Friday, August 23, 2013

Then and Now: My Feelings on Bad Boys in YA Lit

Then and Now is an occasional feature on Christina Reads YA in which I pick a topic or a book and discuss how my feelings for/thoughts on that have changed for whatever reason. Many thanks to the readers who helped me think of this feature!

To frame this discussion... here is my experience of one YA book (that shall remain unnamed) which has a "bad" boy as the primary love interest:
***he is generally referred to as such by various members of the publishing industry

Then: Huh, I've never read about bad boys before. I've never met one before. Danger, huh? That's sexy. He knows everything about her already too? He's reading her that well? Wow, they have good chemistry. Wow.

Now: You called that chemistry? He's obviously a CREEP. How does he know about her trust issues? It doesn't come off as sexy. Christina, WHAT. WHUT.

Then: Oooh, I like how their legs are flush, like their bodies are in sync. Also a lot sexual innuendos. Interesting how that scene went from suspicion to fear to defeat to trust and sweetness.

Now: He cornered her in a parking garage! He's stalking her! This is meant to show his dangerous side - that she doesn't fully trust him - and you LIKED that scene?

Then: Future-Christina, you are just no fun! I lent this book to some friends and even reread some choice scenes. If you don't like it, why do you own the entire series?

Now: I.have.no.idea.

Then: Clearly.

Now: Look, Then-self, just answer me this: what makes a bad boy "bad?" The first thing that pops to my mind is the stereotypical image of a guy clad in leather driving a motorcycle and smoking a cigar. Obviously this is not the case, just a superficial pop culture (???) inspired reading, but it did make me wonder. Who do you consider a bad boy?

Is it the guy who you never should date? --> In which case, why is he being sexualized? Why is he actually presented as a viable romantic interest?

Is it the guy who you would never bring home to your mother? --> Well, why don't you want to? Because she'll disapprove or because he treats you like crap? Because you're not on the best terms with your mother?

Is it the guy who has a tortured past? --> Why does having drama in his past equate to being bad? Is it because of something he did?

Is it the guy who exudes a dangerous vibe? --> Is he a danger to you? What makes him dangerous? Is it something that's not "bad" but stupid?

I'm totally analyzing this too much, but I honestly no longer know what constitutes a "bad" boy. YA especially has a broad way of referring to them. From players to smokers to assassins to warriors to stalkers to rock-stars to paranormal creatures, bad boys could theoretically be in every single YA book.

Potential "Bad" Boys that I've Liked to Read about:

-Not from YA, but Barrons from the Fever series --> Barrons is kind of a jerk in the beginning. And during some other parts, but he redeems himself as an interest to Mac by protecting her from various threats and later supporting her in tough times. Yet, even though I wrote that he "redeems" himself, he doesn't pretend to be an anti-hero. He's killed and he has few regrets... but here's a question with regard to him:  are "bad" boys usually alpha males then?

-The Darkling from Shadow and Bone --> Before S&B, I'd never read about a villain seducing the heroine into complaisance, but I tell you: it made for quite a compelling read. Still I don't ship him and Alina; when he hasn't shown that he's really and truly capable of love, I probably should not root for him to get with the heroine. He's probably the closest example I can think of for a "bad" boy in nearly all aspects without actually being a true love interest.

-Sapphire from Bitterblue --> I didn't quite like him as much as Cashore's other love interests, but I'm thinking that he probably qualifies for the category more than the prince and commander of the army. A thief, a fighter, a truth seeker, a spy - he doesn't quite have one particular label, but am I to consider him "bad" because of his thievery or because of his later actions in the book?

-Raffe from Angelfall / Akiva from Daughter of Smoke and Bone / Warden from The Bone Season (Not YA) --> Do they count if they're all otherworldly warriors with tortured pasts and a high death count?

-Adrian Ivashkov from the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series --> Does he still count as a bad boy if he's not actually a player and stops drinking and smoking for Sydney?

-Adam from If I Stay and Where She Went --> He's an angsty rock-star ... but do his angst and rock-star status cancel his touching decision in IIS in terms of whether he's a "bad" boy?

I suppose my main problem now with bad boys is that if they're presented as viable love interests, they've got to do something good that contradicts whatever reputation they have (the "badness" so to speak). Do we forget about that then? Some guys, like the Darkling, are also clearly sexualized but are so not going to end up with the heroine (probably past redemption now). So are they the prime "bad" boys -- if they're not true love interests? PLEASE HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT SO I'LL STOP ANALYZING THIS OVER AND OVER. My "Then" self clearly had an easier time of this.

Who do you consider a "bad" boy? Who meets that category for you and who are your favorites? Do "bad" boys ever make for good love interests or okay characters? How have your feelings on "bad" boys changed over time?

