August 27, 2011

My Least-Wanted List: Cliches in Young Adult Lit

This is a  re-post from my writing blog, story box smash book!

I am tired, (oh so tired), of reading young adult novels that feature the same plot devices, the same turns of phrase, the same character shells. I think that what writers of young adult fiction provide their readers should be better than these trite euphemisms. I believe in something better.

I thereby swear as an aspiring writer of young adult fiction to never EVER contribute to the following cliches.

If I do commit one of these crimes, please feel free to burn me alive.

1. Characters That Cup Each Other's Faces:This is one of the things that I hate the most about any novel, not just young adult. I hate that every hero cups the heroine's face in his hands before he delivers that tingling, life-changing kiss. I hate it!!

2. The Unexpected / Undesired Class Partner:I swear, there has got to be another way for the author to throw two high school students together, even if they are complete opposites. Even if one of them is an alien and flies up to outer space after school everyday. From the amount of unexpected partnerships that I read about, you'd think that every single day in high school would feature that dreaded partner-project, but no. They don't. I also hate this one something fierce. 
3. The Overreaction / Damsel In Distress:How many people (please raise your hands) remember reading about a heroine that consistently feels weak in the knees (I have NEVER felt this before, personally), falls over due to emotional trauma (does being surprised or sad affect your balance?), or simply faints/falls/throws up for no reason? How many people have had these things happen in real life, and if you have, was there every a gorgeous guy there to pick you up? (Suddenly his arms were around me, supporting me, SWOON!) Never. 
Most likely, even your current boyfriend / husband / significant other would try to get away from your projectile vomit... at least at first. 
4. The Sudden / Inexplicable Urge To Touch Someone You Barely Know: This one is so overused. I even catch myself almost writing it into my current work-in-progress. Sometimes, I think bad books are forging neural pathways in my brain that I don't know if I can undo. 
ANYWAY, why is the main character always compelled to touch a person that they barely know? In high school, I never had an urge to caress the hot guy I had a crush on, (well, maybe in my dreams), because he would think I was crazy, and he would be right. There has got to be a better way to explain an attraction / fascination with someone's appearance!

Although you may think that I am unaware of the fact that I am just comparing these YA characters with myself, (which is probably a high-form of narcissism, but I'm choosing to ignore that for now), I am most certainly aware of it!

I only do so in order to explain that if I feel so cut-off from these characters, so turned off by their overused mannerisms, so tired of their cheesy dialogue, than aren't many other readers going to feel the same way?

I almost feel like any YA author--current or aspiring--should take every first instinct that they have for dialogue, setting, and plot, and throw it completely out the window. They should throw their second thoughts out the window, too. The third thoughts can stay. This will become the new YA. The better YA.

Just a thought.

What do you think? Do you have other cliches that you can't stand? Do you think I'm being too harsh?



  1. These are very good! I would also add, why does the boy of interest have to have hair that flops over his eyes and a smile in which only one-half his mouth curves upward? Is the same boy in every book?!!!

  2. Great list. #2 and #4 are probably the ones that we notice and bother us the most. And LOL to rhapsodyinbooks's addition.

  3. @Rhapsody: Yeah, that's another one! There is always the crooked smile or crooked grin... thanks! :)

    @WeHeartYA: Those are probably the most annoying to me as well! :)

  4. Totally agree with everything you said! It also drives me nuts when heroines can never get over how "god-like" the guy is and has her breath literally taken away every time he looks at her/breathes on her/smiles crookedly/etc.

  5. Now maybe this is too general but, Love Triangles. Those darn little buggers seem to be in just about every YA trilogy or series. Don't believe me? What do The Hunger Games, Twilight, Uglies, Wicked Lovely, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and Gemma Doyle have in common.

  6. Yes, the love triangle is another good one... or bad one!


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