Being a writer for Young Adult fiction (commonly known as YA), I’ve read hundreds of books. Within all these books, there are sometimes cliches that I absolutely cannot stand. I won’t even read a book if it has certain cliches. It’s a problem if I do that.
If you’re also a writer, you may know the feeling. To avoid letting the cliches completely take over YA, here is a list of the worst cliches that you should definitely avoid when reading or writing.
“the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope”
You know what I’m talking about. Girl is quirky, odd, fashionable, says weird things, and for some reason, everyone loves her. She swoops in and takes control of the male protagonist’s life, changing his whole world. Think Alaska from Looking for Alaska by John Green. The character’s whole purpose is to exist and teach a man life lessons. We need less MPDGs in the YA world, because let’s face it: those girls don’t reflect real people.
2. “Loser girl loves popular boy and changes herself for him”
NO. NO. You should never change yourself for a boy just because he’s popular. This cliche affects so many young girls because they think they may need to change in order to be cool. If we want the cliques and stereotypes to stop in schools, we need to first stop writing about them.
3. “Average teenager lives in dystopian society and needs to save the world”
This book idea has been frequent in books published over the last 10 years. I do agree that some are excellent, mostly because of the writers behind the novels. Here’s the problem: “the chosen one” is overused. Try to avoid it.
4. “Love Triangles”
UGH. That’s all I have to say. A teenager’s life doesn’t usually revolve around which person he or she is supposed to choose to be with the rest of their lives. Usually it revolves around homework.
5. “Terrible Parents”
Most YA books have one parent dead, absentee parents, or terrible parents to the protagonist. While it may be a critical part of the story, not all parents are bad. It’s time for teenagers in YA to start having adult figures to guide them through life.
6. “The ‘Token’ Character”
Books tend to have that one character who is different than everyone else, and readers are constantly reminded of it. That character is gay, or a different race, or has a disability, etc. While it’s nice to have representation in a book, if their difference is being used as some kind of comic relief or just there, then it’s not good representation.
When I was in high school, I never encountered ‘bullies.’ Sure, there may have been some students I avoided because they weren’t the nicest, but having characters solely written as bullying everyone is uncommon these days. Nobody steals your lunch money, embarrasses you in front of the entire school, or trips you in the hallways anymore. At least, I hope. I graduated three years ago.
I don’t think this actually happens very often. Why can’t boys and girls just be friends? Why do they have to fall in love with each other? Why does everything need romance??
9. “I’m Not Like Other Girls”
Not every girl is the same, and I agree it’s definitely important to be your own person, but an entire book does not need to be written based on this saying. That’s just putting down other girls. Why is it wrong for girls to like makeup or wear dresses? There’s nothing wrong with actually being like other girls.
10. “Always-Partying Teens”
This may be due to growing up in rural New Hampshire, but I don’t know teenagers who constantly partied in high school and got drunk. It wasn’t common where I lived, and I’m not sure how common it is for teenagers to say “Hey, my parents are gone this weekend so we can party!” Teenagers usually save partying hard for college, not high school.
What are your thoughts on some of these YA cliches? Are some okay? Did I miss any? Comment below and give me your opinions on these commonly-used plots.