Thursday, July 26, 2012

Swoonworthy Male Characters in YA Novels

What keeps readers going back to the pages of a book? In the case of female readers it’s the hero. We’ve all read about “the hero’s journey” and all the trials he must face to succeed in his quest, but what about his sex appeal? What is it about them that makes the young girls’ (and sometimes old girls’) J hearts beat faster?

Today’s special blog guest is Becca Puglisi, one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with 75 different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion.

You can win a PDF Copy of the Emotional Thesaurus simply by:

1.   Following The Storyteller’s blog
2.   And leaving a comment.
A random program will select the winner on August 1st

Becca and Angela Ackerman have been touring blogs of children’s authors discussing random topics dealing with the theme of “The Top Five.”  The top five topic today at The Storyteller’s Scroll is Swoonworthy Heroes in YA Novels.

So I was pondering what Top 5 topic I wanted to profile and I started thinking about my favorite male characters in YA. So that got me thinking: what WOULD appeal to today’s readers, particularly girls? And it occurred to me that if you’re going to write a YA with any romance whatsoever, your male counterpart has to be totally swoonworthy.

But what does that mean? What characteristics make up this elusive trait? Let’s explore, shall we? Here are my top 5 swoonworthy characters in YA, in no particular order:

1.  Four, Divergent/Insurgent. Oh, Four. Talk about your strong, silent type. As Tris’s instructor, he’s sharp and physically impressive and has no problem taking charge. But on a personal level, he’s mysterious. He’s got secrets and is clearly haunted by something. And in a Dauntless world that’s quickly declining into chaos, he maintains a higher moral standard, longing for the best that his faction could be. All very appealing qualities.

2.  Kartik, A Great and Terrible Beauty. As a member of the Rakshana, it’s Kartik’s job to protect Gemma, and I’ll throw political correctness to the wind and state my opinion that, for the most part, girls like a guy who makes them feel safe. Another thing that makes Kartik attractive is the fact that you’re not sure at first if he’s just doing his duty or if he’s romantically interested in Gemma. Once again, a little mystery in a leading man goes a long way.

3.  Orlando Gardiner, Otherland. Ok, so the Otherland series isn’t YA, but Orlando’s a teen, and maybe the most compelling one I’ve read. He spends most of his day plugged into the Net as an über-strong barbarian playing a MMORPG. But he also has a secret (I’m seeing a theme here). In reality, he’s suffering from a degenerative disease that has aged him before his time. When things get dangerous on the net, he does everything he can to save himself and his friends despite his declining health. His courage and vulnerability and self-sacrifice make him one of my all-time favorite characters.

4.  Etienne St. Clair, Anna and the French Kiss. Etienne’s, in that effortless, messed-up-hair-but-don’t-care kind of way. There are a million of these characters in YA, but what makes him different is that he’s also kind and unassuming and not entirely sure of himself in certain situations. He’s different from most love interests because he’s the kind of guy we actually have a chance of running into at school or in a movie theater or at the mall. Accessibility is always attractive.

5.  Aragorn. Ok, okay, OKAY! So Aragorn isn’t a teen and The Lord of the Rings isn’t YA. But please. Self-doubt, a man with a destiny, charisma, the future king of the world of men, Middle Earth’s Ultimate Fighting Champion--all of this, and I can’t include Aragorn? Leaving him off of a list of swoonworthy characters is like trying to make cake without sugar, or having Mountain without the Dew. I mean, really. What’s the point?

So, for what it’s worth, here are a thirty-something’s thoughts on YA love interests. If you want to write a character that will appeal to girls, maybe start with some of the traits these guys share. But clearly, I’m no expert, so please, do chime in. What swoonworthy male YA characters have you read recently, and what makes them that way?

The Emotion Thesaurus is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords, and the PDF can be purchased directly from her blog.


  1. When I saw the title of this, I thought, Becca BETTER include Aragorn on her list!

    And you DID! Reason #739 as to why we are online besties!

    Oh Viggo, how I loved you as Aragorn. *swoons* *swoons again*

    Thanks for hosting Becca, Gayle!


  2. Love the list! My all time swoonworthy literary character is Ponyboy from The Outsiders. Tough, cute, and sensitive.

  3. Angela, I didn't want to incur your wrath by leaving the Studliest Stud Of All Time off the list.

    I do recall mooning quite a bit over Ponyboy as a kid. Though Sodapop was swoonworthy, too. Ok, pretty much the entire cast of The Outsiders...

  4. Feeling safe with a guy should never be overrated or subject to PC standards! Good list.

  5. I haven't read any YA recently, but when thinking about swoonworthy male characters, Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series comes to mind. I guess I love romances that start off a bit rocky, LOL. What I loved about Gilbert's character (at least when I was a teen) was his genuine kindness and interest in Anne as well as his smarts and good looks.

  6. Their names pretty swoons worthy to start with!
    Thanks for the post Becca and Gayle, and the chance to win a "show" book.

  7. Great post! . :)
    My swoonworthy guy is Adam from Shatter Me. I love the fact that he never gave up on finding Juliette. And while sitting in the dark room with her, - at first he was a total jerk but proved me wrong - the way he spoke to her. And Juliette's description "...six feet of gorgeous lean muscle, his profile strong and steady. The same arms that held my body are now holsters for lethal weapons" just had to quote that. I mean who wouldn't swoon at that image :D
    And if you thought he is super-gentle while strong, sensitive, protective and loving with Juliette, wait till you see him with his brother James!

    Oh btw, I have The Emotion Thesaraus Paperback, and I can't express how much I adore this book. Thanks Becca and Angela for such a great writing tool. :)

  8. I admit that when I got to Aragorn, I finally was on board with your selection of swoonworthy guys!
    I'd love a chance to win a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus, so here goes....

    Hmmm. Okay, I really liked Valek from Poison Study, by Maria Snyder. If that's a YA book, I'm clueless, but he's on my list as swoonworthy.

    Pick me to win Random Selector website!

    And keep the great posts coming!

  9. Thank you, Jan. I couldn't agree more.

    Elliah, I totally fell for Gilbert in high school. He's an alternate on my list.

    Cecelia, I loved Adam and Shatter Me, too. What an awesome description, without going into too much detail.

    Larsen, I'll have to check out Poison Study. The name along sounds interesting.

    Best of luck, everyone!

  10. Thanks Becca, for your wonderful blog post. Swoonworthy male characters! Perfect choice.

    Tomorrow one of our commenters will receive a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus, the greatest writer's tool out there. :)

  11. What about Jace and Will Herondale??????

    And Jem Carstairs from the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series.

    They surpass any other male character in swoonworthiness

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