Protective. Strong. Aggressive.
These have been the most prized traits in many YA romantic heroes over the past decade or so. But why did protective feel like stalking? Why did strength trump kindness? Worst of all, aggressive translated to controlling. (I’m looking at you, Edward Cullen.)
Fast forward to the present, and a new romantic leading man is emerging in YA literature, one that I admit finally has the power to make my heart pound.
Warm. Respectful. Selfless.
The new YA Prince Charming is as flawed, even broken, as the heroine that he loves, but what really makes him stand apart is that he is a partner, not a protector. He doesn’t fiercely guard “his woman” because she is an extension of himself. Rather, his goals are broader, he embraces being good and making the world better, with a woman as strong and selfless as he is by his side.
My favorite example of the new YA Prince Charming is Rhysand from Sarah. J. Maas’ trilogy, The Court of Thorns and Roses. Rhys (we’re close enough now to go by nicknames) fundamentally respects Feyre, as well as the choices she makes. It’s not just lip service; he accepts her decisions even when they place her in danger. Feyre and Rhys challenge each other, make each other better versions of themselves. Life has victimized them both, and they want to raise themselves and each other up as equals. Throw in Rhys’ violet eyes and sensitive…wings, and you’ve got the makings of a swoon-worthy hero.
I’ve seen elements of rounder, more lovable and loving heroes popping up in YA literature and beyond. It’s refreshing, new, and hopefully more than a trend. Here’s to a future filled with heroes and heroines who have each other’s backs, where the tropes of romance can be stretched and broken, just like in real life.
Of course, there are a few traits that remain the same for heroes old and new.
Killer body. Great kisser. Artistic soul.
Thank God some things never change.