Book Club ~ Boys in YA

Okay, let's sit down and have a chat. I know I'm not the only one out there who loves those YA boys and romance. We can't deny that it's a huge part of the buzz surrounding books. So let's talk about it: the fun stuff, the ugly parts, and everything in between.

I really love the passion shown by fellow readers, and I want to see more discussion taking place... even on the little things. And today I'd love to hear your thoughts on those little things, but I want to hear about the big things too. Most importantly, I really want to hear your HONEST thoughts & opinions on this. Please :)

So what I'd like to do is talk a little bit about one of our favourite things about YA books (don't lie, they totally are)... the guys. Because let's be honest, the romance plot can make or break a story. And as shown by the YA Sisterhood Crush Tourney, this is something nearly all readers can get excited about. I've also asked some readers, bloggers, and writers to share their thoughts on this as well.

We all have our favourites- some of us love those kind boy-next-door types (like Cricket Bell from Lola), and some are suckers for the bad boy with a good heart (like Noah Shaw from Mara Dyer). I've seen so many people talk about this, and we all have our reasons. So tell me- who are some of your favourites? Why do you like them? What do you look for in a swoon-worthy romantic interest?

"I think my favourite YA boy of all time so far is Dimitri Belikov in the Vampire Academy series. He was slightly older, but not too much, short dark hair (love that) athletic in a butt kicking way, smart, read books in his spare time, and truly loved the girl so much that he was willing to do anything for her, even when he was "turned". This included training her, protecting her, and staying away from her when needed to make her life better. He was sincere, honest, and mature. I just loved him to pieces! (Still do.) That's what I look for. Reality. Something I would look for in real life. A touch of the tall dark and broody dangerous type, but not overdone like so many others are" - Gwenyth from Rants~N~Scribbles

"Let's see:
Alex Sheathes (Delirium)
Etienne St. Clair (Anna and the French Kiss)
Seth Morgan (Wicked Lovely)
Marcus Flutie (Sloppy Firsts)
Collectively, these boys make up my ideal male character. They're all smart and value education (and it doesn't hurt that all of them love to read). They try to be compassionate and kind, though they certainly don't always succeed. They're flawed, but they work hard to turn those flaws into strengths.
I tend to gravitate towards YA boys who want to make something of themselves, who have goals and a strong sense of direction towards those goals. Boys who give up everything to follow a girl (and vice versa) won't earn my respect, because a relationship should be between partners and that kind of "sacrifice" only breeds resentment." - Angel from Mermaid Vision Books

"For me, swoonworthy equals being a nice guy. I know bad boys are popular, but I'm all about the nice guys. The thing is, nice doesn't automatically mean one dimensional or boring. You can still be mysterious or have that awesome banter-type of relationship while treating the girl well. That's the most important thing. I like to read about guys who challenge their love interest and make them better people while still letting them make their own decisions. Swoonworthy = protective without being controlling and giving without being a pushover. I love reading about guys who are fiercely loyal, funny, and intelligent." - Ashley from Book Labyrinth

And something else I find interesting, is a discussion on these guys and their relationships with girls. There are some stories out there that have received a lot of criticism for potentially portraying unhealthy (or even abusive) relationships. But what do you think about that? How do you feel about these (potentially) unhealthy relationships in YA books? Do they have a place? What makes these relationships unhealthy (in your opinion)? Are there any books that really bothered you because of the relationship they portrayed?

"And this is where I get pissed. Teaching 15 year old girls that a boy obsessing over them or abusing them or STALKING THEM is romantic is morally wrong. I mean, authors might not think that what they're doing is wrong, but what many are doing through books such as Twilight and Hush, Hush and Fallen is telling impressionable teenagers that these "bad boys" did so much crap to these girls because they were in LOVE with them. Love is not stalking them or controlling them. Love is NOT trying to harm them or making them feel uncomfortable. Love is not preying on the weak. This is not love, and allowing girls to believe that a boy who does this to them is doing it because they love them and care about them is sending a potentially harmful, damaging message to girls.
YA authors need to do a better job of presenting healthy, stable relationships, especially in paranormal romances. Making girls and boys equal instead of conforming to traditional 1950s gender roles should be a step in the right direction, but eliminating anything that could be construed as abuse - emotional or physical - should be mandatory, unless you want to present these relationships as bad ones. Presenting them as good is potentially damaging to girls who are entering that phase in their lives where they are dating and finding out about love." - Anonymous

