10 Tropes in YA that I Want to Stop Reading About



Welcome back to another Top 10 Tuesday, an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Everyone is welcome to join, so go check out their blog to see the upcoming topics!

This week’s topic is 10 Bookish Things I’d Like to Quit so I wrote about the 10 Tropes in YA that I Want to Stop Reading About

Many of these tropes are just overdone, plain and simple. However, I don’t actually want to see them go away completely. I mean, a trope is a trope for a reason, right? Perhaps it’s because tropes are familiar that it makes characters easier to identify and relate to. With that being said though, what I would like to see is a little more imagination in the way that these tropes are approached.

1. “I’m not pretty.” But she actually, totally is.


This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. I get it. A lot of girls don’t think they are pretty. But this is just so overdone. Can’t we do this in a more subtle way? Instead of her outright saying, “I don’t like this about myself” or “I am plain compared to my best friend”, can her lack of self-confidence just be part of the narrative, can that just be weaved in artfully? No? *le sigh* Also, why should this be a thing that we promulgate!? (Low self-esteem) News flash! Girls, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, I don’t care that you don’t think so, I promise you, you absolutely 100% are.

2. “I’m a what?”


There are only so many ways that this trope can be written, only so many kinds of shocked, floored, stunned, or flabbergasted a character can be by the discovery of what they truly are or what they are destined to do. For this, Harry Potter is the first that comes to mind. Hagrid says, “You’re a wizard, Harry.” And Harry’s classic, stuttering response? “I’m a…I’m a, what?” I think of Clary from the Infernal Devices for this too and I know there are tons more, but these are the first that came to mind.

3. “I love you but….” I have to leave you to protect you/them/us all/save everyone/because I’m no good for you etc.


I’ll admit that I am a sucker for this one though, when it is DONE RIGHT. Keys words there my friends. Don’t you just hate it when the character’s motivations are just plain silly though? Don’t you find yourself asking the book/author/character why they couldn’t have thought of like a hundred other solutions like you just did in a span of the last three seconds? Yeah, that’s me too.

4. Love Triangles/Instalove/My Best friend is suddenly into me?


I wrapped all three into one because ultimately, what this one comes down to for me is realism. Is their connection realistic? Have the events that have happened to them brought them together and bonded them in this way to create this feeling of love? I am not a fan of the, “I see her and there is this instant connection” thing. Barf. That happens in real life, sort of, but there is always more, and that needs to be explored. This trope is also totally a guilty pleasure of mine though, because while it is overdone, I love rooting for my favorite and it keeps things interesting beyond just the main plot.

The best friend being suddenly into the MC, however, really bothers me. This is because if the guy is suddenly interested in the MC because she is involved or about to get involved with another guy and all of a sudden he realizes his “true feelings” for her…uh…I’m already nauseous. It’s a little late for that buddy, is what I’m thinking. And yes, I’m looking at you Mal! If, on the other hand, there is a standing best-friend relationship that turns into love then I’m cool with that.

5. Boys and girls can’t actually just be friends.


So this is a tragedy to me. Being a person that believes 100% in the plausibility of purely platonic relationships between guys and girls, I really do find this trope annoying and transparent. It is predictable and can be super annoying if it bridges the gap with the earlier point, where the guy is only noticing the girl because she is into another guy. Not cool, okay!?

6. The Mary Sue or Gary Stu


These characters are just so perfect, so pretty/handsome/so good at everything they do and everyone in the book just adores them. Also, if they are a girl, then she is probably clumsy. Ahem…when did being clumsy become an endearing trait? Or being miss goody-two-shoes for that matter? How are we supposed to connect to these characters that are just so squeaky clean they make anti-bacterial hand soap look dirty? They have zero flaws and are essentially limitless. Now, a character who is sort of a Mary Sue but has such and such thing and such and such problem, well those things automatically make her less of a Mary Sue and probably more relatable.

7. Missing parents/Dead Parents/Unreliable Adults


It is really sad that almost all the parents are dead in YA sci-fi/fantasy, and if they are not dead then they cannot be relied upon to either understand what the protagonist is going through or they are simply idiots. I wish there were more characters like Julien from Red Queen, he was probably the best adult character I’ve seen portrayed in a while.

8. The virginal female protagonist and the not-so-virginal male protagonist (but that’s okay) double-standard


The female protagonist is almost always virginal and the guy gets to be more experienced, either implicitly or explicitly stated, which we forgive because he’s a guy? Why? Why is this? Or he is just as inexperienced and he’s been holding out all this time for the protagonist. Realistic much? Why can’t it be the opposite?

Also, why suddenly is the female character “bad” or a “slut” if she kisses both dudes in the love triangle? For goodness sake, it was just a kiss, calm down.

9. The Bitchy Competition


Ahhhh….the fight between two girls for the main guy. This is also a sadness because why can’t we all just get along? This trope gives me major eye-rolls. Mostly because I don’t find it super realistic for two girls to duke it out over a guy in this way, but I guess that’s just me.

10. Villains are maniacal, insane, and power hungry.


No villain thinks they are super bad. They always think what they are doing is for the good of someone, even if everyone else thinks that they are crazy. I don’t like seeing one side being portrayed as wholly bad and one side as wholly good, neither of these things is realistic. There is always a balance and there is always a real explanation behind ideologies, no matter how jacked up they are.

