When I sat down to draft this piece, I was embarrassed at how difficult I found it. First fictional crush. I racked my brain and couldn’t think of one. I mean, I had to have one. I’ve read hundreds of books. There had to have been one I fell in love with. There had to one character who got me worked up whenever they appeared on the page…right? I was probably just overthinking it.
To be fair, when faced with the “what book had the greatest influence on you” question I’m propelled into full meltdown mode. So yeah, I was definitely overthinking it.
The answer (like most of my best ideas) finally came to me while I was in the shower. Unfortunately, it made me even more embarrassed. I wanted a cool crush like Holden or a classically dignified one like Harry. Mine is neither.
It started like this: during the fall of 2006, I started 10th grade and I really wanted a new book to read. Back then, brick and mortar Barnes & Noble stores were aplenty and heading to one with my mom was my idea of a rad time.
As I trekked across the carpeted aisles of B&N I carefully zoned in on the young adult section. I tried hard not to judge books by their cover but sometimes it was impossible. One book in particular stuck out. The cover featured a picture of marble-white hands pressed together and holding a bright red apple. I plucked it off the shelf and quickly scanned the back summary. “…A vampire…and…I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”
My interest was piqued immediately. Of course it was. My Chemical Romance had just released The Black Parade. I wore my jet black and bone straight hair covering most of my face. And I spent hours lining my under-eyes with kohl before I left the house everyday. I was peak emo, okay? Vampires were so my jam.
However, I didn’t purchase the book that day. I hated buying books on a whim. I liked to go online and read a few reviews before I made the commitment. That habit was probably a preview of the adult I’d eventually grow into. The one who can’t change toothpaste brands or try a new liquid eyeliner without consulting the good folks who leave comments on Amazon beforehand.
It wasn’t until months later that the novel made its way into my hands. Once I started it, I couldn’t stop. If I recall correctly, I might have even finished it all in one sitting.
The most surprising thing about that book, and then its sequel New Moon, was how much I didn’t care for Edward. No, against my own judgment, I found myself loving Jacob Black. I know, I know. It’s a vampire book series and I fell in love with the fucking werewolf.
I found myself rolling my eyes through many of Edward and Bella’s interactions and eagerly awaiting Jacob’s scenes.
Where Edward was rough around the edges and slow to show outward emotion towards Bella, Jacob was soft and openly affectionate. With Edward everything was intense and always Life or Death. With Jacob, there were no such stakes. The two of them laughed a lot and just had fun together.
Edward had a found family of equally stoic vampires who all seemed just a bit too reluctant to care for one another. While Jacob had a pack who literally spent their days running through the woods and bonding with one another.
Tenth grade me couldn’t, for the life of her, understand how and why time and time again Bella kept choosing the grumpy vampire who creepily watched her sleep at night. Jacob’s affections felt innocent in a puppy (er, no pun intended) love kind of way and Edward’s always felt more sinister and possessive.
When I finally decided to take my love for Twilight from between the novel’s pages and onto the internet, I discovered that the Edward Cullen vs. Jacob Black battle was more intense than I could have imagined.
The Twilight fandom was the fandom that introduced me to a “ship war.” It was brutal and relentless. And yes, I was the girl with a Team Jacob icon on Livejournal who wrote things like “Well, if Bella doesn’t want him, I’ll have him” confidently in the comments.
Ship wars are always draining but in some ways, those early days in the fandom were golden. It was years before those dreadful movies (and their subsequent sequels) came out. So back then, we were all big on fancasting.
I don’t remember exactly how I pictured Jacob Black, but the non-Native American and very white Taylor Lautner in a truly hideous wig? That was definitely not it.
It’s been nearly 10 years since I first read Twilight and it will never be one of those books I re-read. In fact, when I look back at it now, I realize that Jacob…was kind of a dick. He was a totally “nice guy” who never respected any of Bella’s boundaries. She told him time and time again that she loved Edward. She wanted to stay friends and only friends with Jacob. He completely ignored her and then had the nerve to imprint on her infant daughter (…guys, these books were weird. How were we ever okay with them?).
Twilight itself has (rightfully) been turned into a pop culture mockery. I’m guilty of it too. But sometimes, in moments of weakness, I think back to Jacob Black and I feel a phantom fluttering in the depths of my gut.
So here’s to Jacob Black. Bella Swan’s persistent werewolf best friend, and the high school boyfriend I wish I had.
Who was your first fictional crush? Do you want to write about them for Rogues Portal? Email pitches to Samantha! (Submissions are unpaid at this time.)