Being A Boy FAQ

Being A BoyWhat is Being A Boy?

Being A Boy is the ultimate guide to puberty, sex and relationships for teenage boys. Basically it’s The Imbetweeners guide to growing up. It’s frank, funny and informative.

Why is that YA author bloke doing it?

Before I wrote HOLLOW PIKE, I was a teacher and I specialised in PSHCE (Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education). Over almost a decade I taught an awful lot of Sex Ed.

Why did you want to write Being A Boy?

I knew from my teaching career that there is NOTHING quite like Being A Boy on the market. Sure, there are plenty of textbooks about puberty, but few tackle boy’s worries and they rarely have a sense of humour. What’s more, they are aimed at children and, I believe, don’t give the full story.

What’s covered in Being A Boy?

The book is broken into three sections. ‘Puberty’ deals with the physical and psychological changes boys face at puberty and surviving high school; ‘Sex’ deals with how to do sex, how babies are made and sexually transmitted infections; ‘Relationships’ looks at how young men can find partners and have successful relationships. I also answer real questions from teens and provide a handy glossary.

Is it just for boys?

No! Obviously boys will benefit the most, but I think girls can learn a lot from seeing what issues boys face too. It’s my hope that parents and carers will read Being A Boy before giving it to their kids too – that way, you’re all on the same page and also have a better understanding of what a modern teenage boy has to endure.

Is it just for heterosexual boys?

Absolutely not. Gay, bi or straight, all young men are going through the same things – puberty, first love, heartbreaks and virginity loss! It makes no difference what a guy’s sexual orientation is. Unlike any other sex ed book, gay and lesbian sex is covered because, you know, some people are gay. Although some sections on biology may be different, the book is totally relevant for young trans guys too.

Is it explicit?

It’s as explicit as teenage boys are. I felt it was my responsibility to answer every question young men may have to stop them having to google terms or seek out pornography for answers. If I don’t address these things, the internet will.

Is pornography covered?

Yes. It’s there whether you like it or not and it has to be addressed. Being A Boy sets out the difference between porn and sex ed. I break down what’s real, what’s fun, what’s fake and what’s damaging. I also discuss ‘sexting’ and legal matters surrounding young people and sex.

Is it funny?

I hope so! If you can’t laugh at a willy what can you laugh at? Getting a twelve year old guy to read anything can often be challenging so I sugared the pill with laughs while the talented Spike Gerrell provides the awesome and hilarious illustrations.

Do you do school visits/events?

Damn straight. I’m always available for sessions. Unless at a boy’s school I prefer to do mixed sessions – I think dividing Sex Ed into single sex groups is archaic. My events work like a ‘Worry Clinic’ – I answer anonymous questions in a totally suitable way. We always establish ground rules and agreed vocabulary. If you’re interested, hit me up.

If you have more questions, y’all can always find me on TWITTER or at my FACEBOOK page. There’s also an email link to your right.

PHBC4: The Cheerleader by Caroline B Cooney

the cheerleaderWhat’s It All About? 

All Althea (yes ALTHEA) has ever wanted is to be popular so when a vampire living in the tower room of her home offers her a deal – victims for popularity – she jumps at the offer. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Althea’s on the cheerleading squad but soon finds she’s made a deal with more clauses than a Wonga pay-day loan.

The Girl

Althea is a troubled soul. Turns out I remembered Althea all wrong; my teen brain remembered her as being a She’s All That Laney Boggs style character who whips off her glasses and lets down her ponytail to reveal she was a supermodel the whole time, but she’s actually a lot more complicated than that. There’s no post-vampire makeover scene. She’s described as follows:

Althea was a gentle girl. She had sweet features and a demure posture. When she spoke, people quieted to hear her distinctive, whispery tremor.

The character rings true for the most part. Popular at first school, Althea has fallen through the cracks at high school and lacks the confidence to make friends. She is easily manipulated by the vampire but is more than aware of her actions. The bulk of the novel describes her inner turmoil – the thrill of her new popularity mixed with guilt of bringing the vampire his prey.

