In much of YA fiction there seems to be two kind of boy characters:
1) the sensitive, shy, cute (but doesn’t know it) dorky dude who mucks things up somehow and is then rescued in some way by a girl.
2) the more aggressive and douche-y type, who is either an uneducated bully, or a popular snobby type who is taking advantage of people in some way.
I don’t usually figure out ahead of time which type my boy characters are going to fall into, but eventually most YA male characters—mine included—end up heading in one of these directions.
In Boy, interestingly, it turned out that the two best friends at the center of the story are these two types. GAVIN is shy and passive and when his popular friends think he should date GRACE, he goes along with it. GAVIN’s best friend CLAUDE, on the other hand, is aggressive and privileged and tends to push hard for what he wants, and usually gets it.
In Boy, though, as I worked my way through the story, I saw that neither of these two was as black-and-white as the stereotypes they represented.
Gavin, for instance, is not passive because he’s such a sweet guy. He’s passive because his father verbally abuses him. So while he appears kind-hearted and attentive to others, he’s actually broken in his own heart, and not terribly available as a friend, or boyfriend.
Claude on the other hand, who presents as 100% jerk, is actually genuinely loyal and loving to his girlfriend, even as he continues to be outwardly obnoxious and arrogant. We see that he’s almost stuck in his role as “most popular kid”, even when it begins to falter.
So nobody is really one thing or another.
One thing I noticed as I wrote the book: these two friends need each other. They fill in each other’s failings. Gavin gives Claude someone he can be open and vulnerable with. Claude gives Gavin consistency and social stability.
I really enjoyed writing about these two popular kids who appear to have it all, but who are suffering under various family and social stresses just like anyone else. I hope you enjoy reading them just as much. Check out the extended excerpt of Boy, available until July 17.