Coupledom can be overrated, especially on Valentine’s Day (which is why we sometimes prefer Galentine’s Day). It’s better to celebrate yourself than jump into a bad romance—just ask the hapless victims of these terrible YA boyfriends and girlfriends. Not all are straight-up villains (except for that charming-evil scoundrel, Billy Nash); nevertheless, they’re best avoided. From the sympathetic, to the sanctimonious, to the psychopathic, here are some of our favorite bad boys and bad girls of YA lit, all of whom give love a bad name—and all of whom break hearts in must-read books. Possible spoilers ahead!
Where it Began, by Ann Stampler
Offender: Billy Nash, boyfriend of Gabby Gardiner; supposed golden boy
Crime(s): Cheats like Caligula. Breaks up with Gabby after she supposedly crashes his car, because his own probation stipulates he can’t fraternize with “criminals.” Continues to see her on the down-low, and orders her to follow his advice when speaking to cops and doctors about the DUI she has no memory of. Also, his online name is “pologuy.”
Telltale line that something is amiss: (via text) “DO NOT TRUST THERAPIST. Stick to plan ok? complete denial”
Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie
Offender: Peter, sort of boyfriend to Wendy Darling
Crime: Kidnaps Wendy so she’ll read stories to/mother the Lost Boys of Neverland. Never grows up. Never! So infamous, a psychological disorder was named after him.
Telltale line that something is amiss: “‘(Wendy’s mother)’s awful fond of Wendy,’ he said to himself. He was angry with her now for not seeing why she could not have Wendy. The reason was so simple: ‘I’m fond of her too. We can’t both have her, lady.'”
The Marbury Lens, by Andrew Smith
Offender: Jack Whitmore, expat American boyfriend of English rose Nickie Stromberg
Crime: Addict. Can’t stop wearing purple-tinted glasses that allow him to visit a gruesome, terrifying alternate reality called Marbury; as such, has no memory of his first meeting with Nickie, their courtship, or many of their conversations.
Telltale line that something is amiss: (via Jack’s internal monologue): “…did I tell you about how I can’t even remember anything about meeting you today because I hallucinated some crazy [bleep] about people getting hacked into pieces and eaten by bugs?”
Smack, by Melvin Burgess
Offender: Gemma, girlfriend of David (“Tar”)
Crime: Encourages Tar to run away from home, then gets him hooked on heroin.
Telltale line that something is amiss: “It was a love story. Me, Gemma and junk. I thought it was going to last forever.”
Tyrell, by Coe Booth
Offender: Novisha, girlfriend of Tyrell
Crime: Keeps not one but two fake-out diaries: one for Mom, one for Tyrell. Her actual diary contains the truth about her secret other boyfriend.
Telltale line that something is amiss: “And I’m thinking ‘bout that little diary she got. Who the [bleep] is Jamal? He the guy that be writing them letters to her? And if the fake diary is for her moms to read, and this new diary is for her own privacy, then who she writing that diary on her desk for?”
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter
Offender: Cammie “Chameleon,” teen spy extraordinaire, private school student, and girlfriend to townie Josh
Crime: Lies to Josh about her family, pets, schooling, and skills. Allows her spy friends to investigate him. Drugs him (via Mom’s tea) into forgetting their relationship.
Telltale line that something is amiss: “‘Oh, tell your mom thanks for the tea.'”
Who’s your favorite YA bad romance?