For this week’s top ten we’re looking at those things that we can’t stand in YA books. There are more, but Sandie and I narrowed the list down to just ten. We understand why authors rely on some of these tried and true tropes, but we also think they’re tired and wish we could quit reading about them, if not altogether, then certainly so often. Here are ten tropes we want to stop reading about quite so often in young adult lit.
2. Badly developed love triangles: Now, I’m generally anti-love triangles, but every now and then a skilled author manages to convince me through circumstances and character development that a relationship is unhealthy or just “off” and that another person waiting in the wings is the right choice. But this is really rare and requires an author who knew this was where the story was heading to the beginning. What doesn’t work, in my humble opinion? Giving a character a personality transplant (all of a sudden she or he is a complete and utter arse with no regard for the other person) in order for readers to jump ship and join the new one. -Sandie
3. Whiny, self-absorbed protagonists:While I understand that teens can be self-absorbed, I get annoyed by those protagonists (mostly female) who only care about the way things affect themselves and don’t seem to be able to see how it affects others. Most of the time it has to do with the male love interest, but sometimes they don’t get the best friend or family member’s feelings. Whatever the case, it drives nuts. –Diana
4. Inexperienced girls with experienced guys: I’m fine with this idea in general, but it seems like *every* YA book with a romance has a hetero relationship where the girl is innocent or inexperienced and the guy is a secret Casanova. Even YA/NA crossover books dwell on this, and it’s sexist and dismisses teen guys who are virgins or less experienced than their girlfriends, not to mentions girls who might’ve had serious relationships before meeting their One True Thing (in YA terms, anyhow). -Sandie
6. Inauthentic use of other languages: Kudos to authors for wanting to make their books diverse. But, if you decide to make a character speak a different language, then for the love of all that’s holy and sacred, please have a native speaker of that language/culture beta-read your manuscript. Otherwise, your book will go through all the stages of editing without anyone telling you that your Spanish or Chinese or French or Creole sounds like it was created via Google Translate. Que pena! –Sandie
7. Absent, oblivious, or overprotective parents: As a parent of two young adult children this really bugs me. It’s difficult navigating being a parent of adults. Most of us work hard to balance being there for them and giving them freedom and independence. So, it’s ridiculous how in YA literature parents tend to fall into the three categories of being absent, oblivious or overprotective. Most parents are involved, loving parents who try to guide their young adult children.-Diana
8. Stereotypical diverse characters as sidekicks: Again, props for trying to create a diverse set of characters in your book, but think really hard about writing the best friend as the saucy/hot Latin@, the shy and nerdy Asian kid, the sassy black girl, the flamboyant gay bestie who dishes about all of the cute boys. The show GLEE aside, this doesn’t usually translate well and makes readers uncomfortable, because most people aren’t an over-the-top embodiment of a stereotype. -Sandie
10. Food-based descriptions for race/ethnicity: Technically not a trope but more of a ubiquitous pet peeve! I understand the compulsion to call someone’s skin honey, mocha, chocolate, dulce de leche, caramel, coffee, brown sugar, etc. Olive-skinned gets a pass, because well, that’s a certain skin tone, but you wouldn’t call someone’s skin tone “dulce de leche,” right? This is cutesy and fetishizing and just lazy. Just learn your colors and then make sure to signify clearly whether the character is a POC, or readers WILL whitewash them. –Sandie