5 Underrated YA Heroes Who Deserve Your Attention

3:54 PM Amanda Prahl 0 Comments

Harry and Ron. Peeta and Gale. Edward and Jacob. Four. Jace, Simon, Alec. These are names that then entire YA world- and, in several cases, most of the general public- knows at a glance. Young adult fiction has become a buzzword for youthful epics with broad-range appeal. In the past several years, it has been YA fiction and their adaptations that have provided mainstream pop culture with its most lasting and far-reaching stories. And with most of these stories have come iconic heroines and swoonworthy heroes.

But there was a time when YA stories weren't all anyone talked about, and even today, there are a whole slew of stories that don't get the same attention- and a whole slew of heroes worth a look. In no particular order, here are five of the best:

Jem Carstairs, The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
Let's get this out of the way: James Carstairs is not a tall, dark, brooding hero full of angst and recklessness. All those traits belong to the trilogy's other leading man, Will Herondale. But it's for that very reason that Jem is so worth falling for. He's a gentle, patient, even-tempered violinist, with a slighter build than most YA heroes tend to be. In other words, he's the sort of character written off in most stories as good, but not good enough, the perpetual runner-up. Jem, however, is nobody's second place. His courage (and quiet resignation) in the face of a debilitating supernatural malady show he has a will of steel, and his loyalty, pure kindness, and unwavering faith in his loved ones show he has a heart of gold.

Anthony Neely is a popular fan-cast for Jem

Will Wagner, Avalon High by Meg Cabot
It certainly helps to be the reincarnation of King Arthur, sure. But what makes Will the king of our hearts isn't his mythological origins (or his anachronistically awesome skills with handling a sword). It's not even his dreamy blue eyes and dark hair. It's his refusal to let "fate" define him, his relationships, or his future, whether as a king reborn or just as a regular guy looking for his purpose beyond his school years. Even more, Will insists on seeing the good in everyone- this is an Arthur who can forgive Guinevere and Lancelot, after all- and, in an increasingly cynical world, that is a ridiculously attractive quality.

Alexander Vlahos- who, incidentally, played Mordred in another Arthurian adaptation

Dodge Anders, The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Take one part brooding, vengeful rebel and one part awkward best friend and you get Dodge, childhood bestie and adulthood defender of Alyss in this twisted Alice in Wonderland retelling. His defining trait is his loyalty to his queen and friend (and maybe more), even across presumed deaths, many years, and multiple dimensions. And yet this revenge-seeking rebel warrior also turns into an awkward dork with a thousand excuses as to why he can't spit out his feelings whenever he gets the chance. Combined with boyish, rumpled good looks and a surprisingly attractive scar on his face, Dodge combines some of the best YA tropes into a new and wonderful hero.

Luciano Crinamorte, Stravaganza by Mary Hoffman
Luciano, formerly Lucien Mulholland, straddles two words and two heroic archetypes: a modern-day newcomer to a fantastical world, and a capable, dashing Renaissance knight. As the first time-traveling hero in this saga of modern-day Britain and a parallel world's Renaissance Italy, Luciano began as a modern cancer patient, intelligent and curious, who begins traveling between worlds, despite the increasing danger in both. Eventually, he transforms into a (literal) Renaissance man: cultured, skilled in combat, and highly educated. His temporal/universal-displacement-induced longing will make you want to just give him a hug (although you might incur the displeasure of a certain young Duchess), and his romantic devotion will melt your heart.

Kartik, Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
Oh, Kartik. Brave, conflicted Kartik is the ally every heroine could use. Although a member of the brotherhood set to control the order of powerful women to which the heroine, Gemma, belongs, Kartik soon grows disillusioned with their harsh ways and insistence on dominance and superior knowledge. Instead, he breaks free and allies himself- at great risk- with Gemma, despite his distrust and friction over the racial and class divisions of Victorian England that make him all too aware of what is considered his "place." Kartik is an outsider in every way, and yet he refuses to beg for acceptance or notice. This strength of character (not to mention a magnetic, intense tension between him and Gemma) is what makes him a hero worth rooting for.

Suraj Sharma is a popular fan choice for Kartik

So who are some of your favorite underrated heroes?