'Ryan'The Love Interest

Once popular, Althea catches the eye of two young men, muscle bound joker Ryan and sophisticated Michael. Ryan evolves from oath to sweetheart pretty quickly. That said, his opening gambit to the newly popular Althea features some very thinly veiled entendre describing his knob: ‘My telescope, Becky,’ said Ryan, although he was facing Althea, ‘is not a toy. Although I am sure Althea and I can think of plenty of games to play.’ He winked at Althea.

Well it’s a good thing he’s fit – this month he gets Heartthrob hunk DAVID, obviously. Michael, THE MOST POPULAR GUY IN SCHOOL, while marginally less sleazy (‘I always have my telescope,’ he yelled, brandishing it) perhaps fails to live up to the hype.

Dialogue Disasters

Now here’s the thing with The Cheerleader. It’s beautifully written. First time round, I could NOT get on board with Cooney’s offerings. They were weird; they didn’t make sense; they were often dream-like and lacked obvious resolution. This was true of PERFUME, FREEZE TAG and TWINS. The Cheerleader is no different but I now appreciate the quality of the writing – it’s poetic and beautiful.

However, I think the reason I was unable to enjoy Cooney’s work at the time is that they lack the sparky dialogue of Stine’s books. In fact, there is precious little dialogue AT ALL. The popular kids get the best of the dialogue – Ryan, Becky and Kimmie-Jo (‘who clapped her hands, a rather more frequent activity for Kimmie-Jo than for most’ ) get the best lines.

There are a couple of zingers:

Mrs Roundman continues the Point Horror tradition of teachers who say all the wrong things: ‘Celeste you are upsetting everybody. That’s very thoughtless of you. You’ve surrendered your place on the squad, which in my opinion was the action of a quitter. So quit. Go. Leave. Now.’ WAY HARSH, TAI.

And Michael’s girlfriend Constance is particularly odd: ‘The tips of the hemlocks are waving at me,’ said Constance.  Michael said, ‘Constance, you’re not usually so poetic.’ There’s a poem I can live without.

Body Count: 0 (disappointing – the vampire simply drains the popularity from his victims. The blood on the Shoreditch cover Reeboks is hugely misleading).

Is it scary?

The vampire is fantastically realised and hugely eerie. His skin had darkened in patches, like fruit going bad. If she touched it, the skin would feel like a sponge. The fingernails seemed detached. She could pluck them, harvest them, fill a basket with old vampire nails. Not so sexy anymore, eh, Twilight fans. No twinkling here, the unnamed ghostly entity has a terrifying hold over Althea. He could be a metaphor for addiction or temptation – he makes it very hard for Althea to refuse.

Did the best friend do it? This one is a rare example of a not-whodunnit. Another reason why I wasn’t so keen as a teen.

Is it good? 

It may be TOO good and therein lies the problem. Deviating from the Point Horror Author’s Manual, a poetic, metaphorical fable about the price of popularity was certainly lost on me as an eleven year old. As an adult however, it’s far and away the best written episode we’ve studied so far. It’s maybe a bit humourless too – the vampire steers pretty close to Regina George territory at times, swinging from Bram Stokerville into GURL PLEASE-like dialogue. I wonder if the vampire would have been better picking one voice or the other. That said, I really do want to read RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE, so something’s working.

CemeteryOver to you:

1. Did the vampire’s victims have it coming? How did Celeste and Jennie wrong Althea?

2. Where the fuck are Althea’s parents?

3. Ryan or Michael?

4. Why is the vampire living in window shutters? What is the relevance of the shutters?

5. Who would win in a fight between Althea’s vampire and Edward Cullen?


Next month things get even weirder in THE CEMETERY by DE ATHKINS.

Cruel Summer Launch

BQmokJ7CQAEH9q9.jpg-largeThank you so much to all the friends, readers and bloggers who came to the CRUEL SUMMER launch event in London last Thursday. My head has been spinning since launch day (and Brighton Pride didn’t help the head spinning) so I just wanted to take an opportunity to share how much it meant to me. First of all, it was a flawless night so mega thanks to the staff of Clapham Waterstones for hosting us. I should point out that there are about ten signed copies in store should anyone want one!

I was delighted that so many young people came – especially the talented First Story writers. After all, YA is about giving you a voice.

