Our Biggest Fictional Crushes

Woman reading about her crush, Captain Wentworth

You can keep your celluloid heartthrobs and TV hotties—give us book nerds a crush object written in black-and-white. Because all the great one-sided romances come with paper cuts, and some of the best dates happen at the bookstore, here are the characters we’ve most wanted on our arms, in our books, and downloaded to our ereaders:

Alexandra Silverman: Odysseus

It’s a weird crush, not least because Odysseus is way too short for me—he’s an ancient Greek, and I’m 5’10” in Chuck Taylors—but I don’t know how anyone could read The Odyssey and not fall a little in love with Homer’s hero. Odysseus outsmarts gods, charms witches, wins the Trojan War, and only loses his level head when he’s tied to the mast of a boat while sirens try to sing him to his death. He also has the alluring distinction of ending up in Dante’s 8th circle of hell (for fraud), less debased than only a few men, including Cain, Judas, and Satan himself. I think of Odysseus as the original international man of mystery: an adventurer of wits who lives by a code and gets the girl (Penelope, Circe, Calypso, me…).

Josh Sorokach: Jordan Baker 

I completely understand how absurd a crush on The Great Gatsby’s Jordan Baker sounds, but crushes are rarely synonymous with rational thought. I’m certain JB, as I would lovingly refer to her until tersely reprimanded, is the type of person you’d initially find intriguing, then eventually grow to despise. Logically, I understand that we’d never succeed as a couple. One, she’s fictional. People with fictional girlfriends are doomed to spend their lives attending weddings alone. Two, she’s kind of awful. Awful in a charming, slightly enigmatic way, but awful nonetheless. I’m reminded of Nick Carraway’s words on ending it with Jordan Baker: “Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.” A relationship that can evoke that type of passion, even of the fleeting variety, is worth experiencing. Every well-lived life contains a few necessary sojourns of the Jordan Baker variety.

Melissa Albert: Peter Pan

So this is a weird one, right? Not only is Peter not legal, but he never will be—even if fictional characters could grow up, he’s the one who wouldn’t. But speaking for pre-teen Me, there was nobody like J.M. Barrie’s Peter. He was wild, untamable, and brave, longing for female companionship even as he rebelled against it. For a bookish little girl, Peter Pan was a gateway bad boy, giving Wendy just enough attention to keep her wanting more. And despite his moodiness and distractible nature, he kept on coming back for her…until she finally committed the ultimate crime of growing up. Though I’m old enough now that I’d be forced to hang not with the Lost Boys but the pirates, I still have a soft spot for Peter. Now I just see things from a Mrs. Darling point of view.

Janet Manley: Robert Kincaid

I am a lover of great books. Books that are the focus of “conversations” in the Paris Review and the New Yorker and the London Review of Books. Sadly, Robert Kincaid, the road nomad whose “small rear in tight jeans” walked into The Bridges of Madison County to sweep the heroine off her feet, remains unexamined by these institutions. What about Kincaid seduced me? The smell of quiet, perhaps, or his fondness for words, or maybe the manly way he wielded his National Geographic camera (a metaphor…for cameras). Perhaps it was his casual self-image: “I am the highway and a peregrine and all the sails that ever went to sea.” Perhaps it was the way he saw right into the soul of the lost woman at the center of the story (“clearly outlined nipples”). If I’m honest, perhaps he lit a fire because I believed that, one day, I might have sex with “a leopard-like creature who rode on the tail of a comet.” Robert James Waller Kincaid, you have my heart. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Joel Cunningham: Michelle Wasserstrom

If you’ll forgive the creepiness of choosing a gal in high school (she’s very mature for her age!), then let me tell you about Michelle Wasserstrom, one of the primary characters in Adam Langer’s criminally under-read 2004 novel Crossing California, a bildungsroman about two sisters living in a Jewish neighborhood on Chicago’s north side in the early 1980s. Michelle is the older, jaded one, and easily one of the most hilarious, authentic rebellious teens in recent literature. Like a version of Rory Gilmore I would actually want to hang around with in real life, Michelle is brilliant, ambitious, and an outsider by choice, mocking nearly everything around her (from the lameness of her fellow classmates to her dad’s dippy new girlfriend) with equal ferocity. She knows she’s the biggest deal at her school and can’t wait to get out of there—but that doesn’t mean she won’t be a badass while it lasts, fighting tooth-and-nail to be the head of the drama club. Her story continues in sequel The Washington Story. I won’t spoil it, but she becomes a blacksploitation film star. Since she’s white, you can imagine what an accomplishment this is.

