I’ve said before that I’m not always a fan of YA novels when adult novels of the same concept are available. This is largely due to the way YA protagonists are written and my inability to care about or understand them. Still, there are some amazingly creative YA novels out there and some brilliant YA authors! This post is not about them. This post is about the things that often turn me off of a YA book or series, the things that I am so tired of reading.
Star Crossed Lovers
I think I can trace this one back to its source material: Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Romeo and Juliet can’t be together openly due to their family feud and instead choose to elope and run away together. They’re thwarted through a combination of events that lead to their tragic deaths and the chastisement of their own families at the end for having let their feud go on long enough to kill off each of their own heirs. While that tale is tragic and one of my favorites, I can’t stand the tropes and couples it’s inspired since then (except for the anime Romeo x Juliet, that shit is tragically beautiful). Part of the problem is in the original, Romeo and Juliet didn’t struggle with their choice to be together, they struggled with the forces keeping them apart. There was no choice, they were in love and they married and they slept together and they planned to be together. It was Mercutio’s death, Tibalt’s death, and the exile of Romeo that led to the tragic ending of their story.
In most YA books where the lovers are star crossed, there isn’t a good reason for them to struggle to be together. Which instead leads to them creating a struggle between the two of them, and agonizing about being together or not being together despite there being no real issue with them being together. Look, if you’re conflicted about being with someone don’t be with them. It’s literally that simple. If there are outside forces stopping you from being together, make sure they’re real outside forces and not just contrived ones that you imagine and can be explained away in an instant so that at the end of the series you get together.
Yeah, this one’s not very original. I think most people are tired of seeing “love triangles” crop up where one girl is inexplicably desired by two very attractive men and has to decide between the two for arbitrary reasons and spends an entire series fretting over this choice. What’s worse? When the love triangle isn’t actually there, or isn’t actually a big deal. You see it all the time, where the female protagonist makes it pretty damn clear which love interest she wants, but because of the persistence of the other love interest she never quite shakes the triangle off. As a result, fans get invested in one or the other and turn things into a competition and a race and that spirals into the author incorporating real rivalry and I’m just sick of all of it.
Not Like the Other Girls
While a female character who’s unusual for her world isn’t the worst thing in the world, one whose attitude is that other women are beneath her because she eschews the feminine role her world would have her take on is another thing. I can’t stand a character, especially a teenage girl who thinks that she’s different from everyone else just because she’s not a cheerleader or doesn’t like dressing up. Defying societal norms can be an interesting and well done character trait, but so often when a teenage girl protagonist is poorly written she ends up circling back to believing she’s Cool and Special because she’s “not like the other girls.”
This one is probably due to the oversaturation of dystopian and revolutionary novels that flooded the market post Hunger Games. I’m all for a rightful revolution, especially one that makes it easy to root for the revolutionaries. Katniss Everdeen was a great example of this because she was interesting as a heroine and the revolution was planned out, organized, and ready to go. What I’m not a fan of is novels that try to introduce sudden revolutions, or that have the protagonist as a ground up kind of building of the revolution. Where nobody has ever thought to tap into the networks of the downtrodden before, or revolution hasn’t even been considered until one special person makes them all Think. I also don’t like revolutions where the morals of the revolutionaries are weird. Ones where they plan to replace the messed up system with something even worse, or ones where they’re angry and bitter not righteous and tired of being oppressed.
Dark and Twisty, but not really
One thing I just don’t get and often get frustrated by is the presentation of a character or a choice or a situation as fraught with darkness, twistedness, and danger when it’s just not. By this I mean a character who struggles with a choice that I may personally find incredibly easy to make, and not nearly as trying as it is to the character. Granted, there are times when I’m able to step back and realize that the reason I think this about these situations is due to personal experience. But it still frustrates me when a character that’s not altogether evil is presented as irredeemably bad (usually a girl who’s prettier or at least seems prettier than the female protagonist) or a situation is presented as a life or death conflict when it ends up resolved incredibly easily. Saying someone is dark and twisted, or traumatized, or desperate isn’t the same as showing that. So I suppose really my frustrating comes from being told that a character or thing is X and then never seeing them actually be X.
These tropes are sometimes popular, sometimes well written, and sometimes a selling point for a series. Other times, they take an otherwise interesting concept and make it difficult to read, boring, or annoying. Personally, I try to stay away from stories that advertise themselves to be about these tropes because I know I’ll dislike them more often than not. I don’t like reading tragic love stories that didn’t need to be tragic, and I don’t like reading about revolutions that aren’t fully necessary or that I don’t agree with. That these tropes most often crop up in YA novels is not a negative statement on YA, nor does it ignore the fact that YA as an age group greatly needs to be reevaluated. These tropes are popular for certain readers, and that’s why they continue to be written. If you like any of these tropes, feel free to tell me why in the comments! And if you have any tropes you’d like to add that you’re not a fan of, also leave them in the comments!