Why We Fall in Love with Boys in Books

I have a problem.

I fall in love too easily…that is, I fall in love too easily with fictional characters.

Let me tell you, a lifelong reader does not have it easy when it comes to actually liking guys in real life. Literature’s greatest love interests have won us over, most likely at an early age, and a girl never forgets her first love.

Ask any devoted reader whether she has a literary crush, and she will probably readily admit to having one. We have no shame in these admirations because, well, why should we? All of the character’s details are laid out in plain sight for us. Any flaws they may have are softened by the fact that they realize they have these qualities and they accept their partner trying to help them become better people. Plus, unless you’re like me and have serious issues picturing a character as separate from the actor who played him, you can basically cast your dream guy as your most beloved character.

I suppose that a lot of a fictional boy’s appeal is that the reader knows he will most likely undergo some kind of transformation – character growth – as the book continues. In real life, we don’t get this certainty. Sure, the cute guy in your class may have gotten a haircut or switched to using only a certain kind of pen, but does that mean they’ll suddenly become the ideal mate? Probably not.

Gilbert Blythe, from the Anne of Green Gables series, is my all-time favorite fictional guy. Although I had early exposure to Jonathan Crombie’s portrayal of him in the miniseries, Book Gilbert captured my heart around the age of twelve, and it’s been love ever since (and yes, I still picture Jonathan Crombie as him, why wouldn’t I?!).

Gilbert values his education, knows what he wants in life, accepts friendship before love with Anne, shows devout loyalty to her, and yet still gives her space to figure out who she is after she rejects his first marriage proposal. I recently saw a Tumblr post arguing that Gilbert had no character development over the course of the series, and I understand this point, because after the first four or five books his presence significantly decreases and he’s really just portrayed as the father / wise doctor figure. I suppose I interpret this “lack of growth” as confidence in who he is.

I’m also a sucker for pretty much any of the Weasley boys from Harry Potter (I guess I can’t count Oliver Wood if that just entailed the major crush on Sean Biggerstaff that all of the girls had, right?). I have particular soft spots for Ron’s dry humor, Percy’s nerdiness (I think that post-war him would be quite the catch once he got the high and mighty attitude knocked out of him), and the mystery yet irrefutable hotness that is the forgotten brother Charlie.

I haven’t read this book in ages, but Irene Hunt’s Up a Road Slowly was one of my favorites that I just reread constantly throughout middle school. I don’t remember why, but the character Danny really appealed to eleven-year-old me. I remember him being a teacher’s favorite yet very snarky (think Ron Weasley) when the main character Julie dates a self-obsessed guy. Plus, the book has a very Anne of Green Gables feel in that it’s a coming-of-age story with a love interest who’s always been there in the background, and I soaked up those stories as a kid.

Another impressionable fictional boy from my middle school reading years was Dexter from Sarah Dessen’s This Lullaby. Like with many books, I was probably a tad bit too young when I first read this in seventh or eighth grade, but the description of Dexter bringing Remy’s hand to his heart really stuck with me – and it’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this book, which I haven’t picked up in ages!

Then there are the YA love interests who are so vivid and attractive at the time of reading the book (or not), but then they all kinda fade into one blob as time goes by. I haven’t read too much YA lately, and I think that if I were to pick something up, I’d probably be insanely annoyed by the characters. It seems like by the time they’re deep into college, girls are less interested in YA guys and it’s men from more classic or universal literature that are the swoon-worthy ones.

What about you? What fictional guys are your favorite?

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