BOOK TROPES. I recently saw all of the BookBlogWriMo posts about common tropes that bloggers love to see in books. In case you’re not aware, a trope is basically a cliche or common theme – in our case, in YA books. I decided to do my own spin-off discussion of this topic, since I think it’s a worthy one of having! I had a Musing Mondays post on “typical YA” and what I mean when I reference that in a review… A lot of this post stems from that discussion. Here are some of my favorite and least favorite book tropes that I see in books, as well as some that I have mixed feelings on.
Best friends who finally realize they love each other
This is definitely one of my all-time favorites. There’s nothing better than the moment when they FINALLY realize they’re in love with their best friend. Of course, the reader knows the whole time and spends most of the book shouting for them to just kiss already…but you still love it when it finally happens. Any time there’s a childhood best friend in the picture, you can assume they’re going to be the love interest… and you’re totally fine with it. Everyone else who steps in the way, back off please.
Favorite books: Damsel Distressed by Kesley Macke, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, and Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Self-discovery or realization of powers
Dude, this is the best. You know why? Because it gives everyone hope that it’s still possible for them!! I’m waiting for the day I’ll receive my (very late) Hogwarts letter or discover I’m a witch in an alternate universe or find out I’m a faerie. A girl can dream. This is one of the coolest tropes because the character is just a regular ol’ human and suddenly they’re NOT. Bam – new powers. New responsibility. Probably a lot of drama. These books are a lot of fun because you watch the character develop their powers and grow into their new life.
Favorite books: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini, Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The quirky and/or “opposites attract” kind of best friend
It’s stupid when a character’s best friend is exactly like them. It’s not realistic. Gimme the kind of best friend that’s a little crazy, a little weird, and a lot different than the main character. The yin to their yang, so to speak. It’s more fun to see a friendship where two halves make a whole; they even each other out. Maybe the best friend is wilder than the MC, so she brings out the crazy streak sometimes. No friendship is perfect, but their opposite personalities attract in a way that just works.
Favorite books: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, and Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway.
Friends that are like family
Aside from just a lovely group of weird best friends, I love the groups of friends that are really like family: the ones who head over to the main character’s house, let themselves in, and help themselves to whatever’s in the fridge. Their relationship goes beyond just being a best friend; they’re basically a family member. Their parents love them and basically view them as their own child. I love these relationships because I think of my own relationships like that. It’s just so realistic.
Favorite books: Aspen by Rebekah Crane, Twenty Boy Summer
by Sarah Ockler, and Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke.
Tomboys or “just one of the guys”
As someone who has extensively studied feminism and gender roles, this whole plot idea bothers me on a fundamental level. I hate the “tomboy” label (and the “girly girl” label, for that matter). First of all, who decided what the “girly” activities are? Why does it matter? Just let people be who they are without slapping gender normative labels on them! I haaaate the gender norms that society has created; why do we have to draw a line in the sand between guys and gals? BUT, sometimes this can create a cute story. I like the idea that the girl who is considered just a friend is suddenly relationship material to her guy friends. Hey, I have more guy friends than girl friends! I understand where she’s coming from here. I don’t like that this usually needs to happen because of a major makeover. Now that she’s conventionally pretty, you notice her? Ugh. C’mon. If you didn’t like her the way she was, you don’t deserve to be with her. (I’ve only allowed myself to read one book like this, so the second two examples are just based on Goodreads summaries.)
Book examples: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, On the Fence by Kasie West, and One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin
Ah yes, the almost-universally hate love triangle. These can be okay for me depending on a few factors. I don’t mind them when it’s painfully obvious which person the girl is going to end up with. Did anyone honestly think Edward wouldn’t win over Jacob? (This is a tried and true example.) I don’t exactly see the point in them, though. It just creates unnecessary drama. It never bugged me until I became a blogger and realized how much other people hated love triangles for some reason. I understand that they are a cliche. They are overdone. They are unnecessary a lot of the time. BUT – they do happen in real life, I’m sorry to say. There have been times in my life, when I was in various levels of serious relationships, when I found myself somewhat conflicted. If books are supposed to represent real life, you’re bound to see a love triangle or two in these novels. They bug me, but not as much as other people. I don’t like when they ‘re done just to add drama or aren’t done well. I want to see the character struggle between the two people because there’s genuine feelings there. (I wrote a discussion post about this recently, if you’re interested in seeing this explained a little better.)
Book examples: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle (bad one), White Hot Kiss by Jennifer Armentrout (good one), and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (good one)
Emotionally closed-off main characters because of past negative events
This is probably the one I hate the most. I don’t need a boyfriend because someone close to me has been hurt before! Oh okay, you’re just going to be emotionally closed off for the rest of your life because someone you know got hurt by their significant other before? Makes sense. I understand that if you or someone you care about has been hurt before, you don’t want it to happen again/to you, but the excuse of “I don’t need or want a boyfriend” because of it is just annoying for me to read. I guess this must happen in real life since people write about it all the time, but it just bugs me. You KNOW this guy is going to be different. Stop pretending you don’t like him. I’m bored.
Book examples: Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, and The Distance Between Us by Kasie West.
Ah yes, the dreaded insta-love. Yep, I hate it too. I know that love at first sight could possibly be a thing for some people, but I just am not a fan of it in books. Instant-attraction or lust is understandable. But love? To me that’s just a way for the author to skirt around actually developing the romance. I just don’t like when characters drop those three words within weeks or a month of meeting each other. Show me, don’t tell me, authors!
Book examples: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle, The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar, and Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.
Miscommunication or lying as the reason for the breakup
I just don’t understand why this happens so often. There have been so many times where I’ve yelled “JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER” at my book. You both know you love each other – stop trying to hide your feelings! Authors use this device when an otherwise-perfect couple has no other reason to break up, A.K.A. – they need an excuse to add some drama to the book. I get that people lie in real life, but the characters don’t need to lie or hide the truth or NOT TALK to each other about an issue in order to create the book’s climax. “Oh no! They broke up because this person didn’t tell the other person something. Don’t worry. Wait a few chapters and the issue will finally be resolved, when the two of them finally get their shit together.”
Book examples: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, The Distance Between Us by Kasie West, and Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson.
Getting over friendship fights too quickly
Let me explain. There are many instances where (see above) the main character lies to their best friend and/or significant other, or hides the truth, or makes some big mistake. The world comes crashing down. Everyone finds out about what they did wrong and demands WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?? Well, because the book needed to reach a dramatic climax before the happily-ever-after. Regardless, it really grinds my gears when that issue, which already annoys me to begin with, is resolved far too quickly. “Well you’re my BFF so you’re forgiven! Immediately! No worries! Fuck me over forever and we’ll still be BFFs!” At least give the friendship-fixing the time it deserves.
Book examples: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick & Suzanne Young, and (an opposite example/ friendship resolution done right) Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.