Time to Talk…About Other Readers Impacting Me, Part One

Posted January 18, 2013 by Asheley in discussion, Uncategorized / 19 Comments

Yo! This picture is mine, as is this coffee cup.
So let’s talk while I drink it. 

Everybody loves a good discussion, right? Bookish people love to talk about all things bookish. It seems like I read on quite a few blog posts related to bookish-resolutions for 2013 that people wanted to do more discussion-related posts. I can’t remember if I put something like that on my bookish goals post (I’m too lazy to look) but if I didn’t, I may as well have. I always have thoughts churning in my head, so why not share them with you guys. 


For the past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about how some people really have a huge impact on the way I read. I KNOW = SHOCKING. Why is this shocking, you ask? Because I am the quirkiest of the quirky readers, very set in my oddball ways. In fact, up until about (almost exactly) one year ago, I didn’t realize that other people read much differently than I do. Then my reading world got upturned big time, and it has been some kind of different for me, let me tell you!
There are a few ways that other reading friends have challenged me over the past year, and I want to highlight them. But I’ll have to do it over the course of more than one day. I know y’all don’t mind because you’re awesome like that. 


I would read all of these wonderful YA books and enjoy the mess out of them. I would love them! I would talk about them with other people – about this character and that character, this setting, and so on. I was completely oblivious to the fact that there is this one trend in YA, and it is that “mysterious guy” that keeps popping up everywhere. We all read about him, we all know him, and we all (probably) can’t get enough of him. He’s the guy that is broody. He may have the tattoo here or there or maybe everywhere. He may have a mommy- or daddy-issues. Perhaps he’s got a violent temper, even. Maybe he doesn’t really treat the female characters very nicely. He may only have one of these characteristics, or maybe he has a mixture of them. Why do we all think this is so attractive, over and over? Why do we love this?

I never realized that this same cookie-cutter character was in YA (and now NA) over and over and over until it was pointed out to me. But then I started noticing it and couldn’t help but see the mysterious guy everywhere. You guys, it’s so true! Now, I’ll admit, in some instances I adore the broody and mysterious characters – I can list a few stories in which that character has fit the story perfectly and I have loved it. But in almost every story? Is this really necessary? 

Some of the stories that I’ve loved SO HARD from YA lately have had mysterious guys in them: First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky, Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, Enclave by Ann Aguirre, the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi, the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout, Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles…I could go on and on. I’m not saying they’re all bad…I’m just saying SEE, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!

I spent some time asking this same person – the one that pointed this trend out – about some of the male YA characters that DID NOT fit this stereotypical mold, and then I read some of the books with those characters in them. The examples I was given were fantastic. Those male characters were total opposites, not mysterious at all, and it was very obvious. Then, to go a step further, I spent some time asking some other reading friends – guy YA readers – if they felt the same way about this mysterious guy being all over the place in YA. Turns out, the guy readers that I know in my life have noticed it way more than the girl readers have. I was shocked and appalled yet again. I’m usually good about picking up on things, but I was surprised that I had fallen for this without knowing it and that this is such a thing.

The moral to this story? Over the past exactly one year, I have learned to really examine these books and characters – to pay attention to ALL male YA leads. We all know really great male leading characters are hard to come by in the YA market. When I find them, I want to know if they’re what I now consider great male YA leads, or if they’re what I consider the fluffy, fun-to-read ones.* There’s a difference, in my opinion. Both are completely okay, but my guy reading friends want to know before they purchase a book or audiobook, you see. This is something that I like to point out on my blog. Also, if it is something that is offensive to my guy reading friends, I want to notice it, to pay attention to it, so I can make good recommendations when I come across a great male leading character versus one that I don’t think my guy reading friends would really care for. 

*note: Remember that sometimes there can be a purpose to being mysterious. There can be great mysterious characters if it fits into the story. 

I want to be able to say “You know what? Will from Slammed by Colleen Hoover is a GREAT male leading character for _____ reasons or Banyan from Rootless by Chris Howard is a GREAT male leading character for _____ reasons.” Had I never engaged in the “mysterious guy” conversations with my friend a while back, this reading habit would have never, ever changed. It may not seem like a big deal to any of you guys, but it was a huge, huge deal in my reading life. Probably the biggest of the year, actually. I’m so grateful.


