The popularity of Disney+’s Loki only proves how much people still love bad boys. (Also that Tom Hiddleston is incredibly hot and charismatic, but we already knew that). Over the past few years, the YA category has become flooded with soft, sensitive boys who deserve all the hugs. As a reader, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love how this new, non-toxic view of masculinity is becoming so mainstream. But there is no denying the bad boy’s appeal. Not only is he the last person your parents would ever approve of, but he’s fun, he makes your heart race, and he’s oh so sexy.
These bad boys abound in classics—Dorain Gray, Heathcliff, Mr. Rochester—and famous authors were bad boys like themselves. Most notable was Lord Byron, poet and party boy who has inspired dark, brooding heroes ever since. Their descendents still pop up in YA today, despite the legions of soft boys, and when they do, it’s such a treat. I looked back and collected a list of my personal favorites over the years. Enjoy!
Monty — The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Henry “Monty” Montague is a self-described rapscallion and proud of it. His story takes place in the 1700s, a time when teenage boys were expected to be gentlemen. A classic rebel, he prefers to spend his time drinking till he’s black-out drunk and waking up next to strangers. Once in the novel, he even has to escape a lady’s bedroom without his pants! His brimming overconfidence really sells it, though, so instead of feeling frustrated, he just makes you laugh. He made every chapter of his 500-page novel riveting and filled with joy.
Julian — Caraval series by Stephanie Garber
Now, Julian is all smooth charm. He is the most dangerous kind of bad boy—the one who seems trustworthy. And for most of the novel, our heroine, Scarlett, does trust him. He is bold and daring, while still having his fair share of funny lines. It’s impossible not to fall for him instantly. Even as he becomes more and more suspicious, I couldn’t care less. And in the end, when it turns out he worked for the villain the entire time, he redeems himself by saving Scarlett… can I get a swoon?
Cardan — The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black
Cardan is the boy we love to hate. Like our sweet baby Draco Malfoy, he is just so hateable. He teases and pranks and sometimes downright abuses our heroine. Selfish and entitled, he truly lives up to the book’s title. Yet even as we hate him, the more time we spend with him, the hate starts to turn to love. Part of that is because his hate-to-love relationship with Jude is so delicious to watch, and part of this is because we start to recognize that beneath all that hate, he’s just a lonely, broken boy who needs someone to care for him. And that’s the best bad boy of all.
Nate — One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Now we’ve left fantasy and entered the real world, where bad boys wear leather jackets and ride motorcycles. When the book begins, Nate is branded as a criminal. He’s already been arrested for dealing, so when a classmate is murdered, he’s an obvious suspect. Throughout the book, however, we get to see more and more layers of him, and he even has a cute romance with the nerdy, overachiever girl, which just melted my heart.
Henry — Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
Henry, like Monty, earns his bad boy title for being a total player. At first, our protagonist avoids him, but over time, feels herself being drawn in. Who can blame her? Henry is electric. Every page he inhabits practically crackles with charm, he’s hilarious, and his kisses are addictive. He has a reputation, but the more time they spend together, the more Henry starts to show his sensitive side, making him all the more lovable. He proves to Edie that he wants more than just a fling, and that makes him a keeper in my book.
Nicholas — Vampires, Hearts, and Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston
This enticing novel hasn’t been released yet, so I promise not to spoil. I can also promise that Nicholas is a bad boy you don’t want to miss. This sexy vampire dresses in black, challenges our protagonist to live life to the fullest, and makes her feel things she didn’t know she could feel… and we can’t help feeling for him in the process.
Finnick — The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
In a series that’s become infamous for its love triangle (Team Peeta for life), one boy who existed outside of it is often overlooked. Of course, Sam Claflin solved that problem by being so charming in the movies. Still, I’m always happy to give my boy some more love. We first meet him (almost) completely naked and attempting to charm Katniss, which she’s immune to. He’s known for sleeping around at the Capitol and seems very untrustworthy. Later, though, we find out that all his nefarious actions were all in service to the rebel cause. Deep down, he’s a good guy, which makes him so much better!