10 Worst Young Adult Tropes in Fiction
I'm back again for another tropes video! But today we're doing things a little differently. Instead of breaking down the worst tropes in a genre, I am going to break down the worst tropes in a category of fiction–and that category is Young Adult fiction! Young Adult, or YA fiction, is fiction written for teenagers. Obviously, people of any age can read whatever books they wanna read, but YA fiction was written with a teenage audience in mind. I'll admit I was a little hesitant to cover this because YA fans–particularly adult YA fans–can be very defensive about this topic.
“How dare you attack YA! You can pry these teen adventures out of my cold dead hands!”
But I cover the worst tropes of all kinds of books. I've got like thirty videos about ‘em already! And some of my most popular worst tropes videos are about genres that I love to read and write in. That means it's your turn YA. I’m coming for you.
Today's topic was requested by one of my patrons over on Patreon, Albert. Albert wanted to see more trope videos, specifically tropes about teenage characters, and that's what we're talkin’ about today. Now in case you haven't noticed, I myself am not a teenager, which means YA books were not written with me in mind, but that doesn’t matter because I make these posts for fun. This shit ain’t serious, we’re here for a laugh.
With that said, I am breaking down the ten worst Young Adult tropes in my humble but completely correct opinion. Please remember this is just my perspective and I reserve the right to change my mind, but let's be real, this disclaimer isn't going to prevent anyone from getting irrationally pissed.
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Number 1: He’s So Dark and Mysterious
Or is he just a fucking loser? I love a mysterious man as much as the next guy. Actually, no I don’t. Tell me your truth or get the fuck out.
But the dark and mysterious angle doesn't translate super well when it comes to teenagers. I don’t know what high school you went to, but the edgy dudes who wore mostly black and always went out at night were drug dealers. They barely graduated, and they were regularly found high bagging groceries at their after-school jobs. And I know your dark mysterious character is probably just a fallen angel or a vampire who’s actually a thousand years old. But if that's the case, why the hell is he in high school? You couldn’t pay me to return to that hellhole, but these guys are going back there willingly? I'm just saying if he’s edgy, mysterious, and sixteen, he probably likes to melt stuff and dislikes stuff that doesn't melt.
Number 2: The Teenager Who’s Actually Ancient
Everything about this sounds like a nightmare. You have to be stuck in your pubescent body for eternity? I would walk my vampire ass straight into the sunlight and let my damn self burn. As we already covered, these characters are usually attending high school, which would never in a million years happen. And they end up falling in love with actual teenagers, which is undeniable pedophilia. It doesn't matter if he looks sixteen, he is old enough to be her great-grandfather.
And honestly, how can they possibly enjoy the company of teenagers? From the moment you turn twenty, everything about the teenage experience becomes obnoxious. Wow, your hormones are a mess. Oh no, no one understands you. This guy is paying taxes and getting colonoscopies, but please tell us all about how not making the cheer squad ruined your life. I know fiction is fantasy, and we're supposed to overlook inconsistencies, but this one’s too gross to ignore.
Number 3: I’m So Plain, No One Will Ever Notice Me
Except for literally every boy in this novel, especially the dark, mysterious one. And my best friend! They’re gonna fight for me . . . because I'm so plain in a supremely gorgeous way.
I think the reason we get the plain female MC who’s actually beautiful is because the writer doesn't wanna make her seem vain. They portray her as if she finds herself ordinary, but lo and behold, she’s mistaken! I think it’s also an attempt to make her relatable because a lot of young girls have body image issues, so if they see this plain chick getting chased down by boys they think, “Oh my gosh, it could happen to me, too!”
But you still provided a physical description, and it was very un-plain. Glistening green eyes. Rivers of crimson hair. Boobs that are just too big, if only she could find a way to cover them up! And honestly, if you do make her real plain–not fake plain, but actually plain–why can't her love interest be plain too? Guys have body image issues too.
Number 4: The Reluctant Chosen One
Sometimes I don't mind the reluctant chosen one, especially if what they're chosen for fucking sucks. You have to save the entire planet from flesh-eating aliens and you'll probably die in the process. No thanks, count me out. But in Young Adult novels, the chosen one is usually something unbelievably awesome. You are the long-lost son of King Arthur! You are the heir to the Fairy Kingdom! You are the most powerful witch in all the land! Who would not want to be any of those things? These ungrateful teenagers, that’s who! They’re always puttin’ up a fuss, kickin’ and screamin’.
“I just wanna be a normal teenager!”
Normal teenagers have body acne. They have to run the mile once a week. They have a curfew. You get to be a mermaid and fall in love with a hot mer-Prince. But sure, here's some benzoyl peroxide and rampant insecurity. Knock yourself out.
Number 5: But Why Are They the Chosen One?
Why is the chosen one sixteen years old? And why did they have to wait for the worst birthday ever to learn of their magical destiny? As a writer, I understand the intention. This is a Young Adult book, and you’re trying to tell your teenaged audience that they can achieve anything they set their mind to, which is a beautiful message.
