8 swoon-worthy male characters in YA fiction

Yes, I am unabashedly in love with Young Adult (YA) fiction.

I think adolescence is a wonderful period to write about because the characters are at the most pivotal stage of their lives, still impressionable enough to change for better or for worse as they try to find and define themselves with a particular identity. In fact, some of the characters in YA have been the most memorable ones for me. Some of them also made me fall head-over-heels in love with them because of how layered and conflicted and real they are.

In YA fiction, as Laini puts forth here in this powerful post in defence of YA (it’s awesome – go read it!), “the subject matter is vast, and transcend all genre borders.”

Plus, as this post argues, “the attraction isn’t just related to the fact that young adult novels tend to have faster-paced narratives. Many of these crossover “teen” novels are satisfying to adult readers because they tap into ageless themes, namely the sense that each of us longs to know who we really are in a strange, confusing and sometimes otherworldly world. As it turns out, the search for self is a lifelong one.”

Okay, serious stuff out of the way, here’s a list of boys in YA fiction that I’ve swooned and gushed over, and been irrationally legitimately obsessed with:

1. Wes from The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen

Still my favourite Sarah Dessen book, despite subsequent ones such as What Happened to Goodbye and Lock and Key that are just as beautifully written. Forever is something special, maybe because I can relate to the protagonist, Macy, so well, since she’s really close to her father and afraid of meeting new people too.

Who? Wes is your regular boy-next-door who prizes honesty – to everyone else and to yourself – above everything else.

Why? He looks for imperfections, appreciates them, even craves them. This is evident from the art he makes. (Yes, a boy who makes art. What’s not to love, right?) He uses scrap materials like wood and glass to create beautiful display pieces that are perfect in their imperfection.

Plus, he’s infinitely patient with his nerdy, overwrought little brother, Bert. Oh, and he helped the protagonist, Macy, move on from the death of her father. Yes, he’s a patient one. Perhaps boys who make art are usually this way?

Also, he is everything Macy needs to break out of her comfort zone (albeit with baby steps). He is responsible, reliable, has a great sense of humour and never gives up on you. It doesn’t feel stressful in his company.

In short,

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2. Sam from Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, Shiver. How I love you! I wish I could kiss you and have you turn into a boy as beautiful at heart and as sweet as Sam. The prose is honey and clove, bittersweet but not too cloying, and the setting just as heartbreakingly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve read another YA fantasy romance that made my heart swell and flutter and do all sorts of gymnastic feats the way Shiver had.

Quote from Shiver
Sam and Grace artwork for the book

Who? Sam is a sweet, soulful boy who turns into a werewolf when the weather dips and is desperately trying to cling on to his human form to be with the girl he loves. Also, he’s a little damaged: (*SPOILER ALERT*) when his parents found out he was a wolf when he was younger, they tried to slit his wrist and drown him in the bathtub. (Yes, lovely people, they are.)

Why? He writes poetry. He writes songs. He reads. He works at a bookstore. He reads Rilke (OH, RILKE!). He’s damaged, but is capable of love. He loves life, cherishes it, because of how fragile his humanity is. Need I say more?

3. Ian Waters from Wild Roses, by Deb Caletti

My favourite novel from Deb Caletti so far. Also the first one from her that I read. I loved the prose, the narrator’s voice, the romance, the drama of the entire story … but mostly, I loved Ian.

Who? Ian is the protege of world-renowned violin maestro, the brilliant but disturbed Dino Cavalli, who is also the step-father of the protagonist Cassie.

Why? He plays the violin. He has a great sense of humour, totally on the same wavelength as Cassie. He is never attention-seeking or complacent – much less cocky – despite his talent. He’s like snow that lands on the ground silently but beautifully. He’s the first character named Ian I had ever known, and his image will always go with that name for me.

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4. Mik from Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

Night is a novella from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini.

You would think I’d be all over Akiva, the seraph warrior who is pretty much perfection embodied. But human Mik was who I fell for instead. Particularly in Days of Blood and Starlight, the sequel to Daughter, where Mik and Zuzana traipsed through the desert to find Karou, Mik was always attentive to Zuze, and very concerned about her well-being (is she dehydrated? bone-tired? in need of a good sleep?).

Plus, he and Zuze ended up being pals with the chimaera soldiers, who are basically animal hybrids. Monsters. They play well with monsters. Well, which monster can resist Mik’s sweet looks and manners?

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Who? Mik is the violinist with the dark, soulful eyes and flushed cheeks whom Zuzana is crazy about, and who turns out to be crazy about her too.

Why? He plays the violin. (I’m sensing a trend here.) He surprises her with cake and tea on an impromptu date on a rowboat. He gets her quirks, loves her for them, and comes with a few himself too (peacock footprints, anyone?).

5. Cole from The Road of the Deadby Kevin Brooks

I read this book waaaay back in 2005, but I remember how smitten I was with him, because he was a bad boy who was very protective of his younger brother.

Who? Your quintessential bad boy, Cole is the older brother of the narrator, Ruben. He gets into fights often, but fights for the people he loves.

Why? Because we all love a bad boy with a heart of gold. At least in fiction.