42 comments:

  1. "if they're presented as viable love interests, they've got to do something good that contradicts whatever reputation they have"

    This is something I think I can agree with! The Darkling example is a good one. I've always liked how well fleshed and intriguing his character is, but I've never really been comfortable with the idea of him being a love interest. I don't think I ever will be now, either. I know a lot of people find Mal boring or plain in comparison, but he seems like the more logical choice to me. In some ways, I feel the same way about the Adam/Juliette/Warner situation in Tahereh Mafi's books. I guess my definition of a bad boy is a little less complicated than it might be for some people. A character who isn't always innocent or sweet and generally has a cocky or confident quality about him (but isn't necessarily an awful person) is a bad boy to me, and the sort of bad boy that could become a love interest. Someone like the Darkling is a villain.



    Though in all honesty, I've started finding the very term 'bad boy' a little off-putting now for some reason. It's not something that really bothered me a couple of years ago, but I rarely use it these days.

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  2. Oh, I do love this topic--because yes, I am an unapologetic fan of the book bad boy. I think you defined him pretty well-he's all of those things: the guy you shouldn't date/bring home to mom; the guy with the tortured past; the guy who oozes the danger vibe. I think the last is my personal fave:)


    I like the bad boys who are really despicable in most regards-questionable ethics, arrogant and pompous, self serving, all of it. Venturing close to villain tendencies. But yeah--I do think to be an appropriate love interest they gotta have some redemptive qualities. Warner from Sam's comment is a fave of mine. And yeah- I think your remark that the Darkling is past redemption at this point is right on--he's more villain territory now (so we now have Sturmhond on the scene who is a more suitable bad boy/ possible love interest.)


    I think bad boys are so popular because they feed into the whole concept of the girl who wants to SAVE the boy from himself. Don't get me wrong--I don't think that is a healthy thing at all--and I think part of growing up and maturing is realizing some people can't be saved and that's a STUPID reason to be involved with a guy who is clearly BAD news. It's a lesson i know I had to learn as a teen.


    But I still think that whole "my love for him will change his wicked ways" thing is a major reason that bad boys are so popular in fiction. And I'll always love them, especially, rock star bad boys (SWOON), I think they are so much fun to read. Plus I *may* have married a reformed bad boy, so it's a topic close to my heart:)


    I love bad girl protag's too! in fact I wrote a discussion post on them last year:)

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  3. Why do you ask such tough questions? Why do you think we have the answers? You're WRONG!


    Okay, well. What do I consider a bad boy? I guess I always just thought of it as someone who is breaking the law. Like, every character should have some good or bad in them because no one is perfect. But, those characters who do things that are against the law like stalking, murder, assault, etc are what I've always considered truly "bad". Even if it's not something that's necessarily defined as "bad" in the book, if it's defined as bad now then I think of it as that. Of course, I think motive also has to come into play as well. Someone can do those bad things and be "bad", but for good reasons. Is that person still bad? Well, that's less clear. They're still doing bad things, but they have a good heart and I'm not sure how that balances out. But for me, the simple definition has always sort of been rule-breakers.



    My favorite is definitely the Darkling. Hands down, no competition. Based off S&S, I no longer think he's as realistic of a character , but I love how bad he is. And not because he does mean things. But, it comes with a certain sort of confidence. I feel like a lot of baddies in YA have this confidence, and just like in real life I think people are attracted to confidence and people who are self-sure (to an extent). I also love the type of baddies who really do confuse you. Who really do make you wonder if they're good or bad. The Darkling did that for me for Shadow and Bone, so he totally has my heart. And really, I don't mind shipping him with Alina. He can do whatever he wants ;)



    So yeah. I'm not sure if my view has changed much over the years. I am more aware of how these baddies can actually be creeps and how I shouldn't approve of their relationships... but um... I still like them. I guess I'm just a bad person ;)

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  4. Jenny @ Supernatural SnarkAugust 23, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    I'm of course such a huge fan of bad boys, and you've listed some of my very favorites. BARRONS CHRISTINA! He and Ryodan I think will always top that list. They can be such a-holes, but yet they do small things - a tiny gesture or offhand comment - that somehow magically erases the a-holeness from a chapter or so before. KMM is a genius like that:)


    I don't think when a bad boy shows a softer or more vulnerable side it necessarily changes him from bad to something else. I think "bad" for me in this context is someone who walks a fine line between darkness and light, and likely favors darkness, but while they may cross that line on occasion, they never truly get stuck on the other side. There's always something that gives us hope for their redemption, but I don't think redemption robs them of the darkness they carry, it just keeps them walking that line:)

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  5. For me, the "bad boy" is just anyone who is not the nice guy. Which means a lot of times he doesn't treat the heroine very well, he may not be good for her because of issues, and/or he's somewhat dangerous (taking risks, etc). This is different from The Darkling, who I would categorize more as the villain (although a complex and complicated one, which I think is great, cardboard villains with no depth are no good). So a bad boy under my definition would be Jace from Mortal Instruments, for example. He was obnoxious, cocky, said a lot of snarky things, took a lot of risks. Contrast him with Simon, the nice guy best friend.


    Some authors have done things a bit differently. Jennifer Armentrout, in the Covenant series, created a character who is a bad boy who is a potential love interest, who becomes a villain (I won't say who to spoil it for anyone). And then the Shatter Me series has Warner, a villain, maybe becoming a bad boy who may be redeemable and potentially win the girl? Usually the typical bad boy is not really bad, he's just misunderstand (Will from Infernal Devices).