Some of my favorite non-mysterious
male leading characters in YA: 

Banyan from Rootless by Chris Howard
Thomas from Elemental by Antony John
Will from Slammed by Colleen Hoover
Sham from Railsea by China Mieville


I have other habits that have changed because of reading friends. 
But this was enough for one post. More soon, I promise!

What about you guys?
Have you ever had any reading habits change
because of someone else?

Also, can you think of some good examples of
from YA/NA? 

Seriously, humor me here.
It works in some stories – it does! But not every one, I tell you. 
I’m totally conscious of it now where I didn’t really notice it before. 
That’s kind of big. 

I’ll be back with Part Two of this discussion soon!


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


19 responses to “Time to Talk…About Other Readers Impacting Me, Part One

  1. This is such an interesting thing to think about! Honestly, I read mostly for pleasure, so I never really contemplate stuff like this… unless someone brings it up with me! This "guy" trend you mention, I found out about it via Twitter, and I've started noticing it in my books as well.

    • Me too, Alexa. I had always read to escape or for pleasure. But in discussing books with other people, I've noticed other trends or things when they've brought them to my attention. I'd have never ever noticed this on my own. But that I've noticed it myself (with help), I can probably never un-notice it again. It's really obvious to me. It's really interesting that it was out there on Twitter – so other people are talking about it too.

  2. I absolutely love this post! Both the idea of how fellow readers have changed how you see books, and also the concept of the "mysterious guy," whom I also didn't think a whole lot about until this year when we talked about it. I think everyone likes the bad-boy, and mysterious almost always goes along with that. It's also a way to keep up the tension between the male-female leads, because you're not sure if you should trust him.

    The first non-mysterious male lead that I thought of was Sean Kendrick from The Scorpio Races. I like that it is clear immediately that he has a passion that drives him. That he loves riding and racing those water horses for himself and no one else, and his connection to Corr is just mind numbingly good. One take on the 'mysterious guy' that I really like is a character in Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. READ THAT BOOK.

    LONG LIVE DISCUSSION POSTS! I want to do more as well.

    • Oh dear, that wasn't a really complete thought was it? Going back to the first paragraph – I think that the character type IS overdone, and it is always refreshing to find someone who is not mysterious. Thankfully, though it doesn't bug me as much as some trends *cough* Love Triangles *cough*. Another great example of a non-mysterious guy is Jase from MY LIFE NEXT DOOR.

    • You make a good point about the tension between male-female leads, and that's probably a good reason for lots of authors using the mystery. I used to like the mysterious guy all the time, because I just saw him as mysterious. But when it was pointed out to me exactly HOW OFTEN I was seeing him as mysterious, I kind of began to realize that I liked that guy a lot better when he had a real reason for being mysterious. For example, Holder's mystery is part of the plot. That's awesome and I loved it. Same thing with the 'bad boy' – does THAT play into the plot? Travis from Beautiful Disaster is written that way for a reason and it is part of the plot, not just for kicks and giggles, and I liked it. (I think the mysterious guy and the bad boy are different.) I almost wonder if the authors write their stories around the mysterious part of their character sometimes just to include it into the story? It isn't always necessary. Will from Slammed was pretty great.

      I was actually thinking of both Sean Kendrick and Jase when I was writing this. Both are great examples. Sean's mystery is perfect and a total part of the story. And Jase isn't mysterious at all.

      It's not that the mysterious guy bothers me as much as when it doesn't serve a purpose – there are mysterious guys in life, so there should be mysterious guys in literature. It's just when they're done inappropriately or when they're offensive or stereotypical that I've begun to take notice. Or rather, I've started noticing when the male leads aren't the stereotypical YA leads, I should say.

  3. Great topic, Asheley! Since I am smack dab in the middle of Hallowed and the Unearthly series the non-mysterious guy that comes to mind first would be Tucker. And yes, I love him:)

    Also I think John Green does great non-mysterious guys, like Colin from An Abundance of Katherine's and Quentin from paper Towns and Pudge from Looking for Alaska. And Nick from Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is another good example.