The early reviews of CRUEL SUMMER have been amazing, so thanks reviewers! Here are a few braggy snippets…

‘A gripping psychological thriller with a dash of romance – just don’t read it alone or after dark if you’re easily scared!’ MIZZ MAGAZINE.

‘Hugely entertaining murder mystery with a great plot and a brilliant climax.’ THE BOOKBAG.

‘This pacy, exciting thriller is almost as intense as the summer heat!’ CLOSER

Clearly quite pleased with that. YOU, yes YOU dear reader are the most important thing in the world. As I said HERE, word-of-mouth is more important that clotted cream on scones. If you liked Cruel Summer then keep telling people! This weekend, Cruel Summer entered to top ten kids ebooks behind The Hunger Games, John Green and Ransom Riggs – that was quite a moment, let me tell you! I nearly pooped myself when I saw!

People have been asking where they can find Cruel Summer and where’s the best place to buy it. I’ve seen copies with my own eyes in Foyles and Waterstones so they are out there. If you can’t find them in you local bookshop, you could use and have it delivered to your local indie or, of course, Amazon. Clever author Laura Lam wrote a great piece on this HERE.

As I said at the launch, I was SO NERVOUS before Cruel Summer came out. I was worried people wouldn’t like it because it wasn’t a Hollow Pike book; I was worried people wouldn’t get Ryan’s sense of humour; I was worried people wouldn’t like that there was no supernatural element. Basically I had ALL THE WORRIES.

But I didn’t need to. Your tweets, emails and Facebook messages have been SO KIND. If I could send you all a delicious foam shrimp in a envelope, I would. But I won’t because I ate them all.

Give me a shout if I’ll be seeing you at LEAKYCON this weekend or if you still need a copy of Cruel Summer signing I’ll be at WATERSTONES CROYDON on SATURDAY 17TH AUG 11-2!

Love always,


James xxx

Who killed Janey Bradshaw? Suspect #7: Erin Smith

ErinName: Erin Smith

Age: 18

Hometown: Brighton

Occupation: Student

Relationship status: Lives with Greg Cole

Erin is new to the group as the latest of Greg’s many girlfriends. They met on a random night out, or so Erin says.

Erin seems sweet, kind and innocent – but is she all she seems?

Everyone else in the group has known each other for years – can they trust this beautiful newcomer?


Who killed Janey Bradshaw? Suspect #6: Roxanne Dent

roxanneName: Roxanne Dent

Age: 19

Hometown: (presently travelling)

Occupation: Gap year student

Relationship status: Young, free and single.

Roxanne Dent is trouble with a capital T. It’s no secret that Roxanne had a major falling out with Janey and her friends in the months leading up to her death.

Roxanne has an alibi for the night Janey died, but seems to know more than she’s letting on. Arriving in town under a shroud of mystery, Roxanne Dent is a girl with a past.

A girl who collects the secrets of others is bound to have a few of her own. Did Janey know too much and did it get her killed?



Who killed Janey Bradshaw? Suspect #5: Ben Murdoch

BenName: Ben Murdoch

Age: 19

Hometown: Cambridge

Occupation: Microbiology student

Relationship status: Single

Golden boy and Cambridge student Ben had a history with Janey Bradshaw. The pair dated for several months but had a very public bust up on the night she died. He was questioned extensively following her apparent suicide.

Prior to his relationship with Janey, Ben was in a serious relationship with his childhood sweetheart Katie Grant.

Ben comes across as the squeaky clean boy-next-door, but could he be too good to be true? Still waters run very, very deep.


Photo credit: Leonardo Holanda

Who killed Janey Bradshaw? Suspect #4: Katie Grant

KatieName: Katie Grant

Age: 18

Hometown: Norwich

Occupation: English student

Relationship status: Single

Although Katie has a solid alibi for the time at which Janey Bradshaw died, she is the ex girlfriend of Ben Murdoch, Janey’s girlfriend. Jealous?

Since Janey’s death, Katie has been suffering from depression and anxiety. She has lingering feelings of guilt over the ‘suicide’, but it could it be more than that?

It’s clear Katie still has deep feelings for Ben. Does she love him enough to kill for him?


photo credit: favim.