    That's my two cents! ~Pam

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  6. BARRONS!! YUMMERS!! haha. I loved that series so hard! And I think Adrian counts as a bad boy - they don't have to be jerkwads to count. I also love Adam and Raffe (though I've forgotten almost everything from Angelfall!). I love bad boys but they do have to have a good heart. I don't go for jerks or those who are controlling and treat women like crap. So it all depends. One I especially hated is the dude from Of Poseidon. I seriously do not get how people can like him at all - barf!!

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  7. Excellent questions, Christina! I feel like every genre in YA has different types of bad guys. Usually, anybody that has a bad reputation (like getting into fights or being known as a “ladies man”), treats the main female character horribly, or is the opposite of the female character (ideals/actions/whatever) is considered a “bad” boy. Though, it’s not limited to those qualities/actions.

    My feelings on “bad” boys have changed over time. I’ve grown more aware of the implications of their actions and such. I find myself extremely weary whenever the male character is blatantly introduced as a “bad” boy because I dislike all the stereotypical actions/temperament/family life that is said about them. I totally agree with your main problem with “bad” boys. They have to have a spark of goodness for all the shit things (excuse my language) that he’s done or they have to own up to their behaviors. Sometimes, I can’t forget about all the horrible stuff, especially if the boy wants to kill someone (ie. Patch in Hush, Hush). That is nonredeemable in my eyes. I am frustrated when people use the excuse “he’s just misunderstood” for the “bad” boy’s situation because that’s such a cliché and a copout.

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  8. I am one of the people who finds Mal a tad bit boring, but i think he works decently enough with Alina, and honestly, he's the best, most stable choice (though I'd be quite pleased if Alina becomes a martyr in the last book; not because I dislike her, but because that'd stir the pot a little). If The Darkling were a true romantic interest, competing with Mal, what does that say? It's okay to be a tyrant and kill people if you believe you're doing good? Lol, like Warner and all the people he's killed. Warner's shown himself a bit more capable of love with regard to the heroine, I think, but still past redemption.


    Interesting that you mention arrogance! It seems to be a common quality that people are agreeing on. And very interesting that you're putting villain next to the bad boy line! I never thought of it as a fine line to walk between the two, but that's quite true, though I do think that some clearly fall in the villainous category but are still portrayed as if they're suitable love interests.


    Me too. Even in this post, it's quite clear that everyone has a different idea of what a bad boy is, so why not just describe what it is that he does and let other readers interpret? Plus, I think bad boy is very off-putting as a term because it sets up the corollary of the 'good girl' and it's disconcerting to continue to return to the same gender stereotypes and normative double standards.

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  9. It's a very fine line to walk between villain and redemptive anti-hero. Some openly acknowledge their villainous qualities (Barrons of the Fever series, I believe, tells the heroine not to look for redemption in him; only see what he is and make her decision-- and I think that works), but I think those that are presented with a lot of "despicable" qualities and don't acknowledge how close they walk along that line -- well, that's a dangerous thing in itself. Then it almost acts as a normalizing factor.

    I think you're spot on about why they're so popular, and I do think that internal struggles like wanting to improve yourself make for interesting conflict. I also do agree that "part of growing up and maturing is realizing some people can't be saved and that's a STUPID reason to be involved with a guy who is clearly BAD news." And I also think that reformed bad boys can be well done and fun to read about - like Wes from The Truth About Forever - without having the aspect of let-me-change-his-wicked-ways, but sometimes I worry that it's just so normalized in YA - that there aren't enough books about learning that lesson. Or enough books that walk the line toward anti-hero or making the "good" romantic interest less "boring."

    Ooh! I want to read this bad girl protagonist discussion post. *Reminder to self: remember to look through Heather's posts...*

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  10. Lol. There are no answers. I will never claim to have them, but it's nice to know that people are stumbling along with me ;).


    I love your reasoning. It reminds me of how differently all of us are thinking about the concept! So if bad boys are law-breakers, does that mean that they're capable of redemption? Your definition works well with moral ambiguity - because as you said, it depends on the motive, which the law can take into account; depends on the perspective--are we the jury or the judge, or perhaps both; and depends on the actual crime or bad thing perpetuated. But the line for you, it sounds like, is that they MUST have a good heart to remain a bad boy? (Does the Darkling really count then?)


    Oooh, wait, you don't think he's as realistic of a character? I don't think we hit on that point in our S&S/S&B discussion :O. Yes! I agree. I think that the confusion, when well-done, can play into the wanting-to-fix stereotype and moral ambiguity situations that are what will make ALL the difference as to the complexity and allure of a character. The confidence part, I'd say, depends. It's true that I think we're more attracted to that, but sometimes it seems like ALL YA must include the snarky, arrogant love interest and no no no no. At the same time, you and another blogger have commented on how that may be one of the main qualities of any "bad" boy, so you're probably picking up on something.


    lol. Psh, it's fiction. Sometimes we read about the shouldn't-happen situations because they're just that in life, so whatever. The Darkling makes for an interesting character to read about, so I'm not going to judge.

