Boys, Boys, Boys

Good morning!

So I’ve been reading a lot again lately (as much a symptom of my current stance toward work/life/problems/future as my passion for reading in general) and I have been paying close attention to the male leads.

Three of my favorite lately have been Sam (SHIVER), Jace (CITY OF BONES), and Peeta (HUNGER GAMES).

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the simple, pretty type *on occasion*, but I really prefer those love interests with a bit more than deep brown eyes and pouty lips and a smoldering stare. “More?” you say, aghast. I know, I’m greedy, but I read a book recently that bothered me, and it’s a very popular book, and so I thought I’d bring it up.

EVERMORE.

One of my largest complaints with EVERMORE was that the narrator spent SO much time reinforcing Damen’s hotness. As in almost EVERY scene, the narrator launches into a description of how good looking he is, reminds herself. Now, as I said, I’m all for a good-looking boy, but if that’s the main thread meant to connect the reader, and the only one holding the MC to the male, then I begin to take issue. I got pretty fed up, at times, because it seemed like Damen’s character, indeed the entire romance/sexual tension, was based on his pretty eyes. It felt almost lazy, that the author seemed to think that was enough to sustain the tension (I want to bring up this example because I mentioned it to friends, and they had NOT noticed this reliance on physical appearance). But it’s not just this particular author. The pretty, quiet types are everywhere, just smiling and looking at their heroine with deep eyes and loaded looks, and PRESTO, romance.

That said, the three boys I mentioned possess a wonderful and refreshing level of complexity. In these three, I thought that character played as much of a role as their ranking on the smolder scale.

With Peeta, I feel in love (and I’m sure many people did too) with his goodness. Unlike most male leads, he doesn’t have many moments where his morality is compromised in favor of his nether regions. There’s just so much to love about him as a character, and almost *none* of it is physical.

Jace, on the other hand, is a character whose appearance *constantly* comes up, especially at his own ostensible narcissism, but it’s that outward arrogance, paired with a much more serious personality, and a complicated circumstance, that makes him engaging. Of course I found myself lusting a bit, but it was his wit as much as his golden eyes.

Lastly, Sam, the wolf from SHIVER, was a really great balance, for me. That wild animal quality, from his exotic eyes to his struggle for control, certainly rank him high on the smolder scale, but he is such a complex and fascinating person, that he never once became a stiff prop for the female lead to swoon against, never became just a body (it helps of course, that half the book is his).

That, I think, is what I’m looking for, more and more, is the male lead with his own set of problems. I want them to be a foil for the female lead, not just something nice to look at.

(I will fully admit that there have been a few times when I have been completely satisfied by a shallow (or shallowly portrayed) love interest, particularly *when* I feel that the rest of the story and/or characters are strong and engaging enough to compensate.)

What are YOUR thoughts? What makes a male lead successful? Can they get by on looks (and perhaps an insinuated depth) alone? Or do you want/demand more of them?

***

On a side note, my mom came into the kitchen and saw me reading CITY OF BONES.

Mom: Is that good?
Me: (engrossed) Yep.
Mom: Is it young adult?
Me: (still engrossed) Yep.
Mom: Are ALL the best stories these days YA?
Me: Yep.

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7 thoughts on “Boys, Boys, Boys

  1. I liked EVERMORE, thought the story was interesting, but I had the same issue. I didn’t really get what there was about him for her other than just looks. I suppose when I was a teen, it was mostly about looks at first.
    But yeah, as a reader, I want a little more than that to fall in love myself.

  2. daisywhitney says:

    Well Blaze in FAR FROM YOU was quite hot — complex, smoldering, played music, you weren’t quite sure if he was smart, but he was totally respectful of the main character.
    I admit to having a mega soft spot for Will in PERFECT YOU. He was funny, a great kisser and also man enough — at 15 — to admit why he had a reputation.
    I don’t agree on the assessment of Damen. I think he was unequivocally dreamy, but he was also smart, mysterious, romantic, adventuresome. Maybe not everyone’s type, but he was more than just the eyes.
    As for what I want in a male lead — I want him to be smart, funny and not a coddler! like, ahem, you know who!!

  3. veschwab says:

    I think my issue with Damen was that, BECAUSE of the constant affirmations of his attractiveness, I didn’t pay as much attention to the emotional side. It felt to me like the author didn’t feel his emotional side (which I admit is there but, to me, felt generic) would be enough to lure teen girls. Whereas I felt the three guys I cited would have been successful without physical description.
    So I guess for me it was an underlying dependency on the physical for Damen. That said, I used him BECAUSE I knew others really loved him, and it’s far more interesting to me to see divergent feelings than use an example where I know I’m going to find fairly universal agreement.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I just finished Hunger Games last night so I can now officially weigh in and say Peeta = swoon. And not in the cheesy smoldering way. But he — and Katniss of course — are amazing characters. They both have so much core strength and willpower and morality to them. Peeta was strong, but you also saw how he needed Kat’s help. He wasn’t afraid to open up to her, even in these horrific circumstances they were in. He was smart and kind and selfless. Of course, there wasn’t a single character in that book — even a minor one — that wasn’t well-developed! What a tour de force!

  5. daisywhitney says:

    Doh! That was me above with Peeta swoon comment. Forgot to log in to this fascist live journal system!

  6. veschwab says:

    Haha luckily I knew you were in the middle of reading HG, and my remarkable powers of deduction allowed me to assume it was you :p

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