With devil may care attitudes and rugged good looks, it’s easy to fall for the bad boys even when you shouldn’t. The bad boys in these stories shake up the status quo, cause trouble, and may break a few hearts, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find true love in the end.
Why are bad boys so irresistible? I don’t know, but here’s ten books about rebels, punks, jerks with hearts of gold, and dangerous, brooding bad boys.
(And I’ve also been expanding this list on my Pinterest account, so check it out too!)
GUYLINER – J. LEIGH BAILEY
Seventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created. He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.
As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.
Writing Style: Third person, character driven, two POVs. 273 pages
Topics and Tropes: opposites attract, sports, conformity, friendship to romance
For those who enjoy: bi characters, coming of age stories, sweet romances
Guyliner has it all — a great story, told well with three dimensional characters and settings. And the writing and pacing, the glue that keeps it moving, is fantastic.
Short version: A great read beginning to end. ENJOY!
OUTSHINE THE STARS – NASH SUMMERS
Justin is hell on legs. He’s a self-proclaimed brat, a manipulator, and has a bit of a flare for the dramatic. While Justin might look like the picture of innocence, he leaves a path of terror wherever he goes.
His senior year starts off like all the others, him and his best friend sticking their noses up at everyone else while they bask in their own glory. But when a handsome new student catches Justin’s eye, he recruits the likes of a smart-mouthed kid named Connor to help him in his mission to capture the heart of the attractive newcomer. When Justin is finally forced to face himself and the truth behind his self¬centered universe, it feels like the sky comes crashing down
Writing Style: Third person, one POV, prose, 44 pages
Topics and Tropes: friends to lovers, growing up, tragic backstories
For those who enjoy: funny dialogue, short stories, easy reads that also pack a punch
Lulls you into a sense of knowing the quirky characters then surprises you with unexpected depth. Great descriptions. Lovable folks.
REASONS TO LOVE A NERD LIKE ME– BECKY JERAMS
Love Stories Book One
Scotty Williams is the nerdiest 17-year-old at Havensdale College – and proud of it. However being a nerd can have its downsides, particularly when you’re constantly being targeted by the school bully Taylor Raven and his cronies.
As Scotty tries to navigate his final college years with the aid of his best friend Olive, he also finds himself on the radar of the mysterious and intimidating Vincent Hunter, toughest guy in the Sixth Form. Is Vincent really as bad as he seems? Will Scotty’s darkest secret ever be revealed? Can he ever just finish his last few college years in peace? But most importantly… will any guy ever find the reasons to love a nerd like him?
Writing Style: First Person, one perspective, fast paced, plot driven. 417 pages
Topics and Tropes: nerd/punk dynamic, high school drama, bullying
For those who enjoy: humor, great romantic relationship and friendships, heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories
What Readers Think:
I was slightly wary of this book, because the summary looks a bit predictable. However, I was mostly wrong! There were parts of this book that I could not stop reading. I also love LGBT representation in all forms, and I think Jerams does a good job of showing both sides of acceptance. The plot is definitely more complex than I expected, with twists and turns at every corner, and of course the romance is extremely sweet. Though sometimes the dialogue is a bit cheesy and unnatural, this novel definitely is enjoyable, entertaining, and meaningful.
THE RED SHEET– MIA KERICK
One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.
Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.
Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.
Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.
Writing Style: First person, one POV, realistic yet whimsical, 190 pages
Topics and Tropes: jock/nerd dynamic, personal growth, bullying, amnesia
For Those Who Enjoy: humor and unique storytelling
What Readers Think:
Kerick makes great use of chapter length, the majority of them being rather quick so that I got so invovled in the rhythm of the story that I had to keep reading to see what Bryan would do next… This story not only offers a lot of humor but some very relatable issues that speaks to teenagers… a definite recommendation for all people who have bullied others, experienced bullying, or who just want a good read.
LAST OF THE SUMMER TOMATOES– SHERRIE HENRY
Kyle Jackowski, typical sullen emo teen, struggles to find a way to deal with his sexuality and finds himself in trouble with the law… again. But instead of being sent to a juvenile detention center like he expected, he is given a chance to commute his sentence by working on a farm for the summer.
Enter Sam, son of the farm owners, who shows Kyle what he feels is perfectly normal and that he doesn’t have to hide from his feelings. In turn, Sam’s parents show Kyle that his abusive stepfather and battered mother are not the norm. With their love and support, Kyle finds his place in the world—by Sam’s side.
Writing Style: Third person, character driven, one POV. 246 pages
Topics and Tropes: city boy and country boy, redemption, insecurities and acceptance,
For those who enjoy: hopeful or serious stories, cute love stories
What Readers Think:
I LOVED Sam’s parents, omg they were the best. I had to keep taking off my glasses to wipe the tears away, Kyle was so starved for love and Sam’s parents had plenty of love to give. What can I say about Sam? Not surprising that he was a great guy, with the greatest parents he had no choice but to be the sweetest and the most patient guy with Kyle. I loved hearing about their farm life and omg I wanted to taste all the food that was talked about.
