Saving troubled boys

by April Henry

When I was in college, I dated a whole string of troubled boys.

J. could drink an amazing amount and still appear sober. When he was in high school, his dad was cheating on his mom - with a girl J. went to school with.

C., I’m pretty sure now, was a sociopath.

K. had a rocky relationship with his parents and had started partying hard in middle school.

D. borderline stalked me.

T. had been terribly abused by his dad and step-mom.

When I was in college, my ideal love interest was smart, troubled, and used drugs or alcohol to excess. Even better if he could tell me that he wanted to love me, he was just finding it difficult.

Most of these guys didn’t want to be saved, or weren’t capable of being saved. But I was sure I would be the one who who hung in there, who proved herself worthy. With many of them, I hung on far too long, sure I was seeing the diamond in the rough.

There’s a book, long out of print, called Give Sorrow Words. It is made of essays written by a woman who travelled to Mexico. She took up with various men, and wound herself into knots about whether they loved her.  Reading about them, you could tell these guys were losers, that she was building a relationship on sand, but she persisted.

The author was murdered by one of those men.

Through some combination of luck and God watching out for me and me coming to my senses, I ended up with a great guy who didn’t have any substance abuse issues, had a pretty normal childhood, and who liked me as I was.  And I liked him as he was.

Reader, I married him.

But I think I might still be working through some issues in my books.  My editor has pointed out that the boys in Girl, Stolen; The Night She Disappeared (out next month) and Finish Her Off (out next year) all come from the wrong side of the tracks and have a fairly hefty amount of baggage.


  1. So funny, so sad, so true, and so sweet--the perfect ingredients for a love story...(Don't you just love JANE EYRE?)

  2. I think it's satisfying, in a way, to be in a relationship with someone who needs so much work. You have something to do, something to hide inside. I, too, was in a string of bad relationships until I met my husband, and I know that instead of focusing on myself and all the scary awesome things I could do with my life, I focused on the relationship, on fixing the boys. I think that it was a way of avoiding the questions I had about myself and my future.

  3. Eliza, what you say set off echoes inside me. I think you're right!

  4. Saving troubled guys? Been-there, failed-to-accomplish-that. ;-)

  5. It seems like there are so many troubled guys out there--so glad you found a great one. But it's awesome that you can use them in your writing. <3

  6. I wonder how many of us went through the "bad-boy" phase. You're right--most can't be saved.


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