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  11. Heh, I was considering between Barrons and Ryodan, but I didn't think we'd seen enough of the latter yet. KMM is a good example for the villainous romantic interests who openly acknowledge that they are such, and I don't know why, but for me that makes it better. Plus, they do or say some things that as you said, help with their other, less palatable aspects.

    That's another good definition! It's nice to think of it in terms of a moral struggle between dark and light... and if they do get stuck on the other side, I'd hope that they're no longer portrayed as the viable love interest but the villain. Like the difference in the portrayal of the Darkling between Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm. Also: "I don't think redemption robs them of the darkness they carry, it just keeps them walking that line." True - I think, though, that sometimes that struggle gets lost, and it's not always clear what redemption means in the context either.

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  12. Ahh, the reason why I put the Darkling as a bad boy was mostly for the first book and us as readers not quite sure of whether he's capable of redemption, but obviously that changes later.


    It's interesting that you're taking the bad boy in relation to the other good characters; I've read some books where, arguably, there are no characters of the Simon type. What to do then? Are they all bad or are they all villains? When does straddling the line between not-treating-heroine-well and being villainous become too much?


    Hmmm. I still think that Warner, even though he was shown to love Juliette, fits under villain rather than bad boy. Is loving the heroine enough to push a character away from the villain category?


    I do also like the misunderstood aspect - I have heard a few refer to bad boys as those with tortured pasts, and I feel like that part of your definition fits well with those other aspects.

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  13. GISELLE. YOU CAN'T FORGET ANGELFALL - I won't let you!!! lol. I reviewed it this past Monday and love that book and would organize a read-along or reread in October if that was a way of making sure you didn't forget it :D.

    "I don't go for jerks or those who are controlling and treat women like crap." <-- Barrons does this on occasion too, but there's something about him that cancels out those beginning moments? I don't know. I'm still debating. I definitely find him compelling, but I still don't know how to relate his transformation over the series to this discussion. Well, maybe there's just no simple answer.

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  14. Huh, I'd never heard of: "the opposite of the female character (ideals/actions/whatever)" for the typical bad boy. Maybe as the boy not right for the main character, but I haven't heard of that aspect in regards to the bad boys created from your first two considerations.

    "I find myself extremely weary whenever the male character is blatantly introduced as a “bad” boy because I dislike all the stereotypical actions/temperament/family life that is said about them." Me too. Especially in the various genres for YA - it seems like there is an abundance of male characters presented in this way, and with plenty of arrogance to match.

    " I am frustrated when people use the excuse “he’s just misunderstood” for the “bad” boy’s situation because that’s such a cliché and a copout." Me too. Also because I think that we don't offer the same luxury to "bad" female characters. I think the misunderstood aspect often relates to the tortured past part, but in terms of the guy's actions, I don't think it presents as a viable explanation.

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  15. Great post Christina. I think most 'bad boys' in YA and NA are not really bad boys just boys struggling with past issues and there is more good than bad in them. If not we would all hate them and run away as fast as we could. Like Akiva, I could never call him a bad boy, I know he kills but he is a product of his environment. I haven't read Hush Hush or Beautiful Disaster or lots of the other books you mention above which I know have 'bad boys' so I can't comment on those.
    To me a bad boy isn't someone who struggles, it is someone who has no respect for their girlfriend or potential girl friend. So if they are possessive, controlling, etc then they won't be stealing my heart!

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  16. Fantastic discussion Christina! I'm not one for bad boys but your questions really got me thinking. I consider a bad boy someone who engages in typical bad behaviour and has that sort of I-don't-care attitude and thinks he's cooler than everyone else haha. I don't like bad boys unfortunately so usually in books I don't really take notice of them which is probably why I can only remember one haha and that is the Darkling from Shadow and Bone. I think what gave the Darkling an edge over the others was that he was so mysterious and we hardly knew anything about him and that just made me more eager to find out more about him.


    I guess bad boys do make for good characters, it all really depends on how the author writes them. I definitely don't think bad boys need to become 'good' or show their 'softer side' if they want to become viable love interests. It is a way to show they're more dimensional but yet I think it's possible for them to become more realistic characters while still keeping that bad boy persona.

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  17. Hmmm, what do I consider a bad boy? OK, let's get one thing straight, I like bad boys. It's just that what makes a bad boy in my book is often different than the author's take on it. Usually, a bad boy is one who smokes, is covered in tattoos, and has a knack for being an utter ass.

    I don't like those.

    The bad boys I like are the villains. They're not necessary rude, but they're evil, you know? They're conflicted, immoral, and complicated. I like a character that I can hold a thousand different debates over without getting bored. Like Draco Malfoy, The Darkling, or Jamie Lannister.

    I'd choose a complex character over a charming one any day ;)

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  18. Hahah, it made me cringe a little to associate Akiva with bad boy. It sounds like for you, bad boy is well past the anti-hero struggles for redemption, and onto the villainous territory. Someone who definitely should not be considered a love interest. So it's a good thing that most of the characters that are considered bad boys by others are not actually them to you!

