Worst New Tropes in YA Fiction

Reading a Book that is probably full of YA Tropes

Tropes. Cliches. Whatever your word choice, the truth remains. These overused elements in stories drive us insane. They make nicking your shin on the the side table seem pleasant in comparison. Young adult fiction is guilty of being rife with tropes. Many before me have discussed the most used ones. I want to go beyond those and look at newer, less discussed tropes.

For the uninitiated, here are some commonly discussed tropes in YA:

  • Love Triangles
  • The Chosen One
  • A “Strong” Female Character
  • Insta-Love
  • Absent/Bad Parents
  • The Royal Reveal (main character is the lost princess *gasp*)
  • You Have Powers but Didn’t Know It
  • Beauty Blind (I’m a normal, plain girl that 5 boys are all trying to date…)

You may notice some of the biggest YA series of all time (Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games) have more than one trope. That’s because they started the trend to use those tropes in the first place. “The Chosen One” wasn’t as popular in YA until Harry Potter came along. Note to self: Score a bestseller to create new tropes.

Now, let’s look at some less discussed tropes currently happening in YA fiction.

4) The Heroine’s Dreaded Role of Queen

This often comes with the “Royal Reveal” trope. (I’m looking at you Cinder.) Sometimes the reason a heroine was hiding her royal heritage was to save her life, not because she didn’t want it. Other times she takes the course where she actively fights becoming queen. She may reluctantly agree to be queen but reminds you often enough she never wanted the role.

It seems this trope is born out of the tired plot that the crown is a responsibility these girls dread. We get it. The crown weighs heavy upon the head. Being a ruler is tough stuff. But it has been done over and over. I would once like to see a heroine actively prepare for and accept her rule.

Examples: Heartless, Throne of Glass, Cinder, Three Dark Crowns, The Selection

3) Competitors will Fall in Love

Oh, the tragedy! Oh, the injustice! When two characters are forced to compete against each other in a violent game, they will fall in love. Or at least that’s how it goes according to many books in and out of YA fiction.

The trope gets even more exciting when the lovers are required to kill the other to survive. This creates a compelling story because everyone knows good stories are born out of conflict. What is more conflicting than being forced to kill the person you love to stay alive?

Examples: The Crown’s Game, Hunger Games. Here are some non-YA books to show these tropes infiltrate all fiction… Night at the Circus, Ready Player One, Red Rising.

2) Perfectly Paired Ensemble Cast

Ensemble casts are great. They provide an opportunity for different perspectives in a story and add depth to the characters. I’ll even agree it is realistic to date around in your friend group. It isn’t realistic to have an even number of people in a group who all are soul mates.

The examples I have listed do relationships well. In fact, they have destroyed the dreaded Insta-Love. They took leaps into diversity and are to be applauded for that. Still, I really wish they hadn’t all been perfectly paired off. I will forever be grateful to FRIENDS for not throwing Joey and Phoebe into a relationship.

Examples: Six of Crows Series, Throne of Glass Series, Lunar Chronicles, Raven Cycle

1) Old Fashioned, Sexist Society

Victorian society is in vogue. With that type of society comes extreme restrictions upon women. Some examples are a girl can’t be unchaperoned in public or decide her own future. The heroine is then expected to stand up to these societal rules, subvert them, or introduce others to equality.

It seems to be popular due to the rise of feminism in YA. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gender equality and delving into that subject with teens. However, I don’t like this way of doing that. It defines sexism and inequality to teens in its most extreme form instead of the more nuanced form they will actually encounter.

These extremes in faux-Victorian societies are obviously unjust. Showing teens the daily sexist experiences of our current culture would be more valuable. This extreme sexism may damage their ability to see those subtle sexist acts as actually harmful. While the other tropes annoy me, I don’t think they are nearly as damaging as this one.

Examples: Heartless, Defy, The Dark Days Club, The Kiss of Deception, The Queen of the Tearling

What are some newer tropes you’ve noticed? Let me know in the comments!

2 Comments on “Worst New Tropes in YA Fiction

    • Literally no YA book has a healthy parent/kid relationship. ***eye roll emoji*** All the fuss over being a queen in how many novels and not one young girl dreams of being THE QUEEN? It’s ridiculous. The only example I can think of is Fairest by Marissa Meyer but Levana is evil for it.

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