Top Five – Reinvent or Retire


When you read a lot, you can’t help but come across similar themes, or tropes. Some of them I don’t mind, but others…others need some serious reinvention or they need to be retired for a while.

Here’s my top five tropes in YA books that needs new life breathed into them or that need to go away on an extended vacation:

1) The Love Triangle

I admit, I’m guilty of using this trope myself (see Tears of a Clown).  While it has been around for a while, it really gained steam with the Twilight books and the whole Bella, Edward, Jacob bit. I can understand how a reader would love to put themselves in Bella’s place and have two hot guys fighting over her, but it’s since showed in every other book I’ve picked up in recent years making it a yawner of a theme. I still have to guess who the main character will end up with but even that ends up being pretty predictable.  Let’s face it, romance is hard enough, especially as a teen.  The readers don’t need an extra person to add to the dramatics of young love.

2) Boarding School

I think, for American writers, the boarding school is pure fantasy because it’s not a common thing here.  An American being put in the foreign setting, away from parents, allows for more shenanigans, culture shock, longing and homesickness. It ends up being repetitive though: “Oooh I’m the outsider and sooo alone” “Why does everyone laugh when I talk about a fanny pack?” “Foreign guys are so much more sexy than the boring guy I left at home” (okay, the accents are always swoon worthy but more so in movies than books!). Some authors are doing it right, Maureen Johnson’s The Shades of London series comes to mind, but I think this trope needs some serious reinvention. Make the American the bad “guy”, give the school secret passages or doors to fantastical worlds, etc. I’m interested in seeing what else can be done with it.

3) Vampires

This just needs a bit of a break. I think, given time, I can enjoy a good vamp story again, but I need some time away from the bloodsuckers.  I don’t mind seeing them as secondary characters but the libraries were so flooded after Twilight that I overdosed on the trope. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking vamps need to go back into the coffin for a while.

4) I’ve hit my x birthday and suddenly: have powers/am a mermaid/am a wizard

I can still go for more mermaid stories (hehe) but the whole latent powers that get released by a certain age has grown a bit dull. I’d rather see them have their powers from birth and struggle to hide them as a rambunctious toddler or how they get out of control when puberty hits.  I know a lot of these stories stem from Harry Potter success but I have yet see more than a handful of books do a good job of it.

5) Absentee Parents

This happens in many stories via tragedy or drug and alcohol related problems. I can understand that like the boarding school trope, not having adults around allows for the characters to do more with less consequences, but having a parent or guardian around helps keep the story more realistic and adds more depth to the characters. Absent adults can work but I think there needs to be someone the characters have to answer to.

What tropes are you tired of seeing in YA today? What can you stand to see some more of?


2 responses »

  1. Love bringing attention to this! I agree, there’s a lack of ingenuity lately, falling on the same ideas because they are “proven” to work. I know there are lots of themes untouched for years, and I would love to read something a bit off the path. Not too far off, but fresh. Great post!

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