Also check out the 8 WORST Cliches in Fiction. Because cliches are everywhere, and acknowledging that we have a problem is the first step to recovery.
I’m going to start off by saying I love Young Adult fiction. I grew up on Young Adult fiction, and I still read Young Adult Fiction (yes, I know I am a grown man, but I make my own money now, so I do what I want).
However, there are certain things about Young Adult fiction I just can’t stand. Yes, I understand there is an unofficial formula. Yes, I know there are things every Young Adult novel MUST do. And yes, I know *not* adhering to certain expectations will cast your novel into the world of unsold oblivion.
But, seriously. There are some things that just. gotta. GO!
“I Love Him. I Hate Him.”
Okay, listen, this isn’t high school. Except… yes, it is.
The point is, we get it. Being a teenager is tough. Your hormones are out of control, you’re feeling things you’ve never felt before, you probably smell, but you won’t realize you smelled until you reach twenty and get a whiff of teenagers.
Relationship drama was and is the most annoying part of high school, was it not? Two people who love each other but don’t love each other and then decide they can’t be together for whatever reason but then get back together anyway because they can’t stand being apart.
Just stop. It’s done. We all lived high school. We don’t need any more YA lit to recount those experiences. Write about something else.
Related: The Love Triangle
Team Edward or Team Jacob? Team Gale or Team Peeta?
How about Team Stop-It-Already! I understand love triangles make things interesting. I understand from a marketing perspective it’s a good way to polarize readers, fuel passionate discussion, and ultimately get hype about a book. But it’s old now. It’s overused and boring.
In fact, trash stereotypical love altogether. I want to read a YA novel that *doesn’t* focus on it for once.
It’s the End of the World!
This one is ironic for me, isn’t it? Yes, my novel “The Black Oracle” takes place *after* the end of the world, but no: it is not *about* the end of the world.
In any case, dystopias are getting a little out of hand. And I love dystopian literature which is why I’m particularly against this cliche. It’s like they’ve taken the same story over and over again and recycled it for more $$, and that’s a terrible reason to write a dystopian novel (or three. See below).
So, I revise: dystopias aren’t the worst. They’re actually pretty awesome. We just need something new every once in a while. Or for at least the next ten years.
The worst cliche within the cliche of YA dystopia (cliche-ception?) is the fact that main characters have to rebel against the dystopian society they’re living in. When it was done in the Hunger Games, it was pretty cool. And then it kept happening, again and again like a bad cold that keeps returning.
And the whole “reluctant hero” thing? Ugh. I’m sick of main characters who are tossed into a rebellion and the whole time they’re like “but what if I can’t be a good rebel? Waahh”. Well, move over then. Let a passionate character who actually wants to overhaul society be there.
First Person, Present Tense
“I walk into the room and pick up the book on my nightstand. The cover is glossy, the words protruding from the page like uneven pavement. I open the book and glance at the first page. I release the breath I didn’t know I was holding. Oh no, I think, not another one.
The novel is in first person, present tense.”
You wanna know what my biggest qualm with first person, present tense is? Besides the fact that it is terribly limiting, and it generally makes me detest main characters, it is also horribly contrived. Who *actually* speaks or thinks in the way main characters in first person, present tense main characters do? Do teenagers really think in metaphor? Do they play around with sentence structure and randomly use enormous words to demonstrate their authoritative command of English prose?
No. No, they don’t. Write in third person already, and I won’t spend the entire novel thinking about how unrealistic a character is.
The Trilogy of Three Books that Could Have Been Better as One
The title says it all. If I find out a YA novel is part of a trilogy, I’m turned off. I see the appeal (mainly because it drives people to buy more than one novel), but good things don’t always come in threes. Why stretch out the plot over three novels and fill space with drivel when a writer can compose one single awesome novel?
In fact, I wrote about this at a length in another blog post. I feel like there’s a pressure in the industry for authors and prospective authors to write three novels, and I don’t think it’s right. I believe in writing a trilogy because an idea is too long or too all-encompassing to cram into one novel. Don’t stretch it out for the sake of making more money. While we’re at it, stop dividing final movie adaptations into this part one, part two bullcrap!
The Hunky Male is Hunky… and Also Magical
Maybe it’s because I’m a guy, but I just don’t get it. Sure, hunky men are fine, and they get readers all hot and bothered, but why do they need to have magical powers or be super sexy aliens from the planet Frion sent here to make human girls squeal?
It’s just annoying. And a little condescending. Is a man not attractive unless he’s got magic powers? Isn’t that an odd commentary about the state of male-female relationships?
You know what? It doesn’t matter. Just make the love interest normal or write him out completely.
What are your least favorite cliches in YA books?