Book Boyfriends: They Never Disappoint

A few days ago, while at a used bookstore, I overheard the last bit of a conversation between a teenage girl, and a very determined boy. The boy practically begged for a date while wielding a pout like a weapon. Without looking at him, the girl grabbed a book off a shelf, pressed it against his chest, and walked away stating, “Sorry, I only date fictional characters.” The book the boy held was Twilight.

A current trend in the female faction of the reading community is the emergence of book boyfriends. A “book boyfriend”, in case you are unfamiliar with the term, describes a fictional character who, if they existed, would be pursued by the reader. These pseudo suitors can hail from any genre; however, their book of origin typically contains at least a little romance. If one were to type “book boyfriend” into the genre search bar on, a social networking site for readers, a list containing roughly 12,650 books would appear. Too bad for the boy at the bookstore, it seems his current love interest will not be the only girl he tries to romance that has a literary paramour–paranormal or otherwise.

According to a study conducted at the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurological Imaging, when reading in a focused and engaged manner several different brain regions are activated. Using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technology, blood flow patterns were tracked in graduate students reading the second chapter of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Not surprising to anyone who has ever gotten caught up in a good book, along with the areas of the brain that were expected, those associated with touch and movement also lit up during this experiment. These findings suggest, to me at least, that readers are placing themselves in the story as they read it, which sheds a scientific light on the alleged love readers feel for their favorite characters. Somehow, this does not lessen my fondness for Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice in the least.


Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice


A different study done on individuals experiencing feelings of love indicates that romantic love uses the reward and motivation systems in the brain to focus on a specific individual. If the brain’s reward system, or mesolimbic dopamine system, is stimulated while learning, the act becomes much easier because it’s pleasurable and perceived as a reward. It follows that people who don’t normally enjoy reading can become converts if given the right romantic motivation; say in the form of an aloof romantic hero.

Whether single or attached, there is no social stigma for being book promiscuous, so read as much as you like ladies! After all, what happens in fiction STAYS in fiction. Who’s your favorite book boyfriend?