TRUST ME– JEFF ERNO
Shawn Graham and Bobby Wilder couldn’t be more different. Shawn is a devout Christian fundamentalist from northern Michigan; Bobby is a street-smart latchkey kid from southern Ohio. From an early age, they are both confused and troubled by their attraction to the same sex. Shawn believes that homosexuality is sinful, and a traumatic incident of childhood sexual abuse adds to his guilt and shame. Bobby has an image to maintain and flatly denies the possibility that his same-sex attractions even exist. He’s just too cool to be gay.
When they finally connect, their preconceptions are suddenly dwarfed by what they feel for each other. They become inseparable and fall deeply in love; however, love doesn’t make life easy. Plans are in motion that will surely devastate the young couple. Painful experiences of the past overshadow happy memories, and heartbreaking obstacles loom over the possibility of a future. If Shawn and Bobby want to stay together, they will have to fight with everything they have.
Writing Style: Third person, alternating POV. 366 pages
Topics and Tropes: 1980s setting, self identity struggles, balancing religion and sexuality (warning for rape/sexual abuse towards children)
For those who enjoy: tear-jerkers, steamy scenes
What Readers Think:
A story where emotions and personal relevance definitely overrode my reactions to the writing. Coming-of-age story tackles a lot in its pages and does a good job at presenting a balanced view showing ugliness as well as beauty – Bobby and his teenage “bad boy” ways, Shawn’s struggle with his identity in the face of his religious convictions…
GO YOUR OWN WAY– ZANE RILEY
Go Your Own Way #1
Will Osborne couldn’t wait to put the roller coaster ride of his public education behind him. Having suffered bullying and harassment since grade school, he planned a senior year that would be simple and quiet before going away to college and starting fresh. But when a reform school transfer student struts into his first class, Will realizes that the thrill ride has only just begun.
Lennox McAvoy is an avalanche. He’s crude, flirtatious, and the most insufferable, beautiful person Will’s ever met. From his ankle monitor to his dull smile, Lennox appears irredeemable.
But when Will’s father falls seriously ill, Will discovers that there is more to Lennox than meets the eye.
Writing Style: Third person, alternating POV, simplistic. 326 pages
Topics and Tropes: Love/hate relationship, abuse, biracial character
For those who enjoy: angst, sexual tension, character driven stories
What Readers Think:
Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It takes the wrong side of the tracks trope and knocks it around. Lennox is a fascinating boy and it’s painful to watch him make bad choice after bad choice.. As he starts to open himself up to Will in the tiniest of little pieces, you start to hope for Lennox… The characters in this novel are vividly drawn. I find myself attached to all of them. This was a beautiful start to their journey.
WES AND TOREN– J.M. COLAIL
It’s not so easy being young, gay, and in love for the first time at the average high school. Senior Toren Grey cares more about his family and his grades than what brand of clothes he wears. He agrees with the majority consensus that he’s a nerd. So he’s quite surprised when resident bad boy Wesley Carroll speaks to him in the hall, stirring feelings that Toren has to hide.
Writing Style: First person, one POV, relationship driven. 304 pages
Topics and Tropes: coming of age, nerd/bad boy dynamic, high school to college storyline
For those who enjoy: sweet love stories, steamy scenes, light angst
What Readers Think:
This is the ultimate comfort read for me. It’s just a sweet story. It’s long and it’s relaxed like someone taking a leisurely walk through a park on a spring day. There was a natural progression to Wes and Toren’s relationship. There was no insta-love and they don’t have sex two minutes after they meet.
HEARTLESS– J. ROMAN
Keeping Secrets: Book One
For gay teens in the South, Erwin High School is as good as it gets. The prevailing liberalism means being gay doesn’t have to be the focus of your life—which frees up seventeen-year-old Jason Strummer to take on the role of bully. Jason understands his beauty and power and has a reputation to match his attitude. No one but his best friend suspects the cruelty Jason hides behind is a ruse to keep his hellish private life out of the public eye.
Jason has only loved one boy in his life, and that crush on Tommy Johnson ended so badly that they’re no longer on speaking terms. When an ex-lover threatens Jason and Tommy steps in to help, the heartless playboy can’t help but fall a little bit back in love with him—but Jason will have to choose between keeping Tommy or his secrets.
Writing Style: First person, character driven, one POV. 246 pages
Topics and Tropes: second chance at love, personas and masks, enemies to lovers
For those who enjoy: an atypical main character, thoughtful portrayal of difficult subjects, rocky love stories
I felt like I actually was inside a teenage boy’s head… I really enjoyed the story. Even though Jason isn’t exactly an endearing character, I felt compassion for him and am looking forward to the next installment where I hope he’ll find happiness and soften up a bit.
Which of these are your favorites? Are there any other books featuring bad boys I should check out? Let me know!