    I agree with Lauren's statement about the mysterious, brooding guy often being a bad boy too. The mysterious quality is often found in that archetype and I think my mind tends to lump those two traits together a lot. Love that reference to a certain somemone from Shadow and Bone, btw:)

    • Oh! I love Quentin so much! Yes! He's a great example. So are the others.

      You make exactly my point: my mind was lumping the mysterious guy and the bad boy together. I love a well-written mysterious guy/bad boy, but I had to learn to stop lumping them together because it just isn't something that is true to life all the time. Mysterious guys can be good guys, not all guys with tattoos are mysterious, etc. I just lumped it all in together and went with it, all the time, just because it was all there for me in YA.

      I was kind of indirectly challenged and it was very good for me!

      *I like Tucker too. But I also like Christian. I'm VERY torn. And stressed about it! And reading much slower than you because of this! Eek!

    • Yes, after reading this I can definitely see the difference between a 'man of mystery' and a 'bad boy'. The two are not always linked. I'm glad you wrote this and helped bring it to my attention!

      Holy, holy. I am half way through Hallowed and if the boys are stressing you now just wait!

    • I guess I'm still trying to decipher what makes a 'mysterious guy.' If a book is written from the heroine's POV and she meets a guy in the book, 9 times out of 10 he's going to appear to be 'mysterious' at first, because she doesn't know him. So maybe it's the guy who is closed off and who doesn't seem to let anyone get close to him, except the heroine who breaks down his walls? That's where the bad-boy usually comes into the 'mysterious' equation, because generally he appears to be bad as well. But looking at some of the examples above, I'm not sure that I'd consider Alex from Perfect Chemistry to be 'mysterious,' although I would call him a bad-boy. It's pretty clear early on who he is and what is going on with him. Likewise, Sean Kendrick is self assured and focused, and Puck works to get to know him. But I don't think he's actively trying to hide anything. And in Shatter Me. Who is the 'mysterious guy' there? Is it Warner? Is it because he's not sharing much about himself? I would have never have thought about him as 'mysterious' before I read DM and UM and saw how much was behind his exterior.

      In sum, is the 'mysterious guy' a person we don't know and who we're not sure if we're supposed to trust, because he's not willing to share information about himself? Or something else that I'm missing? I guess I'm just starting to confuse myself about this character and what exactly He is. Maybe if you gave some examples of mysterious guys, especially ones that aren't 'bad-boys.' I'm now really curious about this!

    • And see, when you listed Sean from The Scorpio Races as a non-mysterious guy, LJ, I felt differently. Although I agree he definitely has passion and conviction, and it is clear what his purpose is, he is such a quiet character. He says so little, he seems a cross between pensive and brooding almost– and all of those things make him feel mysterious to me. Sean has so much going on under the surface. We the reader get his pov but to someone like Puck, who isn't privy to his every thought, I imagine he is a riddle and a mystery, if only because he is a man of so few words.

      Maybe this "mysterious" quality isn't so easily defined? Perhaps in some cases it is something that is interpreted differently by each reader.

    • Yeah. I think I just don't get what 'mysterious' means. It sounds like it is a personality trait. I think it's just going over my head. I don't think Sean was trying to hold back information or seem mysterious, though I guess he was closed off, and the type of person that no one seemed to know well. So I guess that's it. Does mysterious mean, difficult to figure out? Or is it more the concept that only this one heroine has been able to break through their walls? Ugh. I think I'm just going to have to accept that this isn't a character type that I understand, and that is fine with me. As much as I connect things between books, this is something that I don't really quite grasp. Also, the more I think about it, the more I am confused!

    • I think that Heather hit the nail on the head when she says the mysterious guy isn't defined. Because he isn't for every reader. An example of this is when the book jacket calls Fade from Enclave mysterious but I got really frustrated because I didn't feel him mysterious at all.

