10 YA Tropes We’re Tired of Reading

We’ve all read a YA novel and picked up on something that sounds a little too familiar. We’ve all met the protagonist who’s living in a dystopian world run by a corrupt government – you know, the one who has a lot on her plate right now, what with having to save the world and having some kind of supernatural power that’s endangering her? She’s also the one being pursued by not one, but two guys, and she just can’t choose between them. And she probably has red hair.

Books in the young adult genre can be amazingly well-written and original, but a good number of them seem to rely on the same tropes every time. Today I wanted to write about a few of them. I didn’t want this post to just be a list of cliches that annoy me personally, so I asked my fellow members of the Literary Box Book Club – a great community of book lovers – what tropes they were tired of reading in young adult novels. Here are ten of the tropes that we need to see less of in books!


1. Love triangles.

This one is no surprise. The trope of love triangles appears in some of the most popular young adult novels out there – hi The Hunger Games – and it’s rarely relevant to the plot in any way. The main character, generally a female of the not-like-the-other-girls variety, is in love with two guys. She can’t choose between them. This is either tacked onto the book as a forced romance storyline, or is the basis of the entire novel. You can usually tell exactly which guy she’s going to end up with purely by their introduction.

In The Hunger Games, the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale is certainly not the most important element of the books, but it’s focused on far too much. Predictably, when the movies came out the media blew the love triangle even more out of proportion. Forget Katniss taking down the government or dealing with PTSD or literally being in an televised-murder-kid-explosion-arena – what the teen magazines wanted to know was are you Team Peeta or Team Gale?

2. Being the ‘chosen one’.

There’s only so much of prophecies, magical powers and being descended from some kind of mythical being that a reader can take. Stating that your protagonist is ‘the chosen one’ at times feels like a cheap way of explaining why your main character is…well, the main character. She is the chosen one. Legend says that a white straight girl with red hair and eyes that change colour when she’s upset is destined to save the world. Deal with it. The prophecy foretold you so.

3. “I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding.”

We don’t know where this originated or why people keep writing this, but it’s a thing. A weird thing that adds nothing to the writing and…doesn’t even really make sense. When the reader’s attention is being directed to how the character is breathing, that’s when you know the story is getting intense, right?

4. Diversity where?

This one is a little more serious. The majority of YA novels have white, able-bodied, female protagonists with white, able-bodied, male love interests. There’s a lack of diverse characters in young adult novels that is unrealistic and disappointing. There’s no representation for the young people that these novels should be written for.

In an attempt to claim the cast of characters is in some way diverse, the author might insert one token black character into the mix. When this is done poorly it can be pretty obvious. If the black teenage girl (who is, quite suspiciously, the one person of colour in her entire high school) seems to have zero qualities or personality traits other than being ‘sassy’, then you might need to think about rewriting. Remember that including minorities for the sake of including minorities is a bad move, and nobody’s personality entirely revolves around their race, sexuality, gender or disability. They deserve to be written with equal depth as the other characters.

5. The token Best Friend character.

The Best Friend character generally falls into one of three categories:

A type: Incredibly attractive. More popular than the protagonist. Has a good understanding of makeup and fashion, so she likely helps the protagonist dress up for a date or the prom in later chapters. Is likely to turn out to be unkind and betray the protagonist in some way. In the world of YA novels that revolve around love triangles, female friendships aren’t worth too much.

B type: Their name is Mia and their personality is as bland as porridge. You’ll never hear of them after the first two chapters except for a possible cameo at the end. Bye Mia.

C type: The best friend is a guy. Oh boy. He and the protagonist have been friends since preschool when they tried to drown one other in a duck pond. He is very obviously in love with the protagonist and this will not become clear to her until the end of the book. Has brown floppy hair much like a wildebeest. Possibly a guitarist, almost certainly a social outcast that only the protagonist understands.

6. Instantly falling in love.

The protagonist and the love interest see eachother across the room – sufficient grounds to say that they’re in love. Or maybe their eyes meet at the school cafeteria. Hell, maybe their hands brush accidentally. In your typical low quality YA novel, it’s surprisingly easy to fall in love. If not easy, then fast.

7. Alarming levels of heterosexuality.

Oh god. The YA genre can be painfully straight at times. I can count the good LGBT-inclusive YA novels I’ve read on one hand. And really I can’t say it’s LGBT-inclusive so much as…LG-inclusive? Bisexual and/or transgender characters are a rarity.

Perhaps even worse than an 100% straight cast of characters is, once again, when the author adds a gay best friend for diversity’s sake. This is the only time you’re likely to see a female protagonist with a male friend who remains just a friend. The gay best friend trope is one of my least favourite – these characters are almost always painfully stereotypical. “Oh my Gaga” is a phrase I’ve had to read with my own two eyes. I’m not even kidding. I can’t imagine that every gay teenage boy’s primary purpose is to drift about his high school until he finds a straight white girl who needs a makeover – and yet this character trope persists.

8. Manic Pixie Dream Girls.

They whisk away the incredibly dull male protagonist, get them to shoplift an inflatable dolphin for the sake of quirkiness, teach them how to love and live, then die in a freak accident. All in about the space of a weekend. There’s no rest for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. They’re equal parts lovable and irritating in a vague blue-haired way, and they appear in YA fiction way too much. If you’re trying to write a realistic novel, don’t make your male protagonist’s love interest someone like this. Life is not a John Green novel, ladies and gentlemen. And shoplifting is more illegal than quirky.

9. Parents where?

Chances are the answer to that is something along the lines of:

A) They died in a car crash when Protagonist was three.

B) Business trip.

C) You are briefly introduced to them in the first chapter but after that they are sucked into the void never to be seen again.

