What the Trope?!


The good ole dictionary tells us:

trope  (trp)


: a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech

: a common or overused theme or device : cliché <the usual horror movie tropes>

If you’re a frequent YA reader, you know there are some very common tropes making the rounds, especially these days. Let’s list a few:

1) Absentee Parents

I’m not sure why this is, but there are sooooo many young adult novels out these days where the parents are non-existent, dead or deadbeat (meaning they don’t count anyway). Is it because then the characters can’t come and go as they please? That they can’t be staying out all night at underground raves or so no one questions why they come home covered in blood and ichor? Probably, but I think having the parent/guardian around to question these things makes the stories a bit more believable. That’s not to say I can’t enjoy a story sans authority figures, but it’d be a nice change to see them come back into style.

2) The Love Triangle

Alright, I admit I’m guilty of using this one myself, but it started as a joke, I swear! Haha. I think since the release of Twilight, this has probably become of of the most common, overused tropes in the genre. Yes it’s good for creating some tension and having the reader be annoyed if your MC doesn’t end up with who they want (poor poor Jacob), but there are other ways to keep your reader turning the page. Think outside the box.

3) Holy crap, I’m really a >fill in the blank<?!?

Perhaps this started with Harry Potter and his secret “Woah, I’m a wizard?!”, but there are tons of books out there where the MC is a fae in hiding, or a  *cough*Shadow*cough* Hunter, or some other kind of magical fantasy type of persona.  This goes along with “Powers will reveal themselves on your  16/17/18th birthday, so be prepared for your whole life to change!” tropes.

4) Female Main Characters

While I get there are really only two options here, female MCs way out weigh male MCs and while this isn’t an awful thing, I’d love to see it balanced out a bit more.  I think young female readers would enjoy seeing a romance from the boy’s point of view and it’s not like they don’t have their own set of insecurities and issues.  Even it out folks!

5) Mary Sue, at your service

The Mary Sue character is perfect and everyone loves her. She can do no wrong. She’s the most beautiful, the friendliest, the smartest, the perfectly perfect all-around-amazing character that no one in the book can hate.  She’s the character us “normal” folks want to push off a cliff just to see if she’ll land scratch-free.

6) The Bitchy Popular Girl

If you don’t have the girl everyone loves (see above) you’ve probably got the bitchy “Queen Bee” that everyone (but the MC) bows to, treating her as if she rules the school/town/whatever even if she treats them like annoying little peons she wouldn’t go out of her way to walk around. She’ll typically get knocked down a few pegs before the book ends as people open their eyes and see her for what she really is! Or, ya know, they grow a backbone and tell her off.

7) The Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold

He wears black, has tattoos and drives a motorcycle. He’s been to juvie or kicked out of several schools. He’s the hottest thing around and is rumored to have slept with the entire cheerleader team…at the same time.  But deep down, he’s wounded, nursing a broken heart or mourning the loss of a loved one.  He secretly takes care of disabled younger siblings or works 3 jobs to support his family since his mom/dad/both parents ran out on them.

8) Love at First Sight, Touch or Smell (I’m looking at you, Edward)

I was a teen, I remember infatuation and those heady feelings of first love, but this soulmate bullshit that keeps popping up in YA books drives me bonkers. WE WERE MEANT TO BE AND NEVER SHALL WE BE TORN APART! Yeah yeah, until you go to college and your first frat party where 5 guys hit on you and make you feel all “special”. Heh


Those are just a few of the popular tropes in Young Adult literature these days. Some of them I can live with. Others? I won’t even give some of them a chance anymore. Some of them are unavoidable, but if you’re going to use them, try to throw a twist in there at least, be a breath of fresh air for the reader.

What are some of your most hated YA tropes? Which are you still a sucker for?


3 responses »

  1. I’m guilty of number 3 in a few of the stories I have sitting on my hard drive. The trope of love triangles can go die too. I will be so glad when that falls out of popularity for a while. Tears of A Clown is still the only story with one that didn’t make me want to scream.

    • And that’s why you’re my best writing bud 😀 haha now if I had made her fall for Jazz instead of one of that guys, that would have been the best twist ever, right? 😀

  2. Pingback: Tropes Used in “Magical Compositions~by Claire Violet Thorpe | The Write Stuff

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