I get it. We all have our comfort tropes. Tropes that have been with us since our teen years, and we just can’t seem to get over them every time we pick up a new YA debut or a new book by an instant-buy author. However, the era of early 2000s tropes needs to disappear once and for all to make way for newer, fresher takes on characters and their relationships.
The Abusive Enemies to Lovers
“When a guy pulls your hair, it means he likes you.” This has gotten old real quick. The male character being mean to the female character while she overlooks how awful he is (i.e possessive, misogynistic in some cases, and emotionally damaging) doesn’t make for a great love interest. Antagonistic behavior that is ardently ignored is just a whole hot mess waiting to happen. Morally, it’s just not realistic.
It. Must. End. Prolonging a love interest between three characters is a definite NO. Platonic love can be just as compelling as romantic love between two main characters. Just because they’re the main characters doesn’t mean they always have to end up in love with each other. Whatever happened to good old friendship saving the world? It’s just in poor taste and really nothing new; pitting three characters against each other to create drama and tension has been done time and time again. Respectfully, it can be done right at times (see Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices. The triangle really works here).
We need a protagonist who knows what they want. If love isn’t in their plan near the end of their journey, then leave it alone. There’s no need for character 1 to string character 2 along just so they can decide that they really want to be with character 3. It only ends in tragedy when character 2 gets tired of waiting on character 1. In the end, the protagonist tends to pick the more toxic option of the two.
So…you have magic you never knew about
Discovering magic powers is always a plus in a fantasy novel, especially if it’s dangerous and forbidden. But…it’s never perfect when it first comes out from the user’s hands. It’s fine to make the protagonist hesitant when trying to use their magic, but YA protagonists using their newly found magic with such ease and are remarkably good at it? No one is perfect and for it to burst into existence at the exact moment they need it? Wake me up when the snooze fest is over.
Where are the Parents?
Most noticeably in YA, the protagonists’ parents are either dead or completely out of the picture. As a teenager wanders, parents don’t just make way and disappear to let their child run all over the world to try and save it. Instead, they could serve as the Jiminy Cricket to their Pinocchio. There’s always the special side character or a friend who serves as the voice of wisdom when the protagonist loses their way but isn’t that why parents are around —for guidance?
Katniss lost her father and was estranged from her mother. Harry’s parents were blasted away by Lord Voldemort. Triss lost her parents in the middle of a rebellion and gained an untrustworthy brother. Isn’t there hope for the future protagonists to gain parental guidance instead of finding their way alone? It might take a while for YA protagonists to gain the parental nurturing they need in literature.
“I’m not like other girls”
I like a strong female protagonist. I don’t need a Mary Sue Snowflake that is pined by every guy because she’s a blond skinny wonder, who is so fantastical just because the author says so. She’s a tomboy, says she’s badass, can be a major Edge Lord, able-bodied and of course, she needs to demand everything be given to her on a silver platter because she’s the only smart one and other girls are stupid. Might as well revert it to the “Popular Girl” trope.
What’s the matter with showing that a girl is strong through her own actions and not in need of constant male support for every dang situation she’s in? She doesn’t need to advertise she’s strong by being the “snarky” one. Snark doesn’t equal wit. She can graciously take advice without being an extreme feminist. A girl is strong in her own right. Her power doesn’t need to be diminished by self-righteousness.
We all have our love of tropes. I’m not saying that all books that have one or more of these tropes are horrible, but it does affect the pacing of a story and the general rating of a book. And whether you love or hate YA tropes, keep the stories going by taking our quiz here!