"I'm very picky when it comes to labeling a YA relationship unhealthy/abusive, mostly because my perspective on them is probably far more different then it is for others. I actually discussed this on a review I'd written earlier this week. I was discussing how thrilled I was to finally read a relationship that contained no emotional or physical abuse, one that was solely built on trust, honesty, and love. It's regrettable, however, that many YA novels tend to lean towards what I describe as emotionally abusive relationships, with characters that withstand inexplicable amounts of emotional turmoil for "love" and the overwhelming use of sexual attraction in order to define a relationship." - Wendy from A Cupcake and a Latte

"Let's draw a line here: I appreciate stories about unhealthy relationships as long as it's clear that the relationship is unhealthy. Sarah Dessen's Dreamland is a wonderful example of that kind of story. I'm a bit iffy about including this one, but there are many who would say that the relationship in Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma is a very unhealthy relationship. Authors have to take care not to be flippant or too preachy when they write about abusive relationships.
On a related note, I think the recent trend of insta-love in YA fiction has blurred the lines and made it more difficult for younger readers to see an abusive relationship for what it is. Abuse doesn't just come in bruises. There's verbal and emotional abuse and it's very easy to dismiss those things under the rug of "I just want what's best for you." No, unfortunately, those characters don't want what's best for their "love interest," but what's best for them. It's also easy to disregard the mean things some "bad boys" say because "they're just teasing" or "they don't know how to deal with their feelings." Nope. There's no excuse for being an asshole." - Angel

Or hey, let's talk about love triangles. Because this comes up a lot! Are we sick of them yet? Or are we just looking for the really good love triangles? It seems like books with love triangles are dime a dozen these days. And sometimes, I confess I get sick of them. Sometimes, I'll admit that I love a book a little less if I don't like where the romance seems to be headed. But what about you: are you Team anyone? Do you enjoy love triangles? Do you think they add anything to the story? Do you have a favourite love triangle from YA books?

"I'm terribly sick of love triangles. I strongly feel that they've been over done in the YA genre. However, from time to time, I do come across a love triangle that oddly works for me where it wouldn't work for others. Sadly, love triangles don't always play a part in the story's development and are only added due to popular demand amongst readers or for dramatic effect. Unfortunately, I currently do not have a favorite love triangle." - Wendy

"As for a favourite love triangle, I honestly can't think of any that I actually liked. There were those I didn't mind, like Gale/Katniss/Peeta, because it was clear that Gale and Peeta were in love with two different girls. Katniss-before-the-Games is full of potential and that's what Gale found appealing. He could work with her to bring about the future he thought they both wanted. Peeta may have been infatuated with Katniss as a kid, but it is his experiences with her during the Games that mold them both into completely different people whose only refuge is each other. More importantly, Katniss grew independently of both of them. So in the end, you could say that I'm on Team Character Development. ;)" - Angel

"I'm Team Peeta (Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins), Team Jem (Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare), Team Xander (Matched by Ally Condie)... the list goes on and on. There's usually one guy in a love triangle I hate and one I adore.
I'm completely getting sick of love triangles though. They're all getting the same and it gets to the point where I don't want to read the book when I hear "love triangle". Granted, some are written really well, but most are getting predictable and the stories are getting played out. There's only so much I can take. I don't like reading a book where the heroine spends 99% of the time whining because she doesn't know which guy to choose. It really isn't that difficult of a decision to make, but it always seems to be soooooo difficult in books. And I don't like how it always seems to work out in the end, how the girl always picks the right guy in the end. For once I'd like to see the girl pick the wrong guy and be miserable, just for a change." - Robyn from Robolobolyn's Universe of Books

"No, I’m not sick of love triangles (confession here as the man I’m married to I met through my then at the time boyfriend), but I think they have to be done really well for YA stories to work for me. Not sure what Team annoyed means. What I’d like to see for pushing the boundaries is a triangle that happens but it isn’t written about in a lot of YA stories and that’s a girl-girl-boy relationship or boy-boy-girl relationship. Done right that would be a very interesting read and because today so many teens are much more sexually active and explorative with their sexuality I think it’s time I found that book – or better yet, wrote it!" - Renee Pace

Do you agree or disagree with these answers? Anything you were surprised to see answered here?


Robyn @ Robolobolyn's Universe said...

Great post! I enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts on the subjects! It's got to see that I'm not the only one who is getting sick of love triangles. Although Renee's idea about the girl-girl-boy or boy-boy-girl triangle sounds like it could have potential. I'm also glad that I'm not the only one who sees Hush, Hush's Patch and Nora as a unhealthy relationship.