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  19. Ahh! That attitude has been mentioned by several other bloggers. (But what is bad behavior? Just no care for the consequences or a law breaker or :D? I've just loved seeing how everyone has defined that.) I wonder what about arrogance automatically has us thinking of the bad boy. Me too - I'm not their biggest fan anymore. I did briefly like them, but now I find most a tad bit too much. The Darkling's mysteriousness gave him an up, I figured, especially when it came to whether he was redeemable...

    " I definitely don't think bad boys need to become 'good' or show their 'softer side' if they want to become viable love interests." Really? But if they have a don't-care attitude, doesn't that mean they'll do something that makes them a jerk more often than not? If they don't care for consequences, why should we root for them? Won't they eventually drive most people away, especially if they're high and mighty about their actions?

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  20. Me neither! I think the difference between your bad boy definition and other authorly takes is the stereotype vs. someone who feels more concrete. I am a definite fan of those villains (is Jaime still a villain though? After Season 3? Draco, I'd say yes because he kept flipping sides out of convenience lol and the Darkling definitely turned villain in the second book, but I don't know if I'd agree with Jaime :D.). I definitely would choose a complex character over a charming one - sometimes charm feels recycled, but a complex character? The moral grounds are usually different.


    You might want to try out Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The love interest is someone, based on what you've said, who I could see you liking.

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  21. BARRONS.....YES YES YES YESSS!!! I absolutely consider him a bad boy. He's not only hot, and an ass in the beginning but he also has his protective, "sweet" moments. That in my book is what/who a bad boy should be like. Someone who isn't afraid to cause trouble but will do whatever it takes to protect or help those they love. There is just something really attractive about that quality. lol ;p Adrian is definitely another one I would consider as a bad boy. He has all those qualities I mentioned plus can't forget the sarcasm. This dudes holds sarcasm as a freakin weapon! *snicker* XD Bad boys make for, I think, very fun and enjoyable and easily relatable characters as well as hot and swoon worthy love interests. I feel you can never go wrong with a bad boy character unless the guy treats the woman like a doormat...then he's not a bad boy, he's a douchebag. I don't think my feelings really have changed...I just simply love them, and am always adding someone new to my book boyfriend list! lol ;p What can I say...I'm a freak and I have a serious bad boy addiction.

    I LOVE LOVE LOOOVE THIS POST!!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    *New Follower*

    ~ Maida
    Literary Love Affair

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  22. I guess bad behaviour would have to be smoking, drugs, breaking the law etc. But it might not necessarily also mean breaking the law, like you said it could be just not caring about the consequences. There's so many ways to interpret what is a bad boy haha! I think when it comes to defining good guys and bad boys, we always draw a line and we're more inclined to believe that good guys are more humble and bad boys are arrogant. So it really comes down to light and dark, black and white.


    I was thinking along the lines of showing their intentions behind why they're bad? What motivates them to act this way? Building over their bad boy behaviour and adding more layers to make it all the more complicated. Or would that be showing their softer side? Wow this really got me thinking, never thought bad boys were so much more sophisticated than I expected.

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  23. Hi Christina! I'm so glad I found your blog. :)
    My old self and my present self are having the same conversation as your "Then" and "Now" selves. Sometimes I wonder how could I ever find that psycho attractive!
    I think that what we know as a "bad boy" is a guy who doesn't follow the rules and challenges you to break said rules with him. Either it is by killing, being a villain, a rebel or a boy with a troubled past... Somehow he challenges what old society calls "proper, right and traditional", and because of that he is instantly labeled as "bad". He doesn't really need to do bad things, you know? He just needs to be this free spirit who doesn't care about rules and consequences and doesn't give a damn about what people think. That guy who parents my say "he's bad news, stay away from him", because he's really not that balanced/reliable/follow the crowd person. To me this is the basic structure of what people started calling a "bad boy" some decades ago. Then he can have tons of layers and evolve to have a someone really evil and twisted, but basically, I think that's it. "Bad Boys" are not creepy obsessive stalkers. Those are really psycho killers in the making and we just keep mixing the two together.

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  24. Oh my goodness, Christina, this post is fab! I loved your exchange between your Then self and your Now self because I can totally relate! My Then self went along with it fine and thought it was all romantic and dreamy. Now I'm analytical of it all and wondering what the MC sees in him. Basically, I won't retouch everything you said, but I totally agree on everything! Especially about not bringing him home to meet the mother. Is it because the mother is bad, the boy is not worthy enough, the MC is too chicken, or because she knows deep down that the boy is NOT the good-bad type. Sigh. If you find any coherent answers, let me know ;)

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  25. Wow. Okay, so you bring up so many great questions, most of which I hadn't even thought of before. Such a great post! It is true that there doesn't seem to be much of a consensus for what makes a bad boy, now that you bring it up. I mean, I've always thought of them not so much as tortured souls (who get their own category in my mind), but the really jerky, douche-y, stalkerish kind of character that seems to show up so often in paranormal romances. So I have a very particular definition of them in my mind, but other people would definitely say differently. And I guess you would be right about The Darkling - he, out of them all, is a true "bad" boy. It's funny, because I definitely love The Darkling's character and do find him attractive, even though he is all evil and stuff. But the other characters I consider bad boys, the ones that aren't actually evil, I have no interest in. Like, none. Not that I ship The Darkling and Alina or anything, but my interest in him is infinitely more than in those stalkerish creepos.

