by Louise Rozett
I have a confession to make. One of the reasons I fell in love with books is the (fictional) boys/guys/men I often ended up having crushes on. There were many, but two in particular stand out in my mind. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Phineas, from A Separate Peace, by John Knowles.
I think Atticus was first. I was in junior high school, and I remember thinking that Atticus Finch was an amazing man and father. I also remember thinking how cute he was, thanks to my English teacher playing us sections of the movie after we read the corresponding sections in the book. (So maybe it was really Gregory Peck I had the crush on—who can say?!) The bottom line was, he was a pretty incredible guy, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the book to see what bit of wisdom and love he was going to dole out next.
The next year, I started high school, and we read A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I was madly in love with the perfectly beautiful and tragic Phineas, who does what he can to protect his best friend Gene even at great expense to himself. I loved Phineas deeply—I could picture him so clearly–but it was Gene who I really related to. I understood his struggle with feeling mediocre and average, and simultaneously loving and hating his best friend for being so perfect in every way. That book was exquisite torture for me.
As time went on and I kept reading, I fell in love with Joe from Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and John Reddy Heart from Joyce Carol Oates’ Broke Heart Blues. I’ve been thinking a lot about all these men lately probably because they led me to Jamie Forta, the guy my main character Rose falls for in Confessions of an Angry Girl. But I also realized that they were my introduction to falling in love with all sorts of characters. I found romantic love, familial love, and the love of friendship in the books that captured my imagination. And the experience of falling “in love” in all sorts of ways is what turned me into a reader for life.