D) The antagonist or the government killed the parents.

10. Red hair. So much red hair.

Red hair occurs in 1-2% of people, yet somehow either Protagonist or Best Friend are always redheads. If we lived in a world where young adult protagonists ran wild, red hair wouldn’t be quite so uncommon after all. Then again, if red hair was common, the protagonists would probably not have red hair. And then again! If we lived in a world where young adult protagonists ran wild, at least 1-2% of the population would be Chosen Ones. That’s a lot of choosing.


Thanks to all of my fellow book club members who helped contribute their thoughts and ideas! It’s good to see that so many readers aren’t settling for predictable writing or stereotyped characters.

Let me know in the comments what your least favourite YA trope is!

(Image source: http://yoursummerdreamz.tumblr.com/)

On Baking & Perfectionism

On Wednesday I baked brownies for the first time! They were fudgey and warm and delicious and everything that good brownies should be.

I don’t make things very often, and when I do they often go wrong. Not necessarily wrong enough that they could be considered a disaster or failure – just not what I had in mind. As someone who has highly unrealistic expectations in all things, this isn’t so good. If things don’t turn out exactly like I imagined them, it feels like there must have been something I could have done better.

The brownies were a success; they did stick to the pan a little, and they might have been a little too crumbly, but I was the only one who noticed those things, and they were still the most delicious and perfect of all brownies. It feels good to be able to make something and not be left with a feeling of disappointment. The secret is probably not learning to look past imperfections so much as actually trying to make something in the first place. The more you do, the more you’ll get right. Most importantly, the more you try, the more brownies you end up with.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? [review]

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a collection of personal essays and stories written by actress and comedian Mindy Kaling. I generally don’t read memoirs, but I wanted to branch out – also I love Mindy in The Office, so I was looking forward to seeing what she had to say.

Mindy’s writing had a super friendly tone, and she’s a good storyteller. While I didn’t find the majority of her stories particularly interesting, she had a way of telling them that held my attention for the most part of the book.

Mindy talks about her childhood, her nemesis of a bicycle, her babysitting years and her rise to fame as a writer and actress. She serves up plenty of opinions while she’s at it, listing her top ten favourite moments in comedy, what she thinks the perfect guy should wear and do, and her favourite tropes in romantic comedies.

Once you’re three-quarters through the book and chapters such as Why Do Men Put Their Shoes on So Slowly? start to surface, it feels as though the book has run out of places to naturally go. Some of the essays seem to go nowhere and serve just as ways to fill up the second half of the book. After the first half of the book I began to lose interest as the essays seemed drawn out; I also wasn’t particularly interested in the essays on things such as how many pairs of jeans and shoes the ideal man should own, etc.

Overall I thought this was a fairly entertaining read, and if you’re into memoirs by relatable female comedians, this should be right up your alley. The author’s unique voice and chatty writing style make this stand out. Maybe this wasn’t my cup of tea so much, but it might be yours.

☕☕ [2/5 cups]

I’m pretty new to reading biographies; if you like, leave a comment with a memoir/biography that you’ve enjoyed!

On Reading

The best New Year resolution I made this year was to read more, and it’s been the resolution that I’ve been doing the best job of keeping. I’ve read a handful of novels over the past couple months, and I’ve been working to fit more reading time into my day.

It’s nothing like when I was a kid though – I used to max out my card every time I visited the library. I’d carry bags, backpacks – even a suitcase on wheels sometimes – and once I got home I’d stack the 30-odd books in an unlikely-looking tower in the corner of my room, just to see how the spines would look together.

Maybe compared to when I was a kid I’m not really reading much now,  but what with library studies and my mind being arid, I don’t have the time or energy to be the obsessive reader I used to be. I’m okay with that though! Nobody has as much time as they did when they were kids. It doesn’t make me less of a book lover.

I want to keep up the reading, and I want to start posting some reviews on here too! I’ve started following a lot of bookstagrams, and they’ve been super inspiring – maybe I could start taking aesthetically pleasing photos of my books too?

If you like, let me know in a comment if there’s something that you like to make time for in your life!

(IMAGE SOURCE: http://memories-mint.tumblr.com/image/154258059470)

march 20: conquer

Hello everyone. For the past couple weeks I’ve been working on my uni assignments; I finished and submitted one yesterday, and I have two to go!

The one I’m currently working on is for Literature Resources for Children and Young People. It’s definitely one of the more interesting courses I’ve taken – I’d never really stopped to think about how important children’s literature is, and I’d never guessed there would be so much to learn! There are six different types of picture book if you can believe it… the paper also focuses on Young Adult literature too, which I’ve always been interested in.

So, for my assignment right now I’m writing some small book reviews for children’s books. I’m posting them on another wordpress – I was going to post them here but I feel like creating a sideblog would be more professional. I have several thousand words in essays to conquer in the next ten days, so wish me luck!

world of tomorrow [review]

I just finished watching a short science fiction film called World of Tomorrow, and I really really liked it so I wanted to share it on here, along with a few of my thoughts on it. It’s 16 minutes long, and was created by Don Hertzfeldt.

The two characters in the film are Emily Prime, who is a young girl, and a clone of Emily. Emily’s clone contacts her from the future, and takes her on a journey through the Outernet. Together they go through a number of memories, and Emily’s clone explains how the world has changed. She also talks about a number of jobs she has had, as well as how she had fallen in love with a rock, a fuel pump and a clone of a man named David.

I absolutely loved watching this. It was funny and horrifying in equal parts, and the story was so clever and unique! The style, the music and the very different voices of the two Emilys made this a really incredible film. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Animated Film. Overall it has won 42 awards.

You can watch World of Tomorrow here: