Because boys can be heard to ask in quick succession: ‘How do you do that?’ followed by ‘Let me try it?’ they enjoy stories with physical challenges such as sailboarding, bull riding, rappelling and the like. The characters model competence and skills that the reader can learn by ‘watching’—something he’s used to doing at playgrounds, skateboard parks and Gus Macker tournaments. Between the drive to emulate kinetic feats and the universal “I dare you,” good ‘boy stories’ have characters pushing the envelope. As in this scene from Zan, City Cowboy where Nick Finazzo attempts bronc riding for the first time.
Nick gripped the thick braided rope in his gloved hand, took a deep breath and a last look into the arena. Ramón waited on one side. Carlos on the other. Two of his buddies were out there. They would be sure to race over and help him off the horse. Riding on either side of the bronc, one would release the bucking strap – the rope tied just in front of the horse’s hind legs to make him buck. The other would help Nick slide out of the saddle to a safe landing. That’s if he stayed on till the buzzer. Ten seconds. Forever….
In this scene, from Can Do, Zan, Alexander has more determination than ability as he tries to show he can swim at a summer camp.
Zan jumped straight out over the water and managed to close his eyes and gulp a breath of air before he landed flat on his stomach. His gut burned, his face stung and all the air he had sucked in, shot out in a huge bubble. He clawed for the surface and took a huge gulp. Too soon. He got mostly water. Coughing and hacking he remembered to windmill his arms and twist his head. I’m doing just like the other guys, he thought. I’m swimming. See, I knew I could do it.