Celebrity crushes are a lot of fun. They’re usually preternaturally good looking, charming and the right balance of seemingly approachable and completely inaccessible. The perfect blank slate onto which you can project your fantasies.
During my most crush-adled years, however, I was most infatuated with those who weren’t just unattainable, but who didn’t exist at all. Literary crushes combine the power of one’s imagination, a few key details, swoonable storylines and incredibly pithy dialogue and you have makings of a truly great crush. I knew I couldn’t be alone in this, so for this roundabout version of book club, I reached out to my lovestruck and imaginative coworkers to see which fictional folks they fancied.
Name: Harling Ross, Fashion Editor
Book: The entire Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Character: Almanzo Wilder
How old were you when you first encountered them?: I think I was like 9? But my crush didn’t develop until I was in middle school and watched The Little House on the Prairie television series, which really brought the character to life.
Explain why you love them so: I credit Almanzo Wilder with my mid-pubescent sexual awakening. I don’t know what exactly it was about his silky blond locks and taupe button-down shirts, but I had the biggest crush on him and frequently daydreamed about what it would be like to sit side-by-side in the back of a horse-drawn carriage with him. You know, the stuff of hardcore romance.
Name: Patty Carnevale, Head of Partnerships
Book: Harry Potter, Books 1-7 by J.K. Rowling
Character: George Weasley
How old were you when you first encountered them?: 11. I think George was 13 in the first book.
Explain why you love them so: I knew immediately that I was into George Weasley and that vibe only got stronger through each book in the series. He’s a natural comedian with a heart of gold, a mind for mischief and, in my opinion, a bit more tenderness and less of a need for the spotlight than his twin brother Fred (RIP). Plus his patronus is a coyote, which is HOT.
Name:Haly Nahman, Deputy Editor
Book: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
Character: Theodore Decker
How old were you when you first encountered them? I think I read The Goldfinch for the first time in 2014, when I was 25. My crush on Theo probably had more to do with my crush on the world Tartt built in general — her depictions of New York, Hobie, Vegas, Boris, Amsterdam, the world, human internal life. But they were all filtered through Theo, the protagonist, whom I grew to love.
Explain why you love them so: Theo is both easy and hard to understand. He’s lovable and frustrating and tragic! The way he moves through the world is fairly different from me — he’s very passive. But he’s also thoughtful, passionate and open. Honestly a lot of the details have worn away, even though I’ve read the book twice, but I remember having special affection for him and the way he loves the people in his life.
Name: Amalie MacGowan, Social Media Manager
Book: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Character: Problematic fave… Mr. Rochester
How old were you when you first encountered them and why do you love them so? I spent many years of my youth pining after the romantic interests in Austen novels (Mr. Knightley, Captain Wentworth, and yes, Colonel Fitzwilliam — NOT Mr. Darcy — because Fitzwilliam is kind from the beginning, even though he is described as “not handsome”). It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I, out of boredom, cracked open Jane Eyre, expecting it to be kind of snoozy and bizarre like Wuthering Heights (don’t @ me). Vulnerable and naive, it took me only a few pages into the description of Mr. Rochester’s brooding, irascible nature to fall deeply in love with him.
SPOILER: So he kept his loony wife locked up in the attic and told no one until his second wedding day, big deal! So he disguises himself as a gypsy at his own party to extract secrets from Jane — the things we do for the ones we love! So he’s surly and on occasion rude and definitely fetishizes class and wealth disparity, we all have our baggage! It did NOT help that 2011, the year I would go off to college, yielded the Cary Fukunaga adaptation of Jane Eyre starring Michael Fassbender, known to make women and men alike froth at the mouth. Send me to therapy: I’m Mrs. Rochester in my heart ’til I die.
Name: Starling Irving, Office Coordinator
Book: Bridge to Terabithiaby Katherine Paterson
Character: Jesse Aarons
How old were you when you first encountered them?: 8 years old. My fourth-grade self wanted to save his lost fifth grade soul. Idk what that says about me.
Explain why you love them so: The crush had a major rebirth at age 12 when the film adaptation was released with a young Josh Hutcherson playing Jesse. My sisters and I watched it on DVD in our van one night because we didn’t have a TV in the house. By the time Miley Cyrus’s “I Learned From You” started playing for the end credits, all four of us were sobbing on the carpeting of the van floor. I reread the book the next morning and daydreamed about kissing Josh/Jesse in a treehouse.
Name: Nora Taylor, Managing Editor
Book: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
How old were you when you first encountered them? 17. I had to read Catch-22 for A.P. Lit my senior year and I was in love. I read it again in college and impressed everyone during lecture because I just re-read my (pretty great) notes from high school. Looking for shortcuts and meaning in the absurd world of bureaucracy and repetition, just like my boo Yossarian. Also it looks like Hulu is coming out with a new Catch-22 mini-series in May so this might start all over again.
Explain why you love them so: He felt at the time like a mature woman’s Holden Caulfield. I was just generally really into Catch-22 because I hadn’t read anything like it and hadn’t encountered a character like Yossarian before. He seemed brash and wounded and nihilistic and smart but kind of lazy, all the things I found charming in a man until my 30th birthday.
Name: Emma Bracy, Associate Editor
Book: Wise Child by Monica Furlong
How old were you when you first encountered them?: Around 8.
Explain why you love them so: Wise Child is a YA novel about an orphaned girl being taken in by the town outcast — Juniper — in Cornish village by the sea. Turns out that Juniper is a witch and she teaches Wise Child all about herbs and magic. She’s also single, which is unheard of for the time and place in which she lives. I had the hots for Juniper because she was a strong and sensual character and of course I was into magic, but also because she replaced everything that she was expected to do and be with whatever the hell she wanted to do and be. Thinking back on it, her existence was the epitome of queer, so why wouldn’t she be my literary crush?
Okay your turn! Tell me about your book boo!
Photo by Roberto Brosan/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.