Females in YA: Part 4 Boys

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on August 27, 2013 in Anecdote, Books, Elixir Bound, Females in YA, Writing |

So far we’ve talked about my experience growing up a female, females in my writing, females in current YA, and even a guest post from a guy about females. Could there be anything left to this discussion? Of course…let’s talk about boys!

“Huh?” you might be asking. “What do boys have to do with females in YA?” And to that I say, “It’s about how teen girls in books are looking at boys that interests me.” (And then you promptly tell your screen you’re sick of reading about females in YA and go check out that video of Miley Cyrus at the VMAs…I’m so not giving you a link to that garbage here!)

I am so, so, so tired of reading books where the girl POV character first sees the boy (who will inevitably be the love interest) and talks about how hot he is. His purposefully messy but sexy hair. The way he walked into a room with a strut that said, “I’m hot and I know it.” His piercing green eyes that took in her curves.

Girls, is that really that first thing you think about when describing a guy? How hot he is? (This is the point where I frantically go back into Elixir Bound and check how Katora first describes Hirsten…and blow a sigh of relief to see the first thing she thinks about–though with a blush when his name is mentioned–is his work ethic. Though, she does comment on his gorgeous eyelashes quickly after that!)

And maybe it’s just me, but when I first meet a guy (even in my days when I wasn’t married), I don’t immediately assess his hotness. Sure there are those guys you see and are like, “Whoa! He’s a hottie!” But then are just boys you meet. Maybe they have a nice smile or they say something that interests you, and that’s what you notice about them. Not how awesome he might look naked.

I’m not saying looks don’t matter, especially with first impressions, but every guy worth meeting, dating, or loving isn’t going to be drop-dead-gorgeous hot. I can tell you from experience, it’s often not the hottest (in that superficial meaning of what makes a person attractive) boy who is going to make the best boyfriend.

And one of the best things about falling in love with someone is finding them more attractive as you fall more deeply in love with them. So even if the hottest guy on the planet (for argument’s sake let’s say Ryan Gosling) wanted to take you out, you’d say no because you already have the most perfect guy for you, and he’s way hotter than any other guy in the world because of that!

I’m not sure I even remember the first time I saw my husband (we met working in a hardware store while we were in high school). I had a boyfriend at the time, so I wasn’t looking at every boy in a is-he-a-potential-boyfriend way. But once I got to know him (and was single), seeing him from across the store did give my heart a thump. And, yes, I did think he was a hottie (and still do)! But I didn’t fall in love with him for his looks (well, maybe a little because I was envious of his gorgeous, long eyelashes!).

What are some books that you think have memorable first descriptions of boy characters?

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  • That was very refreshing! When I was in high school, it was mostly looks. All that changed when I got to university. It became more about does-he-make-me-laugh and is he a go-getter. Looks helped, but I was way more interested in what was inside. One of the things I’ve always looked for in a man is how he treats animals. Says a lot.

    • Thanks, Suzanne! That would be a great way to introduce a boy character and not focus on his looks: have the girl character see him doing something like being nice to an animal. Great way to show his character too!

  • Meradeth says:

    Oh, this is SOOO true! And something I tried explaining to a friend of mine the other day who is my age and still doesn’t understand this (go figure…). Though, I’ll admit, I’ve done the totally-hot first impression thing though in several books 🙂

    • I’m not saying the hot-guy intro isn’t a legitimate way to introduce a hot-guy character…it can totally work in some ways. But I’ve just gotten so burnt out on it. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much (is that possible?)!

  • Carrie M says:

    Thanks for a great series of blog posts, and this one in particular. While I grew up loving, and still love, fairy tales, I find myself disappointed by princesses falling for the first pretty face they meet. With thoughtful writers like yourself, we can model more apt reasons for people to develop attraction and commonality.

    • Thanks for reading, Carrie! Glad our enjoying the series…it’s been a fun one to write, and has spawned more posts than I originally thought it would. Oh, I’m so with you on the princess falling for the first pretty face. One reason I’ve been dying to do a retelling of The Little Mermaid with a deeper love story than the one portrayed in the Disney version.

