5 YA Tropes I’m So Over

These days, I feel like when I start a new YA novel, I know what’s going to happen for roughly two-thirds of the story before I’ve even read the first chapter.  It’s like every YA author was given a formula for a “successful” novel, and they were told not to stray outside of the equation. And while it wouldn’t be so bad if the novels being published had one or two commonalities (I acknowledge that trends exist in the publishing world), almost every book seems to be spouting some variation of the same, tired plot, and I am officially over it.

So, here are 5 tropes I would like to set fire to and gleefully watch burn until they disappear forever.

  1. Love Triangles. Ugh. I don’t even think I need to go into detail on this one because almost every YA fan I know is done with love triangles. It seems that 4 out of 5 YA authors use love triangles as the main source of tension and conflict within a novel, even when it doesn’t need to be. Yes, there have been a few series that successfully use love triangles to further the plot, but they are far and few between. More often than not, this overused trope is misused and unnecessary.
  2. Plain Jane isn’t so plain. Is it just me, or does it seem that most YA novels seem to star an “average” girl, who isn’t actually average at all? And everyone in her life is always commenting about how beautiful she is–and the reader can tell from her description that she is, in fact, gorgeous–but she doesn’t believe it until Hot Guy takes an interest, and she realizes that *gasp* maybe she is beautiful after all. I get that many teenage girls have body issues and tend to nit-pick their appearance, but there are also a ton of kick-ass young women who are confident in their looks. And I’ve known a lot of insecure girls in my day…the interest of one boy isn’t going to so easily convince them of their true beauty.
  3. The Chosen One. This trope is a favorite of fantasy authors. And, sure, it can be done well, but it’s so common these days that reading the Chosen One’s story can be a bit underwhelming. Yes, there is always going to be something to set the protagonist apart, to make them special, but does it always need to be that fate has thrust them into a role that no other could handle? And how do they always seem to be more adept than those that have trained their entire lives to fight the enemy/dark power/evil force? Supporting characters who have the skills the protagonist lacks shouldn’t be shoved in the background so that the Chosen One can shine almighty; a true leader knows when to utilize the strength of others, and I’d love to see that reflected more in YA novels. I’m tired of the clumsy, awkward protagonist suddenly becoming a ninja warrior in times of crises.
  4. Trilogies. When did YA authors get together and decide that three was the magic number for YA book series? I would love to go back in time to that meeting and tell them they were making a huge mistake. Sure, there are a few series that managed three books well and some that went beyond the three book mark to great success. But the majority of trilogies I’ve read could’ve been improved by condensing the story down to two novels or even stopping after the first book.
  5. The Parent Problem. Is there something wrong with a happy, two-parent household? Having a dead parent (or parents), divorced parents, negligent parents, abusive parents, etc. seems to be the only way that YA authors know how to give their young protagonists any real character depth. But, there are other ways to give a main character a tragic backstory or to create some internal struggle. Let’s try something different every once in a while, okay?

Now, do I really want to see these tropes die horrible deaths and never return to the realm of YA fiction? No. As I sort of mentioned above, each of these can be useful to a plot, if handled well, but I hate to see writers rely on these tropes when they aren’t necessary to a story. I want to see authors find unique ways to tell their story: flip cliches, go against what’s “trendy,” fight the status quo. Take what’s old and worn and make it something new and beautiful.


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