With the increasing need for representation, diversity and individuality in fiction, and especially YA fiction, there is no room for overdone tropes anymore. Young adults are smart and perceptive and relying on books to represent them and reflect them; they, we, deserve better. This is my list, as an extensive lover of reading and a walking ball of opinions, of book tropes in YA that need to die.
- Love Triangles
Not only is this completely overdone, but it’s mostly unnecessary. In what world does 90% of YA fiction have to contain some sort of love triangle? No world. There’s no need. Instead, use YA fiction to teach that relationships can be whole and beautiful even among young adults. Stop having this third person come in to destroy what is a nice relationship, a healthy relationship, a loving relationship. Also if you even fall in love with someone else while with someone, don’t be in a love triangle, BREAK UP WITH THE FIRST PERSON. It’s a shitty thing to do and a shitty thing to depict to young impressionable people. Instead, use YA novels to show healthy relationships that are trusting, loving, happy. Enough with this trope.
- Girls Being Props To Further The (Usually White) Male Protagonists
It’s 2017. Can we start treating girls like human beings? This trope has often been described as the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”, and it’s basically a female character being a 2-dimensional figure whose sole purpose is to teach the male protagonist something about himself, or the world, and she has no personality away from that. I don’t feel like I need to explain why this is detrimental to all readers. It teaches that women are around only to help the men, which is untrue and ridiculous (while I believe all people should help one another where they can, this trope still teaches bad perceptions of what women “should” do). Also, it doesn’t really need to be said because it’s obvious (maybe not to all YA writers), but women are multi-faceted, three-dimensional human beings, and they have personalities away from men. Stop writing YA novels featuring girls whose sole objective is to help the male protagonists and have no personality or traits or wants aside from that. It’s gross and sends gross messages.
- Lack Of Diversity and Representation
This isn’t really a trope, but I’m sick of it anyway. While I’m sure there are beautiful YA novels that contain diversity and representation, the popular YA novels that have the biggest followings, mostly don’t. Also, diverse YA is still so overpowered by white cishet normative storylines and characters, or the diverse characters are background and stereotypical, which isn’t good enough. This is not an issue confined only to literature, movies, TV shows, etc. all struggle with representing non-binary genders, non-heteronormative sexualities and relationships and non-white characters, but it’s unacceptable in all forms of media. Also putting in one token black person or gay person does not mean that your book has representation. All young adults deserve to see themselves represented in all forms of media and not just as stereotypes or background characters with barely any development.
- Dystopian Novels With A Female Lead (That Is Only The Hero Because She Acts Like A Man)
Don’t get me wrong. I am always happy to see females being protagonists, but when it is abundantly clear that they can only be the protagonist when they have only what are deemed “masculine” traits, I’m not having it. The thing is, in these dystopian novels, the women are only the heroes and successful because they lack what is deemed “womanly” or “feminine” emotional tendencies. They are allowed to be angry but not allowed to cry. They are allowed to hate but rarely allowed to love, meaningfully love. While I appreciate and enjoy that these novels are showing women can exist outside of what is typically “feminine”, that they can be angry, and bad at communicating and utterly badass, these novels are also just another sign that to be a female hero you have to exhibit “masculine” traits. Also, the female heroes are still expected to be heterosexual? They’re expected to be masculine in every way, except typically feminine when it comes to love. The same goes for male heroes, let them express emotions that aren’t deemed “manly”, it’s 2017, men cry. Get over it.
- Unnecessary Romance
This ties into the dystopian tropes I was talking about, but why does the vast majority of YA novels have to have romance? It sends messages that you are only valued if you have a significant other, to an audience that shouldn’t have to worry about that. Also, it completely disregards asexual people or people who are just sick of romance and love and seeing it everywhere. It doesn’t allow for people who may be uncomfortable or just not interested in romance or sex or romantic love to be represented. YA readers (and readers of any age): you are valued and have everything you need within yourself, don’t rely on finding another person. You might not hear that a lot or see it represented a lot, but despite what YA fiction shows you: you are valued even if you are alone and even if you never desire to be romantic with anyone, even if you don’t fit into heteronormative society.
Just because I don’t like these tropes doesn’t mean I don’t like any novels with them in it, I want that disclaimer out there. There are lovely YA novels out there that don’t have any or only one of these tropes, I beg you to find them. And to those aspiring to write YA novels, do better than this. Be better than this because reflecting real life young adults will always be better than succumbing to the narrative everyone expects at this point.