Discussion: Male YA Love Interests

I’m not sure about you guys, but speaking in broad terms I find that most male love interests for female main characters fall into two categories: the cold, distant but hot jerk or the goofy best friend who’s always stuck by the MC.  Of course this is a huge generalization, but it really does seem to happen a lot in YA today, especially when it comes to my nemesis the love triangle.

Generalizations aside, what I want to talk about is this: what makes a good male love interest in YA?  (We’ll talk about female love interests later this month.)  Do you have a favourite love interest?  Why is he your favourite?

Personally, my current favourite is Po from Graceling.  He’s not a distant jerk but neither is he the goofy best friend either.  No, he’s a mature young man that doesn’t play around when he realizes that his love for Katsa is mutual.  Throughout the story he protects Katsa while realizing that she can also protect herself, decides what he wants out of life and treats Katsa like an equal partner in their relationship.  What a novel idea!

14 comments

  1. geekybooksnob

    Yes, novel indeed! I don’t read too many YA novels and the reason why is the few that I have fall into that very category you are talking about – stereotypical males as perceived through a young woman’s eyes. Is this really what women want in partner? Either cool and aloof or the non-threatening asexual best friend? It is too one dimensional for me and I don’t like that so many YA novels resort to these stereotypes. Young men are so much more complex and colourful than that. Thanks for bringing this up!

    • Carrie Slager

      As a woman, I can guarantee that this isn’t what all women (even young women and teenagers) want in a partner! I think a lot of women resent that stereotype as much as men do. Yes, I’ve met men like these stereotypes, but as you say the vast majority of young men are so much more complex than that.

    • Carrie Slager

      I know! What stunned me was that neither was ridiculously possessive as they usually are in YA. Katsa missed Po while she was away, but she didn’t crawl up into the fetal position and bawl. Po obviously missed Katsa while she was away, but he managed quite well without her. Young Adult novels seem to think that true love is clingy to the point of being possessive, but that’s far from the truth.

      • lipsyy

        YES! I hate that that obsessive/possessive trait has somehow become the only way to show true love. I find that in most YA novels the characters are only interested in getting it on with each other when there’s so much more to life. Makes me angry! Katsa and Po had their priorities right.

        • Carrie Slager

          “I find that in most YA novels the characters are only interested in getting it on with each other when there’s so much more to life.”

          This. A lot of couples in YA focus solely on the sexual aspect of their relationship while ignoring the fact that there has to be an emotional connection and that there’s more to relationships. When I actually examine a YA couple I think to myself: If you take out all of the steamy scenes, what do these people really have? Do they have an emotional connection? Do they share any interests? Do they even really communicate with each other?

          If the answer is no to any of these, this isn’t a real relationship. (Ignoring the whole opposites attract scenario with #2, but there should be something in common whether it’s interests, values, etc.)

  2. Sharon Stevenson

    That’s so true and one of the reasons I’m not keen on YA books. I like a flawed character, one who feels real and believable and often times characters in YA just seem to be clichéd stereotypes. I liked Derek from Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series because he seemed like a real person.

    • Carrie Slager

      So true. I’m sick of the ice boy stereotype because yes some people are like that, but no it’s not always so simple. Clichés like that are just frustrating, just like the cliché every girl wants a bad boy is. Derek wasn’t my favourite character ever, but I do agree that he actually has more depth than most seemingly jerk type characters.

  3. lindseysurratt

    Great post and so true! I feel like I always get one or the other, (Cassandra Clare is great example of this). Graceling has been on my wish list for a while now so it’s good to know that I can expect a decent hunkie! 😉

    Hmmm…my favorite male love interest would have to be…well, please don’t hold me too this as I would probably have to organize charts and powerpoints to determine a real answer but off the top of my head I would have to say Prince Char from Ella Enchanted. I hold some nostalgia for him as he was the first fictional character I fangirled over. I liked that he was forward with Ella and didn’t play any games and I guess what I REALLY liked about him was his fondness for sliding down stair rails! 🙂

    • Carrie Slager

      I really have to re-read Ella Enchanted. I read it a while back but don’t really remember the plot points very well. Although I do remember liking Prince Char, so maybe I’ll find a new love interest that actually has depth!

  4. graveyardsandgrasslands

    This is a conversation I have had many times. Thete is obviously something popular about the two types of love interest you have mentioned and indeed they are stock characters found across literary genres… (Mr Darcy… i’m looking at you).

    Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that we need more depth and scope to some of our male love interests (great choice with Po… I’m going to go with one I’ve just read- Park from Eleanor & Park) I think the stock characters which are so prolific have developed for a reason… i think what is attractive about these characters is this:

    The faithful best friend ( a la Ron Weasley?) is all about bringing deep caring to often wild or boisterous characters or it can be a way of adding long-burning passion to an ordinary life!

    The dark brooding bad boy is somehow unattainable making the final triumph of getting him all the sweeter. It is a tool for authors to heighten desperation and uncertainty in their protagonist… Could the love interest be a threat?

    • Carrie Slager

      You’re absolutely right when it comes to the faithful friend vs. dark brooding bad boy. Still, that doesn’t make it necessary to have those stock characters in every single love triangle. Although I suppose stock characters might be more attractive to teens and young people in general that haven’t encountered those specific characters a million times like you and I have as reviewers. 🙂

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