character gets to walk away all the better for the experience to some bright glowing future…

Now I know why I read so much. The break ups are far more satisfying and there is always some other prospect on the horizon.

But most stories are about people getting together. Maybe one day I’ll experience a relationship that is worthy of a story, and I can finally say I’ve put all the ghosts, event planners, and lazy men behind me. In the meantime, I’ll continue to live precariously through my fictions boyfriends.

Happy (swoony) reading 😉

Break-ups Fictional v Real Boyfriends Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Jack ‘(Leech # 2) by James Crawford

Great potential for a paranormal series with a gay protagonist.

Jack Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 257

From Goodreads:

Every high school has it’s social elite; the football players and cheerleaders … you know, the popular crowd. At Butler High, Jack Barely was as close to the top as they came. Captain of the swim team, great hair, and abs that most would die for. However, that was all before the Leeches attacked, taking away everything: his popularity, his house, his grandmother, and even his best friend, Caleo, whom he secretly loved.

Now, living in a destroyed world, popularity means nothing as Jack struggles just to keep him and his twin sister, Jillian, alive. With attacks happening more frequently, Jack starts to wonder why they are even bothering to try and hold onto the past when it just reminds him of all they have lost. Just when he has given up hope, Jack hears a rumor that Caleo is still alive and sets out on a mission to find him. But will Jack make it to finally tell Caleo how he really feels?


With a fantastic premise set up in ‘Caleo,’ even if I had issues with the writing style, I was still excited to continue with this trilogy. ‘Jack’ still brings that level of immaturity in the narrative that bugged me from the first novel – but much less of it, thank goodness. We get a clear case of what is going on with the plot of the trilogy for the most part, but there is still a little confusion of some scenes not making sense. The stakes are definitely higher. There is a lot of action, pummelling, fighting and injuries… it is starting to feel like a bloodbath. So, while not top-tier writing, it is definitely compulsive.

On a side note: I did find it comical at the amount of unintentional nudity. The teen girl in me giggled and kicked her legs (no judging me – I already know how lame I am.) In ‘Caleo,’ we did lose a bit of that larrikin humour over the second half of the novel, but it is back and interspersed throughout the narrative in ‘Jack’ and it’s the kind of smart-assery I love to indulge in.

Jack Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleThis time the story continues from Jack’s P.O.V. and he is more single-minded than in ‘Caleo’ – which was great in driving the plot forward, but it also erased some of his complexity. I would have liked to see much more going on with him emotionally and spiritually to turn up the level of tension.

The reading experience felt a lot tighter and more enjoyable. Though personally I’m #TeamNolan and felt like Nolan was pushed aside again for the sake of setting up a love triangle, though, with the third book in the series being from his point of view, I guess I’ll get the fix I’ve been hinkering for since starting this trilogy. *fingers crossed*

I did get more surprises than expected, but there still wasn’t a lot of resolution in the plot for me to feel entirely satisfied. Second book syndrome. Even though there is so much action going on in ‘Jack,’ I felt as though something was lacking – whether it be a few sub-plots, or moving the overarching storyline forward more, it still left me in that state of mind after finishing ‘Caleo.’ Yes, I’m dying to find out what happens next, but annoyed that I have to read yet another book to get a payoff.

I developed a lot more liking and sympathy for Jack after reading this second instalment, but there is still something about Caleo and Jack that doesn’t sit right for me. But let’s see were the journey takes us. Jumping into ‘Nolan’ right now…

Overall feeling: boys, boys, boys!

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Jack Book Review Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle


© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.