  • Mirka Breen says:

    The “hot” thing (=sexually alluring) is something we borrowed from men. Part of the legacy of liberation involves less than insightful mimicking.
    Since I know from the best authority on self that this is not the way it ever worked for me, I’m afraid I haven’t resonated much to this sentiment in a character.

    • I never thought of it as being borrowed from men, Mirka. Very intriguing idea. I agree the whole hot-guy attraction doesn’t resonate with me…there’s so much more than looks for me when I’ve fallen in love. In fact, I often find myself unattracted to a guy when he’s so obviously in love with his own good looks.

  • Kai says:

    I’ve done the ‘holy smokes he’s good looking’ first impression in my books, but that’s because I do enjoy reading it in other books. It makes me giggle and blush and that’s FUN! That being said, I’m also writing a ‘certain’ story in which the opening scene is of the guy doing something generous for a kid – we find out later he’s cute. And another where the guy’s strength and fierceness actually scares the girl off.

    For the record, I first saw my husband sitting in an interview room at work. I walked past the room all casually then broke into a run and went and scanned his application in the front office. I didn’t fall in love with him for an entire YEAR after that, but I was attracted to him immediately.

    Fun series, Katie.

    • I think I’m just looking for more variety in YA when being introduced to a boy character. It can’t always be about his looks, right? Glad to see other writers are using different techniques as well.

      Cute story about the first time your saw your husband…thanks for sharing, Kai! And glad you’re enjoying the series. 🙂

  • Marva says:

    In my Witches of Galdorheim series, the “love” interest boy happens to be one of a set of troll triplets. My female MC first pities him because he’s so ugly, but never treats him disrepectfully. She begins to fall for him while he’s in his troll form (he’s a changeling). She decides looks mean nothing about whether you like a person or not.

    One reviewer specifically mentioned she loved that the boy wasn’t the typical ‘hawt’ guy the MC gets all goose bumpy over.

    There’s a fairytale tradition of the less-than-gorgeous guy getting the girl. Try Beauty and the Beast or The Princess and the Frog.

    • Very cool about your love interest being ugly, Marva! This is used in other tales as well (Shrek immediately comes to mind for me). Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  • Interesting points. Since my pulished novel is from a boy’s POV I didn’t have those issues, because, of course, boys go for hotness big time. That said, a boy, especially an adolescent boy who has such feelings for the first time, may be a bit overwhelmed by them and not realise the extent to which they’re influencing is perception. And this was something I did try to get across.

    However, previous unpublished efforts of mine, and the current sci-fi I’m working on (in parallel to a sequel to The Master’s Book) are mostly from a girl’s POV so I have to be careful.

    In my experience, while the feeling “yeah, I wouldn’t throw him or her out of the bed” is almost everyday (even when one is already hitched), what the French call the coup de foudre (love at first sight, or “last of lightning” – and, by the way, there’s a beautiful French movie by that title)is rare. So I have most of my characters discovery of their feelings as a kind of a slow burn. And, of course, I haven’t even got into gay relationships yet, although they do play a small part in my sci-fi story.

    • I think the most important thing to consider when introducing a character (male or female) is to give it thought. As a writer, I like to ask myself questions about how I’m introducing the character through another character’s eyes. Is this an accurate (or purposefully misleading) view of the new character? Is it told in a way that is authentic to the POV character, using the details that character would use? Is it unique or does it fall into the cliches of new character intros (i.e. the hot-guy intro!)?

      Philip, clearly you’ve been doing this. I think that’s all we can ask of ourselves as writers. Push beyond the easy and familiar and step into new, often uncomfortable, territory.

  • Ok, I will totally admit I check out looks. It’s what you see first. But I have been known to be attracted to someone whom I didn’t think “hot” at first based on personality.

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a funny guy. 😉

  • Love this post, Katie. I’m sure I will be paying attention to that girl/guy first encounter in the next book I pick up. And I love that in Elixir Bound what your character admires first is his work ethic. Makes me want to bump this up on my TBR list actually 😉

  • Jimena says:

    I totally agree about YA being saturated with super-handsome guys. It’s so much more meaningful when the connection is deeper than that. Plus, what’s so great about homogeneously perfect-looking guys? Bring on the adorable quirks!

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