      Lauren, I felt like Alex Fuentes was both a bad boy (reformed, sort of) AND mysterious. He's a mystery to the students because they don't bother to get to know him but even more, he's a mystery to Brittany when she IS getting to know him: despite her preconceived notions of him, he is gentle and kind with her sister, he is respectful of his mother, and he is fiercely protective of his family. This is mysterious to her because it isn't easily visible with his facade or his image. Does that make sense?

      With Sean Kendrick, I think he is absolutely mysterious, probably one of the most mysterious of all. Even though Puck takes her time trying to get to know him, there are things about him that she doesn't really know and doesn't really want to intrude on him and ask. She just notices. Like his interaction with his horse and the sea and the island. And further, the people of Thisby have no idea about him at all, pretty much, he's an enigma of sorts, I think, so he pretty much is mysterious guy #1 around there. Puck just happens to be the only one that tries to get to know anything about him. Being the mysterious guy doesn't always equal a negative thing. For Sean, it's a very cool thing.

      With Holder, he appeared to be a bad-boy AND mysterious to begin with, but when Sky began spending time with him, she realized that he wasn't a bad boy – however, his mystery didn't disappear. He just told her that she would have to trust him that he wasn't ready to share all of his information yet, so he remained a mystery.

      So I think there can be different definitions for different readers just like there can be different definition qualities for different characters. But ultimately I think if I said to another reader that ____ is so mysterious, they'd most likely be able to either know what I'm talking about or we'd either be able to have a conversation about it. It's not a defined thing, but I feel like it is a trend. Just like in YA "bad parenting" is a trend but it isn't really clearly defined either.

    • Oh and with Shatter Me, I think Warner is a total wild card. He's an absolute mystery because you don't know what he's thinking, what his motives are, where HIS loyalties lie. To me, he's mysterious. Not the same type of mysterious boy that Alex Fuentes is or Holder, but he is definitely a man of mystery. Compare him to Adam – Adam is not mysterious at all. Everything about Adam, he wears on his face and sleeve.

  4. Yes! This is definitely a trend that I notice and tend to pick up on while reading. I'm not always a huge fan of the mysterious guy and would much rather read about the one who isn't mysterious. When thinking about your question about non mysterious dudes at the bottom, the first ones that came to mind were Etienne St. Clair from Anna And The French Kiss and Cricket Bell from Lola And The Boy Next Door. Oh oh! And Jay from the Body Finder series is totally not mysterious.

    • That's funny that you mention Etienne St. Clair – he was on the list of non-mysterious guys that my friend gave me! I think he is possibly seen widely as the non-mysterious type. I haven't read Lola yet so I can't really comment on Cricket nor have I read The Body Finder books so I can't talk about Jay, but if they're non-mysterious, I may have to give those a glance!! Thanks for those recommends, April.

      I didn't realize how many of these dudes as all mysterious until I realized they're freakin everywhere.

  5. I actually STOP reading a blurb instantly now when I see the words "new mysterious guy". I really do. Maybe I'm missing out on some great reads because of this, but I know that once I've had my fill of things, I can't take any more. Now…do I still love this guy when he gets squeezed into books under my nose? YES. Look at Wolf in Scarlet for example…he totally meets the mysterious new guy trope, but I love him! I will say though that I instantly dislike guys who treat girls badly in any way. They can have a temper and be broody to high heaven, but if they're an ass to the girl, I'm out. I guess that's the difference between loner dudes and bad boys? Because I love the loner dudes…dislike bad boys.

    Goodness, you've opened some sort of floodgate in my mind.

    • You know what? Wolf is amazing and kind of mysterious, but once I read The Queen's Army, he wasn't as mysterious as I thought because I got his backstory!

      See, they're everywhere. And not really easily definable as there are all different types of them. But still, it's kind of like a trope, right?

  6. I love the idea of other readers impacting how you read, and I'm really excited to see your future posts about other things you've become more aware of by reading with others. I know, for example, that reading with you has made me more aware of things like bookish stress. And I'm so thankful for it 🙂

    Also, I know what you mean about how you didn't realize your reading ways were quirky up until about a year ago. I love that! I wish more bloggers would read posts about their reading quirks so we could all discuss and compare and see how different we all are, even in our common love for reading and books.

    Really looking forward to future posts about this, lady!

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