Jennifer Grudziecki: Draco Malfoy 

Why Malfoy? Because I am walking, talking YA cliché and I can’t help it. I have a thing for loving characters I know I’m not supposed to. But Draco is so redeemable! He’s the essence of a brilliant guy who could be perfect, if only he weren’t a victim of his terrible upbringing. His horrendous personality is endearing in an odd sort of way. Plus, he’s British.

Emily Winter: Mike Schwartz

I have a HUGE literary crush on Mike Schwartz from The Art of Fielding. Big burly chest, mature beyond his years, plus Midwestern nice?! PERFECT COMBO, LADIES. And he has bad knees! That’s SO HOT and vulnerable. I’d change my name to Pella for him any day. <3

Lauren Passell: Gogol Ganguli

It would be impossible to prove whether my crush on Gogol Ganguli, from Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, is on the character or on Kal Penn, who plays him in the movie adaptation, which I (unfortunately) saw before reading the book. I also had a crush on Kal Penn in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, and I’m sure if that was a book, I would have a crush on the literary-version of Kumar, too. Wait—can someone please write that book? Look at me, now I’m just babbling. Can we talk about Kal Penn some more? His lips are delicious. I mean, the lesson is, boys and girls: never see the movie first.

Who’s your biggest fictional crush?

  • http://unshelvable.wordpress.com/ Rachel K

    Gilbert Blythe! And both Teddy Kent and Perry Miller from Emily of New Moon. L.M. Montgomery knows how to write a man who can make my heart melt! :)

    • Lea Setegn

      Gilbert may have been my first book crush ever. In Anne of the Island, at the end where Anne waited to find out whether Gilbert had died of his illness, I was just as anxious as she was – and just as happy that he survived!

  • asap13

    I have never fallen as hard for a character as I did for Devin Jones in Stephen King’s Joyland. I also loved Thomas in The Maze Runner, though part of that might have been thinking of Dylan O’Brien playing him in the movie.

  • Kelsie

    Enjolras, from Les Miserables. I first read it at age 16, and I fell SO hard for that boy. He’s just so passionate! Also, Sirius Black. And George Weasley.

  • Viola

    Gilbert Blythe and Mr. Darcy

  • Miryam Elkaim

    Honestly, of all fictional characters, probably Kyo Sohma from the manga Fruits Basket. He’s cute, determined, strong, fiercely protective, and secretly emotional and a romantic. Tie that in with just enough angst and need for love and healing, and he is one guy that I will never fall out of love with!

  • Chrissy Miklus

    Mr. Darcy of course

  • Elizabeth

    Charlie Weasley. I mean, c’mon! He was well traveled, held a steady, yet highly dangerous job, loved all sorts of weird and unusual creatures, had an earring and long hair. Oh, did I mention he fought against You-Know-Who?

    • Kelsie

      (Did you mean Bill?) But same! If you’re talking about Bill, he was always super intriguing; I love him!

      • Elizabeth

        Not Bill. Bill worked for Gringotts and married Fleur. But the whole werewolf thing works in his favor as well.

        • Kelsie

          Both were crazy attractive, for sure! Between Charlie’s dragon thing and the fact that he was the best seeker until Harry, he’s got a lot going for him. (Bill was the one with the earring and long hair, though, right? Am I going crazy? I always associated those with him!)

          • Elizabeth

            Oh, no. Now I’m going to have to re-read the entire series.
            Although, I am fairly certain that it was Charlie who had the long hair because I vaguely remember Molly making him get a haircut for Bill’s wedding and Charlie not being happy about it.

          • Kelsie

            Hmm. I could totally be wrong; it looks like it’s time for a reread for me, too! :)

    • Ana Berkovich

      Charlie was my favorite!! Seriously, no one else understands my love for him! My favorite was when his hands were described: how they were rough from working with the dragons, seems sexy. I just love him!