6. Michael Moscovitz from the Princess Diaries series, by Meg Cabot

I know there are people who scoff at the series for being about a self-indulgent teenage girl who uses way too many exclamation marks, but this series was what made me start keeping a journal when I was 11 years old and for that I’ll always be grateful to Meg Cabot. There is nothing quite as cathartic as putting your thoughts onto paper.

Who? Brother of Mia’s best friend, Michael has had a crush on Mia forever, back when she hadn’t ascended to royalty status.

Robert Schwartzman, who played the character in the screen adaptation

Why? He wrote a song for her, Tall Glass of Water. He supports her in her writing endeavours, is always eager to read what she writes, and gives sound, thoughtful feedback. He’s really smart, but works his ass off to amount to something he deems worthy of Her Royal Highness, even if she doesn’t care about their status difference.

Plus, his name just rolls off your tongue.

7. Luke Brandon from the Shopaholic series, by Sophie Kinsell

Okay, this one’s not YA, but come on, isn’t Luke swoon-worthy?

Hugh Dancy’s pretty eyes aside, Luke has many qualities to love. I mean, he married Rebecca Bloomwood, for heaven’s sake! Only a saint has that kind of patience. (No offence to Becky – I love her, but she can be tiresome at times.)

Who? Luke is the boyfriend – and later, husband – of Becky Bloomwood, a shopping addict and a pathological liar, but also a very loyal friend.

Why? He doesn’t do grand gestures of love, but you can always tell he loves Becky. Besides, he puts up with Becky, LOVES her despite her crazy antics. Enough said, don’t you think?

8. Jace Wayland/Lightwood/Morgenstern/Herondale from The Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare

Okay, I watched the movie before I finished reading the book, so the first face that comes to mind is Jamie Campbell Bower’s. Which does not hurt at all.

Jamie + Lily = Jamily. They are SO cute together!

Who? Snarky, handsome, lofty and insouciant, Jace is a demon-hunting Shadowhunter. Also, a boy in need of love who failed to get any from his father.

Jace artwork

Why? He’s the unattainable golden boy at school, the one whom everyone loves or loves to hate. He’s gorgeous, strong, attractive and he knows it. But his confidence – though some would say arrogance – is to mask the broken, wanting boy within.

And as a shameless plug bonus,

9. Drew from Lambs for Dinner, by, um, me.

Who? Cole has a history of being abused by his father before he ran away from home. He is loyal to his friends and closest to his aunt, regards his best friend’s father as his surrogate father, but keeps everyone else at arm’s length.

Why? Because despite his (initial) belief that he is too damaged, too different, to love, that he is more Wolf than Man, deep down he desperately wants to believe that he is not only capable of it, he is also deserving of it. Which is why he gives his all to Skye, when he falls hard for her.

Also, because I wrote him. Ha!

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So that’s my list of swoon-worthy boys from YA fiction. Let me know if there’s anything I missed out, in terms of characters or the things they did to make us fall in love with them!

Who are some of YOUR favourite boys from YA fiction? :0)

Personal life

Mia’s friends include best friend Lilly Moscovitz, Tina Hakim Baba, Shameeka Taylor, Perin and Ling Su Wong. Lilly is seen as an overly critical person, who although probably wants what’s best for Mia, is always getting into arguments with her.

Love interests throughout the books have been Josh Richter, Kenny Showalter, Michael Moscovitz (Lilly’s brother) and J.P.(John Paul Reynolds Abernathy IV) who was only a friend, until he proclaims his love for Mia.

1. Josh Richter was definitely a mistake. He only wanted publicity for himself.

2. Kenny Showalter was Mia’s biology lab partner. Apparently he developed a liking for her while watching her copy his homework. Mia had hoped that her secret admirer was Michael Moscovitz, though it was really Kenny the whole time.

3. J.P., also known as The Guy Who hates it when They Put Corn In The Chilli, was madly in love (or so he says) with Mia. In the tenth book, it turns out, he was just using Mia as publicity for his play.

(And … drumroll, please.)

4. Michael was Mia’s main boyfriend in almost all the books. He is the only guy who actually loves Mia for who she is and not because she is royal. Getting together with him at a formal in the book “Princess in Love”, making the mistake of breaking up with him in “Princess on the Brink”. Though, in the last book, on prom night, Michael and Mia get back together, have sex and are still currently dating.

~ Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mia_Thermopolis

I found ‘Forever Princess’ by Meg Cabot, the last Princess Diaries book, in the library the other day. So I thought, what the heck, even though I completely dislike it when Mia’s with JP (BECAUSE SHE BELONGS WITH MICHAEL!!!) I’ll read this last one, just to see what happens in the end.

And it was TOTALLY worth it. (Excuse my ensuing infantile vociferations. I’m revisiting my early teenage years.)

