Not-So-Man Crushing on a Not-So-Monday
For most of my life, I have had crushes on boys and men in books (and some girls and women, too, if I'm being honest. Sup, Hermione.). I'm that kind of reader- I get emotionally attached easily. It happens in nearly every book I get my hands on. I just can't help it. But I'm starting to realize something about myself.
Many of the boys/men I have book-crushes on are problematic. And that bothers me. Do you need some examples? I can give you examples.
*There will be spoilers ahead.*
- Let me start with an easy one - Chaol Westfall. Don't know who that is? Here's the rundown - he was the original Captain of the Guard in the Throne of Glass series, until the end of book three (Heir of Fire). He is supposed to be stoic and brooding, which is how I read him, especially in the first two books. Then he and Celaena fall in love or whatever, and he sends her away, and then he TURNS INTO SOMEONE ELSE ENTIRELY. That's a different rant all together. But in any case, he was part of the reason I kept reading the series after the first book. It was so clear that he loved Celaena, even though he was possessive and awful at times, and that made me keep reading. Once he became whiny and awful (hello, Queen of Shadows), my crush shifted to effing Rowan Whitethorn, WHO I HATE BUT ALSO LOVE??? UGH. If you want to talk about possessive and terrible, we can start and end with Rowan. He BIT Celaena/Aelin in order to claim her. It's just. It's. It's... I don't know. And yet, the way he's written, I can feel his love for Aelin and I hate it but also adore it and I hate myself now.
- Let's move to dystopian YA for a second here. Can we talk about Alex in the Delirium trilogy? In the first book, he's played off as this dreamboat, and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. I swooned over him while I listened to the audiobook, and I mourned with Lena through most of Pandemonium when she thought he was dead. But HELLO??? He convinced her to leave her life, leave her family, risk EVERYTHING for him. THAT IS SO SELFISH. Why?? Because he was bored? Because he thought she was bored? That part is never explained. Sure, they fell in young love, and it led to a revolution (as tends to happen in dystopian YA), but the revolution was barely brewing in the first book. He was selfish, and he was awful, and yet I loved him. I still love him. When I think about Lena and Alex, I find myself smiling. WHY???
- Okay, let's try contemporary. I can think of two examples here. First, we have Jamie Watson in the Charlotte Holmes books. I love Jamie in the depths of my bones. He's our narrator, and he's sensitive and kind and he puts Charlotte's life ahead of his own on multiple occasions. I've talked about his redeeming qualities before. What's not to like? DUDE. Charlotte was RAPED. And he pushes her to her limits REPEATEDLY because he wants to be with her so badly. I still think that he's one of the more redeemable examples used here, but STILL. Just let her live, Jamie. Let her deal with her trauma. Let her BE. I want them to be together as much as the next person (have I mentioned that I'm going down with that ship? BECAUSE I'M GOING DOWN WITH THAT SHIP), but realistically, Charlotte has some sh*t to work through. And he has to let he do that.
- Last example, also from contemporary YA. CASH WARREN, amirite? Don't know who I'm talking about? For heaven's sake, read Done Dirt Cheap and thank me later. But anyway. Cash is the conscript in the motorcycle gang (swooning yet?), and he and main character Tourmaline Harris fall for each other almost immediately. Except the guys aren't supposed to talk to Tourmaline because she's the head's (or whatever you call the leader of a motorcycle gang - I'm too worked up to check) daughter. And yet, Cash doesn't care. He talks to her anyway. He touches her and baits her and she's falling hard. It all seems like a jolly good YA romance until you remember that she's barely 18, and he's 23, out of college and joining AN EFFING MOTORCYCLE GANG. There are other good things about Cash and their relationship - some of his lines are the most swoonworthy things I've ever read, and he's black and she's white, and that is actually talked about. Consent is talked about. Things are REAL. But that's still a heck of an age gap for someone barely out of high school. There are problems here.
I don't know how to fix this. I don't know how to adjust my brain to not fall for problematic fictional people. Maybe I can't. Maybe we're all wired like this, to accept some flaws or problems in favor of other redeeming qualities. Maybe being kind and loving and supportive are okay and can balance out the bad stuff. Maybe. I don't know. I don't know what to think about myself. I don't know if I can change.
For the sake of my writing, I hope I don't change too much. I purposely try to write flawed love interests, complicated characters and relationships. It would be one of the highest honors if I could see my characters' names on a list like this, because that means that I made a reader feel something so complex that they can't reconcile it in their heads. I want that someday.
Do you have any problematic book character crushes? I'm curious to know about them!