  • chasmaster

    Mr. Rochester

  • JessicaC

    Right now it’s a character called Lain from the Book of Deacon Trilogy. An assassin with an axe to grind and compassion too? Okay granted he’s a fox-man but still. And there is always F’lar from the Pern series and Master Harper Robinton.

  • Brenna W

    How is Augustus Waters not on this???

    • Monica Derr

      My thoughts exactly! There is an appalling lack of Augustus Waters on this list.

  • Susan Christmas

    Rhett Butler and Frederick Wentworth

  • Emily Pehrson

    Sirius Black. While I was waiting for the next books in the Harry Potter series to be written, I wrote my own plot line in my head. Sirius Black and I would, of course, get married, he would fight with Harry to the bitter end against Voldemort and, starting with our family, the Black name would be redeemed and become one of the most respectable, upstanding wizarding families.

    And then she killed him. I have never recovered from the trauma.

  • Jayna ZanBarco

    Strider/Aragorn,, DECADES before he was brought to life in the movies

  • FoxieJD

    Rodya Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment – so, he’s a little tapped, and he kills a couple people when the story begins, but he just needs help! It’s gotta be that brooding man thing.

  • Ana Berkovich

    Mr. Darcy; Captain Wentworth; Charlie, George, Bill, or Fred Weasley; Draco Malfoy; Snape (both the book character and Alan Rickman’s interpretation [and Alan Rickman in general]); Jon Snow; Robb Stark; Jaime Lannister…the list goes on :)

    • Erin O’Riordan

      Oh, Alan Rickman – that reminds me of Colonel Brandon…sigh.

  • Danielle Bell

    Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files :D

    • Andrusela

      Yes! Me too! He’s tall, funny, a total badass wizard (with good ethics), and seems to have some clue about women. Too bad the odds of meeting a man like this in real life is astronomical, not so much for the wizard skills as for the understanding women part. :)

  • Monica Derr

    Amory Blaine, This Side of Paradise.

  • MoonRidder

    I can’t really say what my biggest fictional crush is, because let me tell you there are many, but I can remember my first: Ender Wiggin. I can’t even say why I fell for him, I read this back in elementary school so it wasn’t that creepy, but I just remember reading that story and falling for the little third.

  • Rebekah Dahling

    Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (of course) and Teddy from Little Women.

  • Mira McClanahan

    My biggest crush is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Gatsby is up there too.

  • Dina

    Lisbeth Salander

  • Erin O’Riordan

    I willingly gave my heart most recently to Tobias Eaton, and before that, it was Edmond Dantes, and before that it was Robert E. Lee Prewitt.

  • Melissa Mitchell

    Captain Wentworth. Teddy Lawrence. Gilbert Blythe. Mr Knightley.

  • Sarah Arndt

    Gilbert Blythe of course, Harry Dresden, and Adam Hauptman from the Mercy Thompson series.

  • AbiPal

    Gilbert Blythe! ♡♡ So sweet and smart and patient and loving and stubborn and gah!! Gil was definitely my first and ultimate literary crush!
    Then we also have Charlie Weasley … Professor William Race, Andrew Trent, Scott Syracuse and and Jack West Jr (all Matthew Reilly characters) … a few manga characters … Charles Bingley (Darcy never really did it for me) … but Gil does and always will top the list. ♥
    I’ve just noticed that my love goes to characters that are not only good looking, but are also smart and are really sweet and/or physically active.

  • Leslie Hoff

    My most recent literary crush is David Oster, twisted genius, from A.R. Taylor’s “Sex, Rain, and Cold Fusion” http://www.lonecamel.com/the_book/. He is one of those guys your parents would definitely disapprove of. On one hand he is a good looking and intelligent physicist with so much potential..on the other hand he is a womanizer with the maturity and decision making skills of a 12 year old… He is a character you will hate and you will love all in the flip of a page. You follow him from California to Washington in the hopes of a promising career change. His passion is for underwater physics… “When women ask David what he does he tells them he’s in league with a god, the one who lives at the bottom of the ocean.” David has his eye on the Nobel peace prize, he is determined to find a “Fifth Force” in his studies. His mission is sidetracked and he soon finds himself thrown into a make-shift murder investigation and his first serious relationship. IT is an amazing book and David is a fantastic character!

  • Aina Farzana Ismail

    Henry De Tamble from The Time Traveler’s Wife!