Girls love bad boys—but we love troubled boys so much better don’t we?
Literary Fiction does troubled teenage boys better than anyone else, and we get an abundance of them from one novel to another, thank heavens. He of the mysterious glare, of the icy silences and brooding mind. He of the misunderstood angst and non-conformist line of thought. He of the swoon-worthy sentences. He of cool aloofness and introspective rebellions . Who’s rocking your top ten list of favorites? Here’s mine!
10. James Sveck, Someday this Pain will be Useful to You (Peter Cameron)
I’m gonna be honest: I picked up this book because the title had me seething in envy (How could I not have possibly thought of that myself?! )Anyway, the title has been a very apt interlude to the brooding situation of 18-year old James, an incoming freshman at Brown. You’ve got the usual dysfunctional family tropes on top of what I would like to coin as teenage identity crisis: the time in your life when you’re standing between the threshold of bidding childhood farewell and saying hi to growing up. James is an embodiment of reluctance and that all-too familiar sensation of hesitation and not quite wanting to let go just yet.
9. Simon, Exchange (Paul Magrs)
Exchange is a little quiet book about 16-year old Simon, an orphan who comes to live with his grandparents’ bungalow. He’s that introspective kid with a voracious appetite for books I have easily identified with—but while we know that precociousness and addiction to reading is the ultimate epitome of cool for us readers, we know too well that this is so totally the opposite in literarylandia: Simon is bullied in school and is usually ganged up on by the group of kids whose main purpose in life is to beat other kids. I liked Simon because his love for books has been memorable to me. The plot is admittedly centered on mundane everydays but that only meant there’s a lot of room for his thoughts and views about the world in general, and these, I find really fascinating. He’s that boy who’s had too much of life too early, the boy who tenderly yet secretly grieves inside himself, the boy just struggling to get by the daily agonies of being a teenager. And boy, don’t we all feel that way all the time too?
8. Kafka Tamura, Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami)
Kafka is not your average teenage runaway; like every character in a Murakami novel, he has an air of mystery around him, and he is on a mission. Kafka is a thinker, and his mind alone will take you to a journey of a series of highs and lows. Granted, sometimes I get the feeling that he thinks too much for a teenager, but I guess he’s really just this intellectual kid too wise beyond his years. The profoundness of his thoughts would slowly reveal his many-layered identity, and while sometimes the psychology of things can be so complex and caught-up, at the end of it all, Kafka is still a boy—emotional and very, very vulnerable to hurt.
7. Augustus Waters, The Fault in our Stars (John Green)
17-year old Augustus, or Gus, as his lady-love Hazel calls him, is not exactly a troubled boy, but gaaaah I just really want him to be on the list because 1.) He’s just as wounded 2.) His mind runs deep and he’s brave enough to say his opinions and feelings out loud 3.)He’s a hopeless romantic 4.) I am madly in love with him. Gus is the boy whose life lessons centered on pain—both physical and emotional. He’s had his share of life-and-death experiences and had been through both sides of grieving and loss. You can probably argue that Augustus Waters is likelier to be classified under boy-next-door types, but he’s so much more than that. And here I quote him, “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” You’ve got to respect a guy who can still love as wholeheartedly as he does, even though every situation tells him otherwise. Plus, he’s got exceptional, high-class talent on flirting!
6. Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling)
Haha, thought I’d pick the boy-who-lived aka the Chosen One, don’t you? Harry’s troubled enough alright, but he’s also got the hero complex to make up for it. Plus, basically everyone else on his support network and friendship bandwagon, so my eyes eventually shifted to something else outside of the picture: the tragedy of a boy whose upbringing has made him dependent and a coward, masking his insecurities in the terrible facade of being overly-manipulative and grumpy. Yes, I am totally romanticizing his inferiority complex here, but I have always thought of Draco as a misunderstood character who just never really had the chance to become the good guy he can potentially be.
5. Raymond Marks, The Wrong Boy
Raymond is probably the one most in-touch with his childhood on the list because he narrates his life from his early memories as a kid until his current dilemmas as a teenager. Nevertheless, you will find his innocence in life such a breath of fresh air and I guarantee you will definitely be charmed. He’s a hardcore fanboy of The Smiths, which is clear from the get-go because the novel is in form of letters written for his ultimate icon and inspiration, Morrissey. Raymond is funny and heartbreaking all at once, and every page of this book is thought-provoking. Trust me, he is sooo not the Wrong Boy.
4. Will, First French Kiss and other Traumas (Adam Bagdasarian)
The book does not follow a linear timeline and is a string of short stories that weaves back and forth through the many years of Will, growing up as a boy. First French Kiss and other Traumas is an adorable recollection of what it means to be young and clueless about life. It’s a very funny faux memoir of friendship, love and family. It’s a quick read and Will is a very engaging character to read about. Before our very eyes and as the page goes on, we see him grow and develop into a better person than he was before, and it’s so strange because the last few pages had me crying out of nowhere at 2am!
3. Paul Moreaux, Fade (Robert Cromier)
All I can say is: Adolescence has never been this creepy and disturbing. In many ways, Fade has been a horror/thriller book for me, but it is first and foremost, an exceptional YA book. Paul Moreaux is your beta-type hero, who comes upon the terrifying gift of invisibility one day in his life. Yes folks, you’ve read that right: Invisibility can be terrifying. How, you ask? Read it and you will understand why halfway through the book, I’ve got to pause because I was legit shaking. No I am not making any of these things up. In the metaphorical sense, Paul’s invisibility embodies the bewilderment of having seen a glimpse of the rough realities of life from the eyes of an adult, and how some things are better left unsaid and unknown.
2. Charlie, Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
Not such a big surprise of course, considering how fifteen year old Charlie now has a mainstream cult following to his name. I’ve read this book when I was seventeen and in college, back when no one I knew has ever read it yet, and I have always considered Charlie as a secret too precious to share or tell anyone about. He’s special, and I don’t think no book will ever explain the bittersweet memories of high school as this book did. No one will ever come close. Charlie is, in the very words of the book, infinite.
1. Holden Caulfield, (Catcher in the Rye) JD Salinger
Okay, so it was published in 1951, but every time I read Catcher in the Rye, I always get the feeling that it was published just yesterday, written FOR me and only me, to make me feel that I am not alone in the world and that someone out there understands. Yes, I am a walking cliche dear friends: I am a Caulfield fangirl through and through. I’ve read this in 2006 and man, Holden just spoke to me from the first page and held my hand until the end. We all know very well that he’s the classic icon of teenage rebellion, but somewhere inside that cold, cynical facade is a carefully-crafted sadness—he’s sick and tired of everything, and in his weariness, I found comfort. To this day, I still have not yet attempted to write a review about Catcher in the Rye, even though I am fully aware of how much it changed me as a reader and a writer. This is mostly because so much has been said about it already and it’s probably enough. But also mostly because I’m afraid I will fall short with words. In college I wrote a poem about Holden Caulfield which has been published in the literary folio of my university, and it’s been one of my favorite works even now. Holden Caulfield will always hold first-place in my list because, well, there wouldn’t be a list without him, anyway.