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Top Ten Tropes in YA – featuring A E Rought

Once again it’s Tuesday and the turn of another Strange Chemistry author to tackle their Top Ten list. Today we have A E Rought (author of BROKEN, coming in January 2013 – check it out!) to tell us about the Top Ten Tropes in YA fiction.

From Wikipedia (because I think just about everybody uses it for reference now)

In literature, a trope is a familiar and repeated symbol, meme, theme, motif, style, character or thing that permeates a particular type of literature. They are usually tied heavily to genre. For example, tropes in horror literature and film include the mad scientist or a dark and stormy night. Tropes can also be plots or events, such as the science fiction trope of an alien invasion that is deterred at the last minute.


a : a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech

b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché

Are there tropes in YA? You betcha! Ones that dial into the specific genres, ones that seem to apply to any. Sometimes, I buy a book because of the tropes. Sometimes, I put it back on the shelf or won’t even look at it because of the clichés in it. It’s all the semantics of the word and the reader, what they like, and what they don’t, and me, I like some tropes enough to seek them out.

So, without (much) further discussion, here’s The Top Ten Tropes in YA, according to me.

1. Twilight. It’s such a monster in our industry, I think it’s become its own trope. If it’s romance, it’s compared to Twilight. If it’s vampires vs werewolves, it’s compared to Twilight. Heck, most of the tropes I’m listing can be found in Twilight. Maybe it’s the biggest trope of them all?

2. The protagonist is female. Let’s face it, the majority of lead characters in YA are girls. This is one trope I actively seek the opposite. I love guy POV books.

3. Love triangle. It’s in Twilight with Edward/Bella/Jacob. It’s in The Iron Fey series with Ash/Meghan/Puck. It’s in The Strange Angel series with Christophe/Dru/Graves… And many more series that I can’t name, because I won’t read them because of the triangle.

4. The Mary Sue character. She’s perfectly perfect and everyone (in the book) loves her.

5. The tortured hero. Okay, I’ll admit, I LOVE me some tortured heroes!

6. The “OMG I’m a what?” character. This can go along with self-discovery, but I think it stands apart because there’s always an element of “more” to it. She’s a princess and didn’t know. He has faery blood. They are a descendant of angels…

7. Missing parents. The protagonist’s parents are there but are pretty absent from being involved in the characters’ lives. Or the parents are actually physically not present, maybe the character is an orphan, or a runaway, or they’ve been removed from the parents and sent to a school/battle to the death/etc.

8. The quirky best friend. For this one, think Link in the Beautiful Creatures series, Vee in the Hush, Hush saga…

9. Instalove. I hear strains of Call Me Maybe whenever I think of this… Instant attraction I totally get, though.

10. Half-human/half something else. This can tie into the “OMG I’m a what” character.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. A YA author and brilliant blogger S.E. Sinkhorn already has tropes listed by genre.

So, these were my top ten tropes. What about you? What are some tropes you see used often in YA? Do you love them? Hate them? Let’s talk!



Great list! So true, too.

The quirky best friend is one that I think has a lot of potential in the genre. Have you read the original Vampire Diaries series? Bonnie, the bff character, actually gets her own book in the series. She was such a great character that I wished the series just switched over to her POV permanently.

Very, very interesting list. And I am all about tortured heroes and boy POVs.

Oscar de Muriel

Hey, nice post.
Personally, I am getting tired of the new heroin archetype: Brave but vulnerable, independent but needy, beautiful but not concerned about her looks, etc.
It was groundbreaking in the times of Elizabeth Bennet, but that was 200 years ago.


I’m sorry – what? A female protagonist is a TROPE? Excuse me? Having a female POV is an overused cliche? Or, I’m sorry – a theme, a motif, etc? Really? Because, you know, women with stories and agency, they’re just a passing fad. It’s not like they’re half the world’s population or anything.

And it’s too overused? Right. There simply aren’t enough books with male protagonists. Except, oh I don’t know, THE LAST FOUR HUNDRED YEARS OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.

How sad is it that you list the definition of a trope in this same post and then get it completely wrong.


This would be a great post if not for trope number 2. HAVING A FEMALE PROTAGONIST IS NOT A TROPE. That assumes that having a male POV is the default setting. That assumes that authors are choosing to write from a girl’s POV to jump on the bandwagon. Classing that with love triangles, Mary Sues, and quirky best friends is really just offensive.

Authors do not chose female protagonists because other authors are doing it. They choose female protagonists because females are (over) fifty percent of the world’s population. Those poor males. SO under represented in the world of literature.

John Zeleznik

I don’t understand the “hate” for male POVs/ “boy books” in YA. I’d like to see more male perspective.


Great list! I also actively seek male POV because, while I love a kick-ass girl, one HAS to change it up. And also I consider it research when I read male POV by a male author and then read male POV by a female author. ;-) I’m also with you on the insta-love. Insta-attraction, sure. Insta-LOVE? Bah!


Read more YA books! There are tons of books with fantastic male characters. Try John Green’s book for a start. I don’t know if Nancy Farmer’s The House of Scorpion is technically YA, but again, strong male characters. The trick is not to get stuck on the Twilight-esque covers in chain bookstores.

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