To All the Book Boyfriends I’ve Loved Before:
Love letters to 5 of the best YA book boyfriends from their not-so-secret crushes…
By A.J. Pine
Thanks to Jenny Han’s fabulous book—and the equally fabulous Netflix adaptation, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I’m taking a page from Lara Jean and writing some love letters to book boyfriends. First, let me preface this post by saying that while I do write adult contemporary romance with sexy California cowboys, I also have a fabulous day job as a high school librarian, which means part of my job is to love young adult literature. Confession: This is not a difficult aspect of the job.
And while I have way more than five favorite YA book boyfriends, alas, I cannot take over Frolic for the next several days making sure I hit each and every worthy hero of YA. So please know that I’m just scratching the tip of the iceberg here!
Disclaimer number one: We all know Peter Kavinsky rules this list. He’s got three books and a movie where he’s portrayed by the dreamiest of dreamboats, Noah Centineo. So I’m not so much leaving him off this list as I am making space to shine the spotlight on some other book boyfriends waiting in the wings.
Disclaimer number two: Some heroes are from series where it’s not revealed who ends up with whom until later in the books. I will give spoiler alerts for these so you can avert your eyes.
Are we ready? Then in no particular order, here we go!
1. Etienne St. Clair (Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins)
Anna and the French Kiss is the book that made me fall head over heels for romance as a genre and want to start writing it. I thought (and tried…) I wanted to write dystopian YA, which I still love to read, but turns out I really wanted to write about falling in love and kissing and more falling in love and kissing. Thank you, Stephanie Perkins!
When I found out my dad was sending me to the School of America in Paris—affectionately known as SOAP—for my senior year, I was devastated. My whole life was in Atlanta. I mean, who wants to spend a year in Paris, anyway? Okay. Probably a lot of people do. But I wasn’t seeing clearly at the time. Then I saw your adorably rumpled hair. And heard your swoony British accent. And met your perfect girlfriend. Maybe that last part wasn’t so great, but do you know what that did? It gave me the opportunity to be your friend first. It gave me the chance to open my eyes and see the real you, the real me, and the real Paris. I would have missed out on the best parts of my senior year if I hadn’t met you. Falling in love with you—and having you fall back? That was simply the custard in the éclair. I mean—the hot chocolate sauce on the profiterole. Ugh! I might be an epic fail at making American idioms French, but you know what I mean.
It is possible for home to be a person.
2. Levi (Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell)
Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors, and Levi is just one of those book boyfriends who stays in your heart long after the book is over. His and Cath’s romance is worthy of multiple rereads.
“The whole point of fanfiction is that you get to play inside somebody else’s universe.”
I’ve lived so much of my life based on this ideology. I wrote my Simon Snow fic so I didn’t have to risk failure if I tried to write my own. I fantasized and wrote about fictional romance so I didn’t have to risk getting my heart broken if I actually fell for someone in real life. But you, Levi…You wouldn’t let me hide in my fictional world. I didn’t want to fall for you, but I did. I didn’t want you to hurt me, because a girl can only take so much, but you did. But you also showed me that I could survive the hurt. I could survive failure and grow stronger. You might have messed up, but I was pretty good at pushing you away long enough to make you doubt me. I was always rooting for you, though. For you and the “smilingest face” I’d ever seen. I’m glad I still get to kiss that smile.
3. Rhysand (A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas)
***SPOILER ALERT: This is book 2 in a series. Skip this letter if you’ve not read SJM’s Court series and instead READ SJM’s COURT SERIES.***
Okay, now that my spoiler alert is over, I just need to say that this is one of the sexiest books I’ve ever read, and that is because Rhysand is one of the sexiest heroes ever written (whom I’ve read). I defy you to read this book and not need to fan yourself after chapter 55. It’s also important to note that while this book is marketed toward SJM’s teen readers who love the Throne of Glass series, there is much more mature content in this series. Remember, we’re dealing with Fae here. They may look young but are actually decades older than they seem!
For much of my mortal life, I despised you. You threatened the man I loved. You paraded me around the evil, sadistic, Amarantha’s court like I was personal play thing. And then, once she killed me and I was reborn as Fae, you kidnapped me on my wedding day. You have a lot of nerve. Cocky, arrogant, and shameless. That’s who you are—or, at least, who I thought you were. But your trickery and deception saved me from Amarantha on more than one occasion. And when I needed someone to understand the horrors I’d been through, you were there. Despite the feelings you had for me, you allowed me to figure out myself what I wanted. What I needed. Whom I loved.
