The more I try to find new books/TV shows, the more frustrated I get from repeated tropes that I believe no longer need to exist or just need to exist in a new light than they already have been previously portrayed. Here’s a list of ones that are currently getting my literary goat. Let’s take a look!
Even though Twilight and Vampire Diaries came out nearly 20 years ago, and Dracula came out 200 years prior to that, vampires are still as popular as ever. What is it about the blood-sucking monster of legend that is so appealing to readers? For some reason the human race has always been attracted to the mystery of the undead and immortality, so I do not think that vampires will be going anywhere anytime soon. However, it seems to me that the same story of the brooding vampire who wants to suck the blood of his true love has been done again and again in the same way: the vampire is male, the vampire fails at trying to stay away from his true love, the vampire has magical powers like mind-reading or super-strength, and the vampire loves someone he can’t have. Let’s get something new, people!
Examples: Twilight, Vampire Academy, Marked, A Discovery of Witches, Vampire Diaries, True Blood
The Toxic Relationship with “The Bad Boy”
Ugh. I am not against the love-interest having a character-flaw, but when the character is rude to the protagonist—which makes them somehow attracted to them—and eventually causes them to drag the hero down to their level of messed up thinking, that is when I have a problem. What really burns my biscuits is that the “bad boys” think they know what’s best for the protagonist, so they try to control their actions–we see this countless times in YA literature. It makes me wonder what authors are trying to teach young audiences going through puberty: it’s okay to be attracted to this kind of person, because they are just trying to protect you and it’s okay to give yourself to them because it might just work out in the end? We have enough bad boys in the world, let’s hear about some good ones!
Examples: Twilight, Clockwork Angel, A Court of Thrones and Roses, After, 50 Shades of Grey, 365 Days, Lucifer, Bridgerton
This trope has become more popular in recent literature. Are authors trying to make the protagonist more diversified? If so, I agree that this is a fine trope to include, IF the character grows or evolves from this personality into a person of principle—like Aladdin or Flynn Rider. My problem with this trope is that if they remain in their criminal ways, then it seems like the author is trying to glorify their crimes to the reader, which I believe to be rather unhealthy.
Examples: Throne of Glass, Nevernight, The Gentlemen Bastards Series, Poison, Mask of Shadows, The Traitor’s Game Series, Hanna, Dexter, The Blacklist
The Dystopian Society
Don’t get me wrong, I love reading a good dystopian tale and I enjoy writing them as well. However, the trope where characters (usually teenagers) are trying to overthrow a corrupt government seems like it has been a bit overkilled. The “empowerment” that the protagonists are trying to attain in these books bugs me a bit due to the very real parallels that this trope makes with modern, real-life millennials of society. To me, books like this are teaching teenagers that they can overthrow government (whether oppressive or not). While I am all for stories that express the ideal “I believe that the children are our future”, I am not a fan of empowering teenagers with this kind of mentality if it inspires them to get involved against governmental issues that they do not yet understand fully.
Examples: The Hunger Games Series, The Selection, Divergent Series, Maze Runner Series, Matched Series, Unwind Series, The Society, The 100
The Fairytale Retelling
This has to be one of my favorite tropes to read and write, but I think that it too is in danger of being overdone in popular literature. I have liked some of the recent twists that authors have made to classic tales, but it seems like authors are doing the same ones over and over again—Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty being the main ones. I would like to see some of the lesser-known folktales of Hans Christian Anderson or the Grimm Brothers turned into book-length manuscripts, like “The Six Swans”, “The Nightingale”, or even “Bluebeard”. I think it would be neat to also read tales based off of nursery rhymes.
Examples: A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Cinder, The Goose Girl, Twisted Tales Series, Snow White and The Huntsman, Red Riding Hood, Once Upon a Time, Maleficent
Angels & Demons
This trope is an interesting one, but I think the authors who have used it have sort of missed the mark. Due to the religious origins of these types of tropes, if they are portrayed in a YA relationship, it makes me a bit uncomfortable mainly because I am a religious person and I see angels and demons differently from the way they are crafted in these stories. While they contain interesting interpretations, I find them not very believable and, therefore, don’t think they are worth my time. I think the reason that so many authors have tried to tackle this trope is because it seems like everybody understands the nature of angels and demons differently and it definitely shows in their work.
Examples: Fallen; Hush, Hush; Halo; Mortal Instruments; Charmed; Lucifer; Supernatural
So those are some of my thoughts on the popular YA tropes that I see have outlived their usefulness (if they had any usefulness at all) and hold out hope that this coming generation of writers may craft stories that are a bit more original to the literary imagination.
6 thoughts on “6 Overdone Tropes in YA Literature and TV”
Speaking of fairy tale retellings, do you think “The Little Mermaid” is overdone?
I personally haven’t read that many “The Little Mermaid” re-tellings, but I’ve always been interested in ocean/mermaid stuff so think I could read/watch a few more!
Hi! Thanks for replying. I’ve read in some blogs that fairytale retellings in general are pretty overdone, and the author of the very interesting YA novel “Cinderella is Dead” says that she faced many obstacles in publishing her book, not only because it’s a retelling, but also because it’s about queer black girls instead of the standard white girl/white boy trope.
But while I do confess that there are tons of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast retellings these days and not many are unique enough, I just can’t think of any recent Little Mermaid retelling that is very unique, very memorable, and doesn’t use the Disney rendition of the characters. That and I’m the child of immigrants, so the theme of “leaving one world for another” is something I understand in my heart.
I want to focus on sibling love and found family instead of just the romance though, since I want to bring something new to the story.
Anyway, if you don’t mind me asking, is it true that you must meet agents/editors in person or have writing credential/went to college for writing in order to have bigger chances of your query being read? I have no family, no money, can’t afford college; it’s hard for me to do many things. But I need to know if these things will boost my chances, so that I can find a way even if I have nearly no money.
Again, thanks so much for replying! Hope you don’t mind if I ask you questions like this, sometimes.
But of course, if you’re too busy to reply, that’s alright!
You should pursue an immigrant-themed twist in the story…I think a lot of publishers are looking for that right now. Also, I never had an agent or editor, I just sent stuff straight to publishers. I found the publishers for my short stories mainly from emails from freedomwithwriting.com. I have yet to pursue publishing a novel, so I don’t think I’d be much help answering your questions about queries/book agents. Self-publishing is also a good alternative if you have the right social media connections and marketing strategies.
Hello! It’s been a while. So many things have happened since we last chatted, some good and some bad. In regards to my stories, I’ve decided to put the Little Mermaid project on hold because I’m really more suited to sci-fi and gritty social realism. Besides, there’s loads of fantasy and romance novels in the YA market already, and I want to create something different. Still, thanks for the advice you gave me back in April!