Thanks for asking me to participate! It was a lot of fun! (:

Jennifer said...

Great post. I love the guys in YA. But, not only because they’re swoon worthy but because I find that so many have a lot of fantastic character development. Also love that there are a lot of nice guy’s in YA and that there are guys who totally break stereotypes (Adrian Ivashkov from VA and Bloodlines). My up-most favorite is Rhode Lewin though, from Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel. Oh my word, what a character! Selfless from page one, mature, intelligent, aware of his mistakes, non controlling.

I’m not tired of the love triangles in YA. I used to be really annoyed with them at first until I decided to look at them from a new angle. To me a love triangle represents the many life choices we have in life. Things are never just black and white. There are shades of gray and it’s not easy to choose what path to take. In YA, they usually tend to have a girl with two potential guy love interests, which she can’d decide upon and I love it because usually those guys tend to be so different from each other and they represent to me, in a symbolic way, the different roads and paths we are presented w/in life. You know?

I do have favorite love triangles and take teams. I love the Jace-Simon-Clary love triangle from City of Bones. Team Simon on that one. Also really like the Lenah-Justin-Rhode love triangle from Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel. Team Rhode on that one. I root for them because they are the quintessential nice guys who represent to me, what healthy love interests should be like.

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

Really love all the comments here. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels like a lot of relationships in the paranormal books are unhealthy. I wish more people would agree with that, though, since the books seem to be so popular.

Love triangles are seriously getting old. I don't really understand their purpose in most of the books I read. I'd so much rather read about the development of one real relationship throughout the novel.

Kat C @ Books and Sensibility said...

I love you for this post. I haven't read many of the popular YA so, I can't comment on everything you wrote about.

One disturbing trend in YA is how the love triangles usually end. Let's say you have the usual pretty-but-doesn't-know-girl and she has two guys; the brooding jerk who acts like an ass and then you have the nice guy who is always there. Who is the girl going to choose ? The guy who treats her like a jerk.

That infuriated me about City of Bones. Simon is Clary's best friend, known her for YEARS and she meets Jace and after a week of him calling her names and being rude she falls in love with him.

@Ashley I totally agree with you. I'd rather see one good relationship than a boring love triangle.

@Jennifer I like the idea of looking at love triangles in a different way, but I think for most publishing companies it's like what's better than one hot guy ? TWO !

Kat C @ Books and Sensibility said...

Hunger Games Spoilers:

Also, I love that scene in Mockingjay where Peeta and Gale are talking about Katniss and how she will pick whoever she can't survive without.

Gale said 'survive without' not 'live without' which I think parallels nicely with how at some point she says that's what she and Peeta did in the Hunger Games, 'they survived' they saved each other.

Although once again, Peeta character derailment made him a jerk so it fits into what I was saying above.

Caitllin said...

Alrighty, I'm going to be a bit controversial here, I think.

I am totally okay with books showing unhealthy relationships. I should say, not abusive either physically or emotionally, and still happy. But I'm okay with them being completely untrue to how a real relationship would be. I'm okay with the girl always choosing the bad boy. Again, as long as he isn't abusive.

This is fiction, and I generally assume that people who read are people of sense and maturity, even if they are teenagers. I could totally be wrong, but that's what I assume. Therefore, reading books with bad boys who, when the chips are down, would do anything for you is a fantasy. It's wish fulfillment.

You know? Maybe there's that one guy in this girls life that does treat her like crap, so she has little to nothing to do with him, but gosh darn is he nice to look at. Reading something like City of Bones, etc, is a good/healthy place to go with that fantasy. So, I don't see anything wrong with that.

It's sort of the same as why a lot of adult women read over the top romance books. Sure, the relationships aren't always the healthiest but they spark our imagination and take us away from our lives. This is, for the most part, harmless as long as you don't go looking for it in real life.

Now I know teenagers are supposed to be much more impressionable than these adult women..but...well, that just isn't the experience I've had. Women of all ages like to read (or watch, etc) about their fantasy guy, even if they wouldn't ever go for him in real life. Most teenagers (and adults) aren't idiots and they know the difference. As proven by this blog post. We all recognize the strange relationships and wonder at them. So, I say, whatever.

I would say writing a book where a guy is overly loving or overly good (like, past what a person of any gender would be), a "perfect" guy, as it were, is just as detrimental and most people know not to expect a person without flaws. But fantasizing about a person without flaws can be nice, and an escape.

All that being said, I really didn't like Hush, Hush and I've never read Fallen, so perhaps even I have my limits.

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