You are my star who listened and my dream that was answered.
All my love,
4. Ronan Lynch (The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater)
***SPOILER ALERT: This is book 4 in a series. Skip this letter if you haven’t read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle and instead READ MAGGIE STIEFVATER’S THE RAVEN CYCLE.***
First of all, this series is an ensemble cast with more than one romantic relationship throughout. But my favorite is the one between Ronan Lynch and Adam Parrish. And guess what, folks? Maggie Stiefvater has a Dreamer trilogy coming our way in the not-to-distant future so we can (hopefully) see our #pynch ship live on!
It’s not easy to find the right words for a guy who can literally dream up anything he wants. Hell, you’ve dreamt cars and brothers and terrifyingly lovely birds. So why in the hell you didn’t dream up the perfect person for you is beyond me. Instead, the guy who is so guarded, so protective of his secrets, let me be a part of them. I don’t know that I have any sort of definition for love. I certainly didn’t grow up with it. I only ever thought that the people who were supposed to love you hurt you instead. But you chose me when you could have had the dream. You protected me when it endangered yourself. And you helped me believe I wasn’t an outsider looking in but that I had something strange and wonderful and powerful to offer as well.
Like I said, it’s not easy to find the right words. So how about I just kiss you again?
Yes, I know, another series. But that’s how it often goes with YA fantasy, and I can’t compile this list without including my top fantasy book boyfriend—Akiva from Laini Taylor’s epic series. Even if you haven’t read the books, I don’t think it spoils anything to let the reader know that Karou and Akiva are star-crossed lovers who have to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles over three gorgeous books to find their way to a happily ever after. But if you haven’t read this series, PLEASE add it to your list. You will not regret it.
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”
This is how our story starts, and you have to admit that it looks like the world is rooting against us. Or should I say—worlds? We were born and raised to be enemies—you trained to hate and I trained to fight off your hatred.
But our souls knew better. They sought each other out, and despite the worst possible outcomes—and I believe we’ve both suffered the worst—my soul sang, and yours answered. Again and again.
Angels and devils tore the worlds to shreds. Love and hope will rebuild them. We will rebuild them.
“Hope makes its own magic.”
That magic is you.
Love—forever and always,
***BONUS BOYFRIEND ALERT***
While I’m not done with my current read, I already know this book’s hero is one for the lists, so I’m adding him even before I’ve made it to the HEA…which better be coming!
Rishi Patel (When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon)
Sure, I thought you were a psycho stalker when you knew my name the second we bumped into each other and you called me your future wife. Can you blame a girl for tossing her iced coffee at you and running like she was being chased by zombies? And I really wanted that coffee too. It certainly didn’t help to find out our parents “arranged” our meeting…without anyone telling me!
But here’s the thing. Despite me wanting to—I don’t know—spread my wings or whatever you want to call it and create a life for me before settling down, I’m really happy you didn’t bow out of Insomnia Con. You made me realize how much I’d closed myself off to even the possibility of a relationship because I thought that would mean my parents had won, that I’d fulfilled what I was sure they believed was my sole purpose in life—to find the perfect Indian husband. I didn’t know that I could fall for you and code a killer app. I didn’t know I could have both. And I certainly didn’t realize that my parents actually just wanted me to be happy. And I’m not going to brag or anything, but I’m pretty sure I showed Mr. Traditional that he could find happiness outside of his neatly planned little life as well. You’re Mr. Traditional, by the way. In case you weren’t sure.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m glad we met accidentally on purpose. I hope you’ll make me more paper flowers if I promise not to spill anymore iced coffee on you.
There you have it, Frolic-ers. I hope you had a nice trip down memory lane with some of your favorite book boyfriends—or that you’ve rushed off to your local book store to see what you’ve been missing!
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About the Author
About A.J. Pine: A librarian for teens by day and a romance writer by night, A.J. Pine can’t seem to escape the world of fiction, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She is the author of the Crossroads Ranch series from Forever Romance. For more on A.J. and her books, please visit AJPine.com.
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