And that my friends are the 10 Tropes in YA that I Want to Stop Reading About. What about you? What are your least favorite tropes? What about your favorite ones? Any guilty pleasure tropes that you kinda sorta want to hate but can’t help loving them? Tell me about them in the comments!

Did you do a Top Ten Tuesday this week? Post the link in the comments, I’d love to see the 10 Bookish Things you’d like to quit.

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13 thoughts on “10 Tropes in YA that I Want to Stop Reading About

  1. YAS! To all the above, especially 4, 6, 9 & 10. I definitely think that traditional tropes can be reworked to be presented in a new and unique way. But with romance, I think writers should make a conscious effort to portray it in a realistic way.

    My least favorite trope: Romantic Love conquers all.

    Thanks for sharing this list!

    1. I 100% agree about the “romantic love conquers all” trope! It is probably the most unrealistic of all the tropes, because while true love is a beautiful thing, it also isn’t a force in an of itself. Being in love wont make the world work out in the end. Good one to point out!

  2. I actually agree with every single one of these Nicolette! I probably don’t mind the villain thing that much, probably because I read a lot of contemporary and there aren’t too many villains in that genre. But all the relationship ones are definitely tiring to read about. HAHAHA the ‘I’m a what’ trope is so on point!

    1. Jenna! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! 😊I had so much fun writing it. A lot of these I truly am tired of reading and some I’m fine with as long as there is a little more thought put into their usage. Some I’m really just a sucker for though as well.
      But there are times that I feel like these kinds of tropes are just being used to make the writing and characterization easy. There is nothing easy about being a real person, and while we all can be a bit tropish or trope-like, there is always a genuine motivating factor behind a person’s actions. I have serious distaste for poorly thought out characters, who are seemingly tropes for the sake of being them.

      1. I agree that I don’t mind as long as it’s done well. I mean, tropes definitely arise because they’re things that happen in real life but if it’s done in an unrealistic way, it puts a bad taste in my mouth.

      2. I’m totally the same way! It takes more effort on the writer’s part to develop the characters more so they aren’t 100% tropes, but honestly that’s the promise that they make to the reader. So when they break that promise by shattering the fantasy of reading, when they create characters that are hard to connect to because they lack that realism, then unfortunately the writer has failed at performing their job.

      3. I just want the characters to act their age. My biggest problem with books is when the characters seem or act too juvenile. It almost makes me feel like I’m too old for the YA genre and that’s not a pleasant feeling. But I also hate the opposite, when all these sixteen year olds are “old souls”.

      4. Yes! The old, sage-like teen isn’t super convincing to me. There are some scenarios though where I think it makes sense, if they have experienced intense hardship or something along those lines, then their wiseness or older perspective on life seems more realistic.
        But ultimately it is about being convincing, about connecting to the reader and not making them feel distanced from the characters.
        And you’re so right about feeling too old for the genre at times when the character acts too juvenile, that really disrupts my connection to the characters and typically if I can’t find something to easily latch onto to ‘forgive’ them then I tend to dislike them for the majority of the book.

  3. I loved this post! I can totally agree with all of these tropes. Most are definitely overrated. With the villain one, I read Paper Fury’s TTT this week where she said that she is sick of villains being portrayed as being not bad to the bone but with morals and a soft side! Interesting!

    1. Josie, I’m so happy that you enjoyed it! 😍I haven’t caught up on all the TTTs out there and need to read Paper Fury’s! And I agree, I don’t think villains should necessarily be portrayed as having a soft side, but I do think that their villainy needs to make sense ideologically, not morally. No one is just pure evil for the sake of it. They always believe they have a reason for what they do. There is a balance when portraying the villain I think, and I agree with Paper Fury, allowing that villain to have a “soft side” wouldn’t work for me either.

  4. Er my goodness! Freak out time! Thank you! Thank you! and… Thank you! I mean honestly! These are perfect and love when people bring these cliches up because it really makes me reflect on books I’ve read, but more importantly not books I’m writing. I strive to not follow these. However, we are all creatures of habit and sometimes they just snake there way in there, but this is always so eye-opening! *seriously needs to go do some edits now* :p

    I have to say that my absolute favorite out of all the ones you listed though is ten. Villains! They are SO misunderstood! They’re not evil. (Well, they don’t mean to be.) The difference usually between villains and heroes is that the villain is generally more selfish and more likely to do whatever it takes to get what they want, but they still WANT something. Ugh! Reasons why I love villains. (and why they’re so easy to get wrong. *sigh*)

    Anyway! Thanks for this! It was awesome!! *squeals silently*

    1. AAAHHH!! OMG!! I’m so happy you liked this!! And I feel you on trying to avoid these tropes. I think what is important, and the end of the day, is that the writing we are doing isn’t being lazy, that we are exploring our characters, understanding their motivations and if it makes sense then use it. They may come off a bit tropish but as long as we have paid close attention to the realism of things, then I think we’re on the safe side of things.

      1. Definitely! As long as they’re done right and aren’t super, flamboyantly cliche then they can work. It has to make sense in the story and, like you said, stay on the side of realism.

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