Why do all books starring a teenage girl also have to feature some hot man candy for her to get with? There might be an interesting societal discussion to be had there, but I wonder more why the guys in YA books are there at all. Some of them are truly terrible. And all of them are straight white guys. This list looks at those hunks and determines whether they are worth anything or if anyone should even date them at all.
For this list, I’ve pulled solely from books I’ve read. As it stands, here’s a ranking of YA love interests, from the best to the most terrible (in my most esteemed and highly unbiased* opinion):
- Will Parry (from the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman)
There’s a lot of reasons to love Will—he’s fiercely loyal and protective of his mother. He had to grow up too young, which could have turned him into a jackass, but only further sharpened his strong moral compass. If all that wasn’t enough, he wields a knife that can cut through universes. This easily puts him on top. (Full disclosure: when I was 13, I wanted Will to be my boyfriend.)
- Park (from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell)
Park earns points for his unabashed love of all geeky things—which anyone on this site can relate to—and his complete dedication to what he feels. His relationship with Eleanor starts as a friendship. They bond over the stuff they love rather than how hot she is. Not to mention, he’s willing to go all out to get her out of a terrible situation. Even if you wouldn’t want to date Park, you’d want him to be your best friend.
- Peeta (from the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins)
Some things about Peeta are pretty sucky—his unshakeable love for Katniss is tiresome and he has no right to judge her for faking their romance in book one. But he makes up for his faults in other ways. He knows how to work a crowd to perfection and reads and analyzes people well. Ultimately, he tries to be honest with Katniss and not expect more from her in return. By the end of the trilogy, I appreciate that his schoolboy crush reaches a place of maturity.
- Augustus Waters (from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)
There’s no denying that Augustus Waters is one smooth son of a bitch. Like most of John Green’s characters, he’s a silver-tongued teen, and I find his charm overall effective. Ignoring the health issues, I just don’t know if I’d want to date a guy with some of his complexes. The grand gesture is sweet sometimes, but can you imagine putting up with it for years? He’d grand- gesture you out of affording your rent.
- Maxon (from the Selection series by Kiera Cass)
I have to give some props to Maxon. He’s earnest and attempts to view all the girls in the Selection fairly. He definitely comes from a place of privilege, but he listens to America when she explains how shitty the system is and then tries to rectify it. At times, he talks like he stepped out of a Jane Austen novel (with half the wit) and his relationship with America drags on too long, but his heart’s in the right place.
- Four/Tobias (from the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Ross)
There are worse people than Four. He’s pretty cool. I didn’t find his legendary status for only having four fears that impressive, and his whole backstory feels like a contrived sob story rather than real character development. Mostly, he loses sexy points in the later books as his relationship with Tris grows stale. He has tattoos, I guess, if you like that sort of thing.
- Jacob (from the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer)
Books one and two Jacob would be higher on the list. He’s approximately 12,000 times better than Edward, but he ultimately succumbs to the horrible. Like when he forces a kiss on Bella and thinks it’s funny when she punches him afterward and nearly breaks her hand. Or how he and Edward discuss Jacob taking Bella home on the weekends and giving her “puppies” (barf). Thanks for becoming a possessive douche, Jacob. You broke my heart.
- Gale (from the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins)
I can’t stand Gale (even if he is a very cute boy). He whines about Katniss’s romance with Peeta, ignoring her severe emotional trauma. After Peeta is rescued from unspeakable torture at the hands of the Capitol, he pouts because he knows Katniss will never pick him. Yes, he actually makes someone else’s torture about himself. I can appreciate his hatred of the Capitol, but sinking to their level seriously cuts into his hunk factor. Sorry, Gale. What you could have been.
- Aspen (from the Selection series by Kiera Cass)
Aspen is one of the most terrible love interests ever set to paper. Not for one second did I root for him. He’s a suck-ass boyfriend who makes America feel awful about herself. He rejects money she painstakingly saved for their future because he has to be the one to support her. Ugh. Then he breaks up with her for her own good, and shows up again for the sole purpose of creating drama. You suck, Aspen.
- Edward (from the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer)
There have been numerous essays on the internet expounding on why Edward is terrible, so I won’t waste a lot of time doing it here. He controls Bella, guilts her, refuses to have sex with her, and is generally a horrible person who wants his girlfriend to behave exactly the way he thinks she should. Basically, he’s entirely abusive. And he gets away with it. What an asshole.
*The rankings on this list are wildly biased.
Image of Katniss and Peeta, Gale via Lionsgate Entertainment. Image of Hazel and Augustus via Twentieth Century Fox. Image of Tris and Four, Jacob via Fanpop (1)(2). Image of Edward and Bella via Summit Entertainment.