1. The Girlboss Protagonist
She’s just as strong, courageous and fierce as the men and she can do anything they do, she will go out of her way to prove them wrong and show that she’s just as good as them. Now don’t get me wrong, I love books with feminist ideals and values, but the ‘girlboss’ protagonist reads as white feminist propaganda, or as a suburbans mum’s fantasy (if you need an example for this look at Maas’ woman characters). The girlboss just isn’t good representation, and is often really boring to read as there’s no nuances to them or to their arc as a character (if they’re even fortunate enough to get any development).
Now if I know this is controversial because I’m sure a lot of of you love soulmate pairings and OTPs but I can’t stand it. I feel like this trope doesn’t allow for any romantic growth as it tells the characters and thus the reader these two are perfect for each other – often without proving it – and we rarely see ‘soulmates’ go through any romantic trials and therefore growth, and their relationship often becomes stagnant. I never believe soulmate pairings because they are never challenged, and if they are it’s never in a significant way, and I also don’t like book series with romantic relationships that never change – characters should break up! And should get together with someone else! Normalise it!
3. The Not Like Other Girls Protagonist
I think we all know the type, that one girl whose not into anything feminine or traditional seen as girly. They only like books, and don’t get obsessed with boys, and they don’t like pop music – and that’s all fine, but they also have a lot of internal misogyny that’s never addressed – and that is the issue. I would love this trope if I saw the character transform and recognise their internal misogyny and grow and change from this, but it is unfortunately never about this, it always about making the character seem like the “best”.
4. The Like Every Other Girl Antagonist
This is always paired with the last trope I mentioned, if you have a protagonist who isn’t “like other girls” then you will always have a girl antagonist who is the embodiment of every single misogynist stereotype you can think of. The antagonist will put other girls down, she is vain, she cares more about possessions then people, she’s irrational, overly emotional, obsessed with men to an unhealthy degree, she only dresses in feminine clothing and colours, she’s intelligent but in a manipulative way, she is shallow – I think you get the idea. She is everything most girls and women aren’t, but everything we’re told growing up other girls and women are like, she is the embodiment of the internal misogyny many women dealt with at some point – and I can’t wait for the day this kind of character dies a painful death. However, she is not to be confused with a mean girl character type or trope – who if done right can be complex and more than offensive stereotypes.
5. The Secret Heir
Kill me now. I hate this trope. This is solely a trope found in fantasy, and often in YA fantasy, but every time the plot twist is that the protagonist has been the secret heir to the throne or kingdom or community all along it’s boring. I want a nobody to be secret heir, someone who is ill-prepared and doesn’t want it, give me reluctant heirs who are snappy and funny! Don’t give me secret heirs who have are amazing badass protagonists and therefore perfect for this ‘secret’ role. I will note, however, this trope seems to be in the process of dying so I’m quite happy about that.
I don’t think I even need to explain why this a bad trope on a book blog that is read by readers. We all hate it, we all think it’s an awful plot device and time and time again writers use it. I would understand it if poor communication skills was a character’s flaw but it never is, it’s always just some last-minute-makes-no-sense device that’s thrown in to ensure there’s some form of conflict when the book gets boring.
7. The Obsessive Potential Romantic Partner
This goes out to all the books that have a man follow around the woman protagonist for chapters and obsess over her for months and cross multiple boundaries, and only then for the women to date him halfway into the book! No! That is the absolute worst. I hate way it’s portrayed as romantic or even ideal when starting a relationship (looking at you Twilight), because it is definitely a red flag! I don’t want to see anymore books with an obsessive (and often possessive) boyfriend or girlfriend or partner of any kind, I’m done with it, unless you, as the author, are going to use it as an opportunity to call this behaviour out as disgusting, wrong and dangerous.
8. Sex Scenes in Books That Are Marketed as YA
Now, this isn’t so much as a trope but I’m not sure where else to put this gripe of mine. I don’t think it’s unpopular to say that graphic and/or descriptive sex scenes don’t belong in a category of books aimed at 13-18 year olds, and really publishers, and authors (both are to blame), need to stop it. I think if you want to write about sex in a YA novel it shouldn’t be ‘smutty’ but informative: talk about what safe sex looks like, or the realities of losing your virginity as a teenager, pregnancy and issues surrounding consent! They’re all very appropriate topics for YA! But you don’t need graphic sex scenes in your book to do that, you can very much mention sex because YA readers aren’t young children but we still shouldn’t have actual sex scenes in them – no matter how vanilla they are.
Are there any tropes you think I missed? Let me know!