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  26. Were you talking about Patch? Haha. When I read your then and now discussion with yourself, Patch conjured up in my head by your description. Heh. I don't consider Akiva to be a bad boy. I think he's noble, but been through a lot. I think he is still a good soul in the form of a hard shell after the torture he went through. I haven't met Darkling yet, but I have heard that he is the definition of a bad boy and Warner from Shatter Me series as well. It's funny how some bad boys can make me swoon a bit while others (Warner) make me want to puke. I don't really know what defines a bad boy, but I do think there is a difference between good and bad when it comes to guys. For instance, let's take Ash and Puck from The Iron Fey series. You can tell right off the bat that they're different on the outside: one of them is all summery, warm, fun and sweet; the other is cold, icey, careless about everyone around him and cares about only one thing--victory, he is ruthless and unforgiving. Whether they're redeemable or not depends on the story and the characteristics of a guy. Yes, Ash comes to his senses and learns to love again, but it takes time and often the growth to a decent man is portrayed by the help of a girl. I think love can save people, but it isn't like that in every case and often these bad guys remain bad guys until they're six feet under. One guy who is badboy to his core is Caleb from The Dark Duet (? I believe that's the series.) You should read some spoilery reviews because I don't think it's for you, I still haven't read them, but I own the books for some reason and have skimmed them through out of curiosity. I think that by the end of the series he redeemed himself on some level, but didn't receive full redemption in our eyes and not in his eyes either. I think more often than not bad boys are concidered the ones who smell of danger and excitement and I often hate how cliché they are when they ride motorcycles, smoke and have a shattered past. Well.. by that standard half of the world's population should be bad boys/bad girls lol. I don't know if they're exactly bad boys, but some of my favorites are Colt and Adrian by Nyrae Dawn, Lucas by Tammara Webber, Josh by Katja Millay (YOU NEED TO MEET HIM!!!!!!). There are more, but these are the ones that come to mind first. I don't know if they qualify as bad boys, but they are definitely not your sweet, ordinary, non-complex, bright and sunny guys. I think this category has such a huge variety of qualities that everyone needs to define themselves. I think that most people consider guys bad boys when they use fists to solve problems rather than common sense and are impulsive and yeah, basically alpha-male. Ok, this topic, my comment and everything is so confusing. I'm better off leaving this topi at that and I hope that some of these comments were helpful to solve this difficult matetr for you :D lol

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  27. Very true! You know, you got me thinking. I'd love to see if anyone could pull off an arrogant good guy, and a humble bad guy, or if people would immediately disregard those associations just because of how they're typically perceived.


    Oooh, yeah the intentions part always confuses me about the bad boy portrayal. On one hand, most of it seems to be of the tortured type, the I'm-broken-and-need-help... yet there can be some really poignant inner struggles.


    However, for me, for the bad boy, I feel like you have to show the softer side. Even if they're tortured and you understand why the act the way they do, it's hard for me personally to root for that character, especially if it's all "an excuse" to be a jerk.

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  28. Lol Adrian's sarcasm. There are few other sarcastic love interests who can be as flippant as he is and still have it remain genuine. And Barrons. I wonder if there's an equivalent for him in YA who I could actually like - I wonder if, in a younger love interest, I might not be as accepting of his steely behavior.

    "I feel you can never go wrong with a bad boy character unless the guy treats the woman like a doormat...then he's not a bad boy, he's a douchebag." <-- Yes. That's always the key, right? When does it end up going too far? And even while some people don't think it's too far, others will inevitably disagree...

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  29. "Sometimes I wonder how could I ever find that psycho attractive!" Right?? And sometimes I worry whether if I've actually gotten past that stage. While I reread is it because I now recognize how awful it can be or is it a product of who I am?

    "Somehow he challenges what old society calls "proper, right and traditional", and because of that he is instantly labeled as "bad". He doesn't really need to do bad things, you know?" <-- I like this point. I like that because it fits in really nicely with society today and our emphasis on being different from our peers, and how rule-breaking is one of the ways some people distinguish themselves from others...

    "That guy who parents my say "he's bad news, stay away from him", because he's really not that balanced/reliable/follow the crowd person." <-- Interesting, so he's more of a function of the traditional vs. modern? And that's where the rule-breaking, "bad" influence comes in...

    ""Bad Boys" are not creepy obsessive stalkers. Those are really psycho killers in the making and we just keep mixing the two together." <-- VERY TRUE. You may have helped me reconcile my feelings for them.

