When people ask me my favorite genre or type of book to read, I’m generally at a loss. That probably seems weird since I’m such an avid reader; I should know my reading taste by now, but it’s actually really fluid and hard to predict. I call myself a mood reader, meaning I have to be in certain moods to enjoy certain books. Now, I may have to be in the right mood to enjoy a genre, but there are certain tropes found in YA books that I am always in the mood to hate. You know, those little elements and phrases you read on the back of a book that make you immediately throw it back on the shelf. So basically what I’m saying is I don’t always know what I like, but I always know what I hate. Is that normal? Oh well.
This might be my most hated trope. If I read this on the back of a book, I’m not even going to finish the synopsis; the book is immediately out of my hands. Memory loss is just too easy. Having your 16-year-old main character lose her memory and try to figure out her past so you can spend the whole book trying to figure out what her past is, too, is just too convenient. It’s like an ex-machina but for the beginning of a book. It’s too easy to construct a plot from missing time; it’s not creative, it’s lazy. It’s what authors do when they don’t know what to do with their characters or when they don’t know anything about them. It’s not interesting to read about when half of YA contemporaries are about memory loss. I’ll pass.
This really follows all of the same reasons I hate the memory loss trope. There are only so many things that could have happened to a missing person. They ran away, they were captured, they’re dead. That’s kind of it. Again, it’s lazy and too convenient to write in a missing character. The main character will spend the whole book trying to find them. I can only read that same storyline so many times before I go crazy. Pass.
This really isn’t a trope, but I’m honestly so sick of straight romances in YA in general that I had to include it. I’ve read enough “boy meets girl” contemporaries for a lifetime. If I’m going to read a straight romance in YA, I want it to be new and creative and exciting and have the characters to actually have chemistry with each other. I want the romance to have purpose in the story, rather than it just be there because that’s what the author thinks needs to happen in a YA book. I have read countless stories where the central conflict is interesting enough without a romance, especially a forbidden one, especially a forbidden one between two straight kids. Give me actually good chemistry between two straight characters, or give me literally any LGBTQ romance.
This has been discussed so much in the YA community, I don’t know if I really need to talk about it for long. It’s been far overdone. It’s a lazy way to create conflict because you don’t know how to create interesting conflict within storyline you have already started. I don’t think this is as much of a problem in the YA/publishing community as it was around four years ago, but still. If a love triangle is hinted at in the synopsis of a book, it’s going back on the shelf. Pass.
the chosen one
Recently, I’ve been a big fan of group efforts (see: The Raven Boys by Maggie Steivfater). Having one character as the only one who can save the world from whatever bad thing is happening just feels, again, too easy. It’s been done and it’s been done a lot. When I’m looking for a good read, I’m looking for characters with interesting motives, with central conflicts that feel new and exciting. Saying that your main character is the only one who can do what they’re doing just feels lazy; try digging a little deeper, or I’ll pass.
I’m realizing that a lot of my complaints and turn-offs are from feeling that the author is being lazy and not trying hard enough to stand out among the hundreds of YA books out there. I understand that books in the YA world go through trends; certain things are extremely popular during different periods of time. But what can be cool about these trends are authors who take the common trope and twist it into something familiar but also something very new and innovative. Reading a book where an author just takes a common trope and throws it into their story, doing nothing to make it distinctive from the last ‘chosen one’ release, can be boring but also disappointing. I want to read books by authors who are ambitious, who want to be different, who give us stories we have never seen before, who give us stories that feel both familiar and foreign.
What tropes in YA can you not stand? What phrases found in synopses will make you not read a book? Let me know in the comments!