I know. Laugh all you want, at me still crazy about the Princess Diaries series. But even though I first read it when I was 11 or so, reading Forever Princess NOW reminds me of why I was completely nuts about it. I’m getting all fan-girl squealy at random intervals, and have been caught with an inane smile on my face in public (I don’t think anyone bothered, though, which is a good thing.) Michael and Mia are the cutest couple ever, even cuter than Bella and Edward. I’m comparing them in terms of how giggly and swoony I get whenever the couples are together. Edward’s speeches are a little too prettily arranged at times. Romantic, hell yes, but a little too Romeo-ish. (But of course, seeing as how he’s from a different time, that’s understandable.) Anyway, I’m falling completely in love with Michael all over again, just like I had when I first started reading it. I screamed more exuberantly over Michael and Mia than Bella and Edward. And people who know me know how nuts I already am over Bella and Edward.

Anyway, in fact, so in love with Michael I am – and so convicted of their love, whether or not Mia, dense Mia, realises that – that I didn’t read those books where they weren’t together. I read up to the 6th or 7th book, I think. One of it was lame, where Mia tried so hard to prove to Michael that she was a party princess and not a prude, when Michael didn’t care if she was a party princess anyway (and would rather she wasn’t someone she was trying to be) and loved her for being her. That was quite lame. And in another book, it was all about Doing It, and how Michael said he knew she was the one for him and that he wouldn’t wait for her to be ready for It. Wtf, I could kill Meg Cabot for doing that. That just killed my opinion of Michael. How could he say he wasn’t going to wait for Mia to be ready for It? He has to, because he loves her, hello?

But I still love Michael, of course. It’s hard not to. He’s so sweet and thoughtful, and clearly loves Mia to bits, and is always trying hard to be worthy of her (even though it’s she who thinks she isn’t worthy of him).

Last I read, Michael and Mia broke up because she couldn’t deal with him having Done It with some other girl before they (Michael and Mia) even got together. He was worried she wouldn’t be mature enough to deal with that, which was why he didn’t tell her. And true enough, she made a huge deal out of it, and they ended up breaking things off. And then Michael left for Columbia University(why is it that every book I read has to have the characters going off to Columbia? Jessica Darling went there too – way to make me feel inadequate, Meg Cabot and Megan McCafferty), and Mia tried to move on with life.

And then this other guy JP showed up and like how Jacob got Bella through her dark days without Edward, JP did the same for Mia, and they’ve been together for almost two years (she was with Michael for 4, I think). And oh, did I mention, JP went out with Mia’s best friend Lilly (well, ex-bff now, since a bff’s ex is off limits) after he broke up with Lilly?

JP seemed like a nice guy; that’s what Meg wanted to show. But somehow, I wasn’t bought into it. My loyalties (I would use the word allegiance, but it sounded patriotic somehow) lie with Michael and always will. Michael and Mia are perfect for each other. Mia was just too immature to be in a relationship (see: Michael’s Doing It with Judith Gershner, when he wasn’t even with Mia at that time) then.

But she’s a senior now, and Michael’s invented something called the CardioArm which makes him some hot young scientist and he’s getting international acclaim and each equipment is selling for a million over bucks. And he’s back. To New York.

And all the truths just spill out:

1. JP is a dick. That seems the most important. Not only did he get together with Mia after breaking up with her best friend Lilly, he did that once he heard Mia had broken up with Michael and he could now get a chance to be her prince. He even wrote a play that mimicked their relationship and where he was the prince to her princess (how highly can he think of himself?). Plus, he booked a room at some swanky hotel on their prom night months before, even though Doing It was never something they’d ever discussed. AND, he wouldn’t read the romance novel Mia had slaved over for 21 months and was hoping to publish, because he thought romance novel-writing was below her and that she could do so much better. He also didn’t bother reading it because he was busy with his play. WHAT AN UNSUPPORTIVE DICK. Seriously, what is Mia even doing with JP?!

2. Michael has always loved Mia, even after they broke up, and when he left for University, he got one of their mutual friends to look out for her. He didn’t want to get back with Mia (when she tried, after they broke up) because he was going off to University and he didn’t think it was fair for her to wait around for him. PLUS, the reason why he was so bent on his work (the CardioArm) was because he was dying to prove himself to Mia’s royal family that he was worthy of the Princess of Genovia (Mia), since JP had a famous dad in the theatre industry and everyone loved him (including Mia’s family) and thought he was better for Mia than Michael was. Oh, how blind everyone was.

3. Lilly was mad at Mia for two books or so (I don’t know, I stopped reading after the 7th book, where Michael and Mia broke up. The one that I’m reading now is the 10th and final one) not because Mia stole her boyfriend, but because she couldn’t see what a dick he was and because Mia broke up with her brother (yes, Michael is Lilly’s brother) and got together with JP.

And now Michael’s back and trying really hard to win Mia back. Mia’s never stopped loving Michael, even though she thinks she has and is in love with JP. Somehow, she’s just not drawn to JP the way she was drawn to Michael.

All I can say is: SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM! I know, I’m being completely juvenile and shallow here, reading a book like that. But come on, we all need a bit of escapism sometime. And hello, isn’t this the cutest love story ever? How can anyone not love Michael?

So I’m left with the last 50 pages or so (sobs), so I’m going to go back to it.

Allow me to indulge in one last infantile, whimsical proclamation before I leave.