Males in young adult literature. It sounds like I’m about to write a dissertation for my college English professor. We all know them as the young men that enliven YA books as they steal the hearts of sensible young women—in literature and beyond. Just what is it about the YA guys that drive women—even those well out of their teen years—so wild?
It wasn’t until I developed my own YA crush(es) that I found my answer. See, growing up I was strictly a Huckleberry Finn kind of girl. Maybe it was his name, his rebellious behavior (smoking cigarettes with Tom Sawyer and what not), or his wild rafting adventure with a slave named Jim, but I was in love with Huckleberry Finn. Of course, that was a long time ago. I moved on to the cast of “90210” in middle school, movie stars like Ethan Hawke and Johnny Depp in high school, before finding myself falling in love with more attainable men like Prince Harry and James McAvoy in my 20’s.
But here’s the thing, the whole time I was reading YA books, particularly the Harry Potter series, and it didn’t hit me that I was hit by cupid’s arrow. I don’t know the sentence or the page number or even the book, yet I was stricken with a bad case of Weasley fever. Not just any old Weasley, mind you, but the twins, Fred and George. Their hijinks, general disregard for rules, and witty dialogue could turn this YA cynic into a teenage girl again. For me, Fred and George Weasley are not only my YA loves, they are the boyfriends I wish I had in high school. They are the guys I wish I’d known because YA guys are more protective, more sophisticated, and cleverer than any teenage guy I knew as a teenager. Suddenly, I understand what we love them.
Our YA guys always have time for us. We open the pages of our book or even the recesses of our minds and they are willing to do whatever the author or dreamer asks. They take young heroines on adventures through space and time—ones that we wish we were a part of once upon a time. Suddenly, we’re not mothers or sisters or wives or students, but we’re Hermione kissing Ron in jubilation in the midst of battle or Rhine holding hands with Gabe as they make their snowy escape or Katniss nursing Peeta back to health (unsure of the feelings held inside) as the world watches the game. For an instant, that guy—that fictional character—makes us feel alive or betrayed or amused or loved or hated. We hate them for betraying us, using us, cheating on us, and leaving us. But we always take them back, because like the leading ladies we emulate, we know that there is still good to be found even in the darkest betrayer.
Then the story ends or we close the book to answer a telephone call, rock a crying baby to sleep, start dinner, or a plethora of other things the world demands from us women. Yet we know that always lurking in the black and white pages of literature, there’s that special guy waiting for us. And the only way to make him truly breath is for us to open our imagination and love him. See, ladies, in order to exist, our YA guys need us as much as we need them.
And that’s why, I think, we love our YA guys so much.
Questions for discussion: Who was your first literary crush? Why do you think we like YA guys so much? Who is your current YA crush? And what makes him so crush-worthy?
Amy Sondova is a writer, dog lover, and blogger who runs a faith-meets-culture site called Backseat Writer (backseatwriter.com) and a book blog called Backseat Reader (backseatreader.net). Catch up with her on her blogs or on Twitter (@artsybookishgal.) She is a firm believer that Fred Weasley is not “dead” and has ripped page 637 out of her Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book.