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  30. Lol. Well, one commenter suggested that the bad boy is not synonymous with the psycho killer, though for some reason we keep mixing them in (and I wonder why? Do we not realize what's going on? Why is danger considered sexy?). And she also suggested that the bad boy is a product of traditional versus modern values - that the bad boy might be someone who breaks rules to be different, and that's why they're not necessarily always liked - they're not too reliable, etc. And really, there are so many different definitions of bad boy, it's quite ridiculous. In this post. In the Reddit forum where this post was submitted. Some people have suggested the prevalence of the bad boy is because of that urge for girls to "fix" the bad boy, reform him, etc. There's no one coherent answer - only whatever you choose, it seems :).

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  31. "the really jerky, douche-y, stalkerish kind of character that seems to show up so often in paranormal romances." <-- Basically, the guy who I was writing about in the Then section? :D

    "It's funny, because I definitely love The Darkling's character and do find him attractive, even though he is all evil and stuff. But the other characters I consider bad boys, the ones that aren't actually evil, I have no interest in." <-- That could be because it's recognized that the Darkling is actually considered evil, like a villain, and that he's got more complex of motivations than usual for villains, whereas those other dudes get sexualized and stay put as actual love interests. And there's just no interest to be in a stalker/jerk/douche/etc.

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  32. The book remains unnamed - you may have your theories, Siiri, but my lips are sealed :P.

    "I think he is still a good soul in the form of a hard shell after the torture he went through." <-- Very good description. For all the different definitions of bad boy, I think that no one said the tortured past qualified, though bad boys could indeed have them.

    "It's funny how some bad boys can make me swoon a bit while others (Warner) make me want to puke." <-- Very true. There is a fine line between villain and bad boy and it's different for every reader, which I think is contributing to all the different definitions of bad boy.

    " I think more often than not bad boys are concidered the ones who smell of danger and excitement" <-- I would like to smell like this ;). Colt and Adrian, eh? Read your review not too long ago :). And heee, I saw Sea of Tranquility in your email rec - I probably will get to meet him.

    "they are definitely not your sweet, ordinary, non-complex, bright and sunny guys." <-- Hey! I hope you're not implying the sweet, bright and sunny guys can't be complex, Ms. Siiri :P!

    " think that most people consider guys bad boys when they use fists to solve problems rather than common sense and are impulsive and yeah, basically alpha-male." <--- I have seen this considered as a bad boy. Isn't Edward supposed to be the bad boy of Twilight too for that reason? Maybe the alpha-male is just what we generally associate with the other qualities like arrogance, etc.

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  33. Yes, yes and yes!!! :) I mean, there's not a definite answer for this question, but these points are the result of a very long discussion between my two selves. So, that's how I distinguish bad boys from psychos and stalkers nowadays. Who know's how I'll distinguish them in the future! Just hope that I don't start mixing them again. :)

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  34. I love this feature! And such a great point. What exactly is a bad boy? My stereotype is "Guy smoking a cigarette next to the schoolyard wall, clad in black and a studded belt, maybe a leather jacket. Switchblade in the pocket, scorn in his eyes. Lives on the wrong side of the tracks and plays by his own rules." Bad boys have an element of danger. They're unpredictable. They break all the rules you wish you could, and aren't afraid to get in a little trouble. They shun the normal. I don't think bad boys necessarily HAVE to be tortured, but I think that trend started to give them a more vulnerable, relatable side. And, in some cases, to excuse them for being dicks. I think there are good bad boys who are multifaceted and capable of great good and great evil (Damon Salvatore, Lestat), but there are way too many who are pretty stalkery and abusive. I consider Naji from The Assassin's Curse to be a "good" bad boy, because he's a tortured assassin with a lot of danger surrounding him, but he's also sweet, caring, and capable of loyalty and love. Of course, maybe he's not what most would consider a bad boy.

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  36. Also, I don't think it's just you and I, though. I think it's something I see happen a lot in paranormal romance, especially in YA, and I don't quite understand that correlation...

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  37. Your stereotype is way more detailed than mine o.O. It's so detailed, it's almost not even a stereotype anymore and actually someone I'd believe in :P.


    Ahh, so you're going for the definition again of law-breaker / traditional v. modern values and how the bad boy is sort of a product of rebelling against societal norms.


    True, I think the tortured part does make them softer and within that, a framework forms for their excuses. Oh, if this happened to him when he was young, maybe I can show him that things could be better. Oh, he's just lashing out because of X and X from the past. Blah.


    Yes. Damon Salvatore is A GREAT EXAMPLE - why didn't I think of him?? There are definitely too many stalkery types, and sometimes I wonder why it seems to crop up more frequently in paranormal books...


    Ooooh. I still need to read my copy of Assassin's Curse, but Naji's also got your backing? Wow. I REALLY REALLY need to get on that then o.O.

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  38. Lauren, Love is not a triangleAugust 28, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    What an insightful discussion! Sorry I'm late to discovering it. BAD BOYS is a big YA trope, and you're right. It's fairly meaningless anymore. It kind of reminds me of the "mysterious guy" who also is a big YA trope. Often they go together, but not always. I think there are clearly several types of guys that typically fall under the 'bad boy' name.


