You know the type. A mysterious and intriguing loner sitting at the back of the class because he doesn’t play well with others. Or the trouble maker with an assigned seat in detention and sarcastic responses always at the ready to dodge having to reveal any real feelings.
Bad boys are nothing new to the literary world and there’s good reason why. If done properly, they set the stage for a burning page-turner as the MC works at breaking through that tough exterior to find the gooey center she knows is buried somewhere inside. But some recent YA works have come under fire for crossing the line of a good old fashioned bad boy attraction into examples of abusive and unhealthy relationships. So what makes for a good bad boy as opposed to one that’s flat out dangerous?
Seems harmless enough. We’re safely dangling our toes in the normal end of the pool.
2. The smoldering stare from across the room that lasts just a second too long.
A little oogy, but still treading in the shallow end.
3. Cryptic messages.
Maybe a little dramatic and definitely floating toward the deep end, but we (and our MC) just know there’s a heart of gold buried inside! Besides, we’re no scaredy cat. You can’t run us off that easily.
Some well-worded blog posts have been published lately citing references in books where token bad boy points out MC’s naivety, lack of intelligence, or inability to handle the dangerous world token bad boy lives in without him there to protect. We’re sinking fast here.
But he was only doing it to keep her safe from the vampire/fallen angel/demon/other possible boyfriend. Hmm . . .
6. Getting a little too forceful with MC. Whether in a physical sense (grabbing her arm to keep her from walking away) or dictating where she can go and with whom.
We’re flailing now.
7. Taking delight in frightening MC.
Token bad boy enjoys scaring MC and not in a practical joke kind of way. Aaannnd, we’re drowning now.
An author has to draw the line between a heart-hammering attraction and something far darker. But it’s that little hint of danger that brings the intensity. So where do you draw the line? Does the MC’s personality play a part in that decision? Some of the previously mentioned novels star a MC that comes across a bit weak and easily manipulated. If she’s a strong-minded, independent individual who quickly puts token bad boy in his place, does that make a difference?