Book Nerds Unite: 5 Literary Heartthrobs Who Stole Every Reader's Heart

by Amanda L. Barbara

As a total book nerd, I often can’t stop myself from falling in love with the characters from my favorite novels. After I’ve accompanied these lifelike characters along their journeys through triumph and failure, love and loss, they become more than figments of my imagination.

When it comes to characterizing men, skilled authors know how to make readers sigh. Whether he’s the bad boy, the protector or the protagonist who survives the unlikely, readers form instant connections with these male personas, from the first pages to the last.

It takes more than a talented writer to make a character loveable, however; it’s also the result of good marketing. When a character enthralls readers, word-of-mouth marketing can spread like wildfire among Millennials and before long, everyone is reading the book.

There are plenty of novels that include undeniably attractive characters that have garnered cult-like followings and continue to enchant Millennials today.

Let’s take a quick look at a few swoon-worthy characters who have stolen my heart:

1. Theodore Laurence, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

As the wealthy neighbor and an adventure-seeking rebel, Laurie has been capturing readers’ hearts for more than a century. He’s an ever-present figure as the March sisters grow and he becomes romantically entangled with two of them.

Laurie admirers appreciate him because he provides a unique male perspective in the novel. His character has an air of whimsy that continues as he ages.

Laurie isn’t perfect, and Alcott relates to readers through his faults. As a lighthearted and caring character, readers admire his appealing personality and probably wish their guy friends were more like him.

2. Travis Maddox, “Beautiful Disaster” by Jamie McGuire

In this romantic tale, Travis Maddox, a somewhat lost and downtrodden spirit, falls in love with Abby Abernathy, a girl prone to dramatic episodes, which drive her to leave him again and again. He sticks through it, which makes readers root for him.

Travis also embodies the ultimate “bad boy” image. He seems to hate everything but is secretly a sensitive, nice guy underneath, which makes me want to “save” him from his dangerous lifestyle. Well, then there are the sex scenes…

3. Holden Caulfield, “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield is an angsty youngster coping with the alienation and romantic confusions that come with growing up. However, he differs from the usual angry teenage protagonist because (spoiler alert!) he doesn’t mature at all by the end.

Like Travis Maddox’s “bad boy” persona, I felt a constant urge to show Holden that the world isn’t as harsh and miserable as he thinks. Unlike promiscuous Travis, Holden is a virgin who despises the idea of casual sex. Challenge accepted!

4. Max Vandenburg, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

Set in Nazi Germany, “The Book Thief” is narrated by Death himself as he follows the life of 9-year-old Liesel while her family hides a Jewish wordsmith named Max Vandenburg.

Readers admire Max because he’s a fighter and a survivor with a tender heart. He reminds people they shouldn’t let the horrors of war and genocide break their spirits. By recognizing the beauty in friendship and art, he inspires others to find positivity in life.

5. Gale Hawthorne, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Whether you’ve read the books or not, you’re probably familiar with the plot of “The Hunger Games.” Set in a dystopian North America where teenagers and children are forced to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games, the story centers mostly around Katniss Everdeen.

Gale Hawthorne is Katniss’ best friend, hunting partner and romantic interest. As Katniss moves through the games, Gale has to cope with it from afar.

Like Vandenburg, I admire Gale’s survivor qualities and sympathize with his heart-wrenching situation. He wants to make a difference and challenges Katniss to stand up and fight.

Some of these books are classics, while others are destined to become classics because their characters feel so real.

Young women today might not face quite the same social pressures that the March sisters did in “Little Women,” and the nightmarish Panem from “The Hunger Games” may never come to exist (we hope).

However, it’s the characters that allow the novels to stand the test of time. They draw us in because we can identify with them, root for them and maybe even learn something about ourselves along the way.