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.
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?