I’m a sucker for broken boys in books, especially in Young and New Adult titles. I’d call them “tortured heroes,” but that feels a little off to me. Broken boys are struggling, like tortured heroes, but they’re not quite adult enough, or not quite mature enough, to make us completely aggravated with them. Sure, we get frustrated, but their occasional bouts of self-pity, brooding, and assholery are, most times, understandable. They’re young, and trying to find their place in the world. Even when you guess they must be acting out, you suspect there’s a very good reason.
I set out to write a broken boy in my YA book Escape from Eden. Gabriel’s broken, but covers his pain with sardonic quips and *sigh* a bad attitude. Why did I want to write a broken boy? Because they compel me to keep reading, keep discovering what makes them who they are and why they act as they do.
Here they are, in no particular order, some of my favorite Broken Boys in YA and NA:
• Jace in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare: Abused, arrogant, angsty.
“I don't want to be a man,“ said Jace. ”I want to be an angst-ridden teenager who can't confront his own inner demons and takes it out verbally on other people instead.“ —Jace, City of Ashes• We should probably add Will Herondale to this list, too, from Clare’s Infernal Devices series, because talk about broken! Cursed not to love! Drawn to a Downworlder! Trying everything to save his best friend from certain death! Love. Love. Love.
• Josh in The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay: Emancipated, somewhat nihilistic teen woodworker who interacts with practically no one. Meow-za!
• Four in Divergent by Veronica Roth: He’s called Four for a reason, folks. A reason that makes him all mysterious and—yum—broken.
“I’m not sadistic.” [Four] doesn’t yell. I wish he would yell. It would scare me me less. He leans his face close to mine… And says, “If I wanted to hurt you, Don’t you think I would have done that already?”—Four, Divergent• Warner in the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi: You think he’s psycho, but is he psycho or broken? And, in book 2 we meet his dad, who seems to be a full-fledged jackhole. (I’m team Warner, obvi).
• Gabriel and Nick in Brigid Kemmerer’s Elemental Series (Hot twins!): One thinks that everyone blames him for his parents’ death (and deals with it by being an arrogant ass), the other is harboring a secret. (Did I mention Hot? And Twins?)
She glanced between him and Gabriel. “You do his homework?”• Lucas in Easy by Tammara Webber: Tattooed, artistic, mysterious bad-boy. And he’s all glance-y. Which means plenty o’ charged eye contact between our heroine and Lucas! Oh, and he’s got a secret, too.
“Just the math. It’s a miracle he can count to ten.”
“I can count to one.” Gabriel gave him the finger.
• Lazar in the Otherkin series by Nina Berry: A whack-a-doodle dad + isolated, strict upbringing + tortured soul + needs love = broken boy hotness personified.
“Pain wrote lines on his face, but he made it and stood, swaying. He was a murdering bastard, but he had guts. With his high cheekbones, broad shoulders, and tousled blond hair, he looked like a bloody, vengeful angel. Only his eyes gave away the poison inside.” About Lazar, Otherkin• All three Fuentes Brothers in the Perfect Chemistry novels by Simone Elkeles. That’s right. I said ALL THREE!
“Makin' mistakes ain't a crime, you know. What's the use of having a reputation if you can't ruin it every now and then?”—Alex, Perfect Chemistry• Matt and Finn (more brothers!) in Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park: One is awkward and nerdy, the other hot and perfect. Both broken, one well-beyond repair, the other still able to be saved by Julie, our fair heroine.
“I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else. It's the way I take them OFF that makes me better than you.”—Finn, Flat-Out Love• Sam in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater: Uh, yeah. I mean, damn. If your parents did what his parents did you him, you’d be pretty broken, too.
• Daemon in Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux series: Hot and arrogant? YES! Alien? DING, DING! Total douche? Maybe not entirely. Humans are dangerous to him and his family? Yeah-ya. Is there so much sexual tension in this series you can bounce a coin off it? Oh damn, yes.
”You jerk.“• Travis in Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire: Anyone who acts like that—jackassiness and all—has to have some issues lurking behind his eyes. Right?
Grinning, he backed down the steps. ”I'll see you at noon, Kitten.“
”I hate you,“ I hissed.
”The feeling's mutual.“ He glanced over his shoulder. ”Twenty bucks says you wear a one-piece swimsuit.“—Daemon, Obsidian
• The Darkling in Leigh Bardugo’s The Grisha series: I like to think he’s not totally evil. *squeezes eyes shut* *crosses fingers* *repeats to self, He’s not evil, he’s not evil, he’s not evil.*
“The problem with wanting,” he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, "is that it makes us weak.” —The Darkling, Shadow and Bone• Henry in the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen: Not your typical party boy from 1899. He falls in love with the wrong girl while he’s forced to be with another girl he can’t stand (She’s totally evil, BTW).
“You love her,” Teddy observed quietly.
Henry replied with an uncharacteristic lack of irony: “Yes.”
Teddy’s eyes shifted to the plaster interlacing that decorated the ceiling in curlicues. “Lord, you never make anything easy, do you.”
“No.”—Rumors, Anna Godbersen
Help me with my list! What broken boys in YA and NA books do you love?