    1) A lot of times these "Bad Boys" in YA are more misunderstood guys with tattoos and rough pasts. Often that translates to a poor, broken home. But not always. They have rumors circulating about them, but usually when they meet the heroine, they're on the upswing. (Adam from WHERE SHE WENT is like this, but it's clear that his destructive behavior is mostly b/c of his broken relationship with Mia. When they get back together he's all fixed!).


    2) Then there's the warrior types. I love Barrons and Warden, but they seem more older bad-ass types, than 'bad boy'. You can't tell if they're good or bad at first, but once you get to know them, you realize that they protect their own with a single minded passion that is hot as hell (especially Barrons. WHEW).


    3) The DARLKING, Sebastian from TMI, and I'd argue Warner - who I know many will disagree with, are truly nefarious and don't have your best interest in mind. You can't TRUST them, and they might betray you if it's in their best interest. Those are the guys, that I can't understand why girls go for. It's like the type of people who fall for incarcerated murderers, which apparently happens a lot. Those guys I'd say are VILLAINS.


    I'd put Akiva and Raffe in the bad-ass warrior category. I wouldn't say they were "bad boys." Akiva, especially has such a broken soul.


    Anyway, I think it's much easier to spot the "nice" guy in YA. Cricket Bell. Jase from My Life Next Door, Will from Slammed. Stephen from Shades of London. For some reason, to me they DO stand out as opposites to the others. They're also not mysterious (well maybe Stephen is a little). As fun as it is to read about "bad boys," in real life, I'd much rather have a nice one.


    I'm not sure where I was going with all that, but I think that maybe we need to come up with new phrases, because bad boy doesn't mean much anymore. I think above, I listed out bad-ass, villains, and I'm not sure how to label the mis-understood, tattooed contemp YA boy?


    BUT whatever the case, clearly the moniker "Bad Boy" sells so people are going to keep going with it.


    You are AWESOME for thinking about this topic! Now I will be obsessing too.

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  39. Better late than never! Truthfully the bad boy bothers me less than the mysterious guy trope - and they do go together a lot of the times, but for me there's such few positive associations with "the mysterious, mercurial" X and X mentioned in synopses.

    1) Misunderstood - I have seen a few people refer to this, but I have sometimes wondered whether this acts as an excuse for certain behaviors. I like Adam from Where She Went, but I'm not sure I'm a fan of the idea of him being fixed just because of Mia.

    2) You're right. I shouldn't have included the warrior types - they're a separate class from the bad boys, more of the bad-ass/kick-ass type than anything else. Huh, I'd never have never thought to put Warden on the same level as Barrons, but that makes so much sense.

    3) Warner doesn't really have her best interest in mind either. He's in love with Juliette, but they disagree a lot about how to user her power. I agree that when they straddle the line between anti-hero and villain, they fall more on the villain line. I don't understand Sebastian because he's never really presented as love interest material. The Darkling I understand as a sort of fantasy thing, but he's probably on the same level of Warner for that. Another blogger had said there's probably a lot of love for the villains because sometimes they seem like psychopaths, and psychopaths can actually be very charming.

    CRICKET BELL. He will always be my top literary crush. Jase. Ah. They do stand out as opposites because they're not really as PRESENT. People like the idea of breaking rules, and generally it's not the nice guy doing just that. Or that's what I'd assume. And that's why I assume they sell. It's the fantasy.

    Bad boy seems now to me to be a distasteful term, quite honestly. There are a lot of definitions but it's also very correlated with the opposite - the 'good' girl and all these gender double standards that I hate.

    Misunderstood, tattooed contemporary YA guy. I suppose that would just become a bad boy? Thank YOU, Lauren. You came up with much better ways of categorizing them than I did :).

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  40. I love this discussion! I think my favorite bad boy would have to be Damon Salvatore (from the tv show, not the books). He's the ultimate bad boy because he could easily redeem himself, but he doesn't really want to. Not unless he HAS to, ya know? I think that's probably what constitutes a bad boy for me: the ability to be redeemed but the lack of desire to do so. Also, he must be snarky and somewhat lethal, or at least a little dangerous and reckless. It's weird, 'cause I consider Raffe kind of bad boy material, but not Akiva. They have similar roles in their stories, but Raffe acts the part, whereas Akiva does not. He has the potential, though. I can't wait to see how everything pans out in Dreams of Gods & Monsters. Great post!

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  41. YESSS Damon is such a good bad boy. He's actually one I root for, and I don't tend to root for bad boys. That's a really good definition! I've been teetering between the "walks the line between anti-hero and villain" and some others, but I think I like yours best. Yours comes with that sort of arrogance that others were pointing out, and the snark and lethality too. You're right! Raffe has the bad boy swagger while Akiva rocks the tortured past in such a way that feels more... genuine in his "soul" vs. the more upfront aspects of Raffe. I wonder if Raffe will become more like Akiva over the course of series - oh gosh, can't wait to see your review of World After :O - but yes! Also can't wait to see what will happen with Akiva in Dreams of Gods and Monsters. :)

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