The YA genre is filled with tropes that are starting to get boring for readers. By straying away from these tropes as an author, you can make your novel unique and unforgettable. Here are four YA stereotypes to stay away from.
The Protagonist is An Outsider:
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Since S.E. Hinton’s bestselling novel, The Outsiders started the entire YA genre, it makes sense that future authors wanted to follow Hinton’s lead by making their protagonists pariahs among society. Ponyboy Curtis, Hinton’s main character, is the definition of an outsider in 1960’s Tulsa Oklahoma. He’s a greaser—one of the poor kids who are bullied and tormented by the Socs, the rich kids. But because the entire plot of The Outsiders focuses around Ponyboy’s place in society and the difference he wants to make in the world, him being an outsider was necessary for this novel. However, that is not the case for all YA stories. For example, many romance novels in the YA genre will focus on a girl who is an outcast at school. Many times, she ends up with the popular jock no one thought she could get. While this is a super fun trope, it’s not your only option as an author. Why not make both students nerdy? Or popular? Those people exist too, and just like outsiders, they want to read about protagonists that they can relate to.
The Parents Are Dead
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Another popular YA trope—which was also included in The Outsiders—is the parents of the protagonist being dead. A lot of times it isn’t relevant to the plot and takes up unnecessary space in the novel. The teenagers in the novel will often live on their own without any supervision. And the strange part is that no one—not even the police or social services—comes looking for them. Now, this is a bit unrealistic. A way to avoid this trope is to include adult characters. If you’re worried about working them into the plot, don’t be. They don’t have to play a major role, but it would be cool to see them there.
Can’t See Beauty
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Another overused stereotype in YA literature Is when the protagonist can’t see their own beauty. Time and time again we see the protagonist—usually a female—crying or complaining about her looks. Now it’s totally normal for teenagers to feel this way, but the story often ends with a handsome young man or woman telling them they’re the most beautiful person they’ve ever seen. The problem with this stereotype is that the ending strips all the reliability away from this situation. People in real life aren’t always so lucky.
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One reason The Outsiders was so popular was because the story and characters were very natural. Nothing in the novel was forced. Other books, however, will try to force romantic relationships just to have them in the novel. These relationships often end up being boring or are despised by readers. They take up unnecessary space in the novel, making it worse, not better. Only put couples together if it feels natural. Remember, it’s okay for characters to be single.
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