But why, then, does the teenage chosen one fucking suck? I've read so many books where the chosen one does nothing but make everything worse. I understand there's a learning curve, but are they ever gonna learn? Why must the blunders take up the entire book? And this isn't an inspiring message. If anything it says, “Look at that, all that effort and you'll still fail because you're the worst.” Personally, I think Middle Grade novels do a way better job of this, maybe YA authors should take note.
Number 6: The Thirty-Year-Old Woman Living Vicariously Through a Fictional Teenager
You know exactly what I'm talking about. The sixteen-year-old main character of this "Young Adult" novel loves her Starbucks black drip, even though we all know teenagers are out there guzzling Frappuccinos. Her favorite book is The Great Gatsby, a book that most teens avoid like the plague because it's required reading. She also says things like “Goodness!” or “Oh my stars!” because we all know teenagers talk like soccer moms. And if she dares to try alcohol, she's gonna go for a fun little rosé, because that's what teenagers drink . . . not cheap beer or hard alcohol mixed with Mountain Dew.
I understand that we wanna see ourselves in what we read. But if you wanna see a grown-ass white woman, read books about grown-ass white women! Young Adult is for teenagers. And yes, it's fine for adults to read and enjoy them, but it's not fine to completely change the category for your own convenience.
Number 7: It’s Young Adult, but Is It Really?
As we've already covered, a lot of adult women read Young Adult novels. Specifically Young Adult fantasy and romance, which is fine. Read whatever the hell you want. But it's the same group of women who constantly demand steamy, graphic, YA fiction. Here’s something for your consideration: If you want more Adult fiction, why don't you read Adult fiction? Adult fantasy romance is booming, and it's full of all the violence and smut you could ask for . . . and you're out here demanding more sex scenes between sixteen-year-olds. You, my friend, are fucking gross.
And because of this demand, a lot of publishing houses have bent the rules. How many Young Adult books have you read where it's very clear that the characters were aged down just to fit into the YA category, except literally none of the characters behave as teenagers in the slightest? And sometimes they don't even bother to age down the characters. The cast will be in their twenties, just to appease the Karens and Jessicas of the world. Let teenagers enjoy YA. You can read it too, but it was made for them. They are entitled to books that accurately represent their experience.
Number 8: The Sassy Brat
I love a good sassafras, but whenever I hear that the leading lady of a YA book is sassy, I'm instantly skeptical. This is solely because so many sassy teen heroines are actually just brats. Sass is boldness, it’s being cheeky and spirited. It's not throwing tantrums and constantly complaining when things don't go your way. And listen, we all have our bad moments. I expect the main character to show their ass every once in a while. I do not expect them to be insufferable.
Listen, we all have our bad moments. I expect the main character to show their ass every once in a while. I do not expect them to be insufferable.
Authors, all I'm asking is for you to learn the difference between sassy and bratty. Sassy is the chick at the party cracking everyone up. Bratty is a little bitch.
Number 9: The Epic Teen Romance
This one's on the list solely because of my age. It's hard for me to believe–let alone get invested in–an epic teen romance. I've been a teenager. I had boyfriends. Ain’t nothing epic about it. It's just hard for me to sit there and think, “Yup, this would definitely happen. They're definitely gonna get married and spend eternity together.”
And I know some people marry their high school sweethearts, but the rest of us do not find that romantic. If anything, that would be my worst nightmare. If I ended up married to my high school boyfriend, I would throw myself out a window. Why? Because sixteen-year-olds have bad judgment. We don't know how to pick ’em. And yes, a lot of teenagers fall in love, but the romance is only epic to them.
“Oh my God, Brayden just shotgunned five Busch Lights at Jessica’s Party!”
“Oh my God, Jayden just took me stargazing in the back of his truck and let me give him a handjob!”
“Oh my God, Cayden took me to the movies and I only had to pay for our popcorn, soda, and candy. So impressive!”
I think it's perfectly normal for people to enjoy YA romance, I just personally can't get into it because I'm a jaded adult who knows too much.
Number 10: The Masquerade Ball
Yeah, I said it. I don't know what it is about young adults and masquerade balls, but you guys love ’em. Those fancy masks get you all hot and bothered. I don't hate this trope per se, it's just kind of boring. There are so many masquerade balls in YA and they usually go the same way. The heroine dances with the hero, she is mesmerized by his eyes, which I promise have gold flecks in them. They always got them gold flecks–it’s the law. And they almost kiss until some disturbance pulls them apart, usually a villainous disturbance.
If this doesn't happen, the author might take the route where the characters don't recognize each other because of their masks. Masks that cover your cheekbones and nothing more. Of course, they dance, they fall in love, and then they get separated. How ever will they learn the true identity of that mysterious stranger? It’s not like they saw 75% of their fucking face. Or heard their voice. Or saw their figure. Those cheekbones get you every time, I swear. If someone wants to do a masquerade ball that unfolds differently then cool! I'll be interested. Maybe. I don't know. Probably not.
So that's all I've got for you today!
A huge thank you to Albert for requesting today's video. If you'd like the chance to have a video dedicated to you or if you want access to tons of other rewards, check me out on Patreon. You get early access to all of my videos. We have monthly live streams. We have an exclusive writing group. You get signed books. It’s awesome, you should join us!
Which of these tropes makes you want to hurl the book across the room? Comment below.
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