Young Adult literature often receives a lot of flack.
Recently I’ve seen its themes and ‘tropes’ being attacked quite loudly.
Here’s my opinion: Tropes aren’t always all bad.
‘trope’ seems to have a reputation for inward groans and cringes attached to it. If you say you can spot a certain trope in a book then it’s often a signifier that the book was bad, or poorly written, and will make you sigh as you turn its pages.
The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.There are some terrible tropes that have been done to death (as is the nature of beast- if it wasn’t overused then it wouldn’t be classed as a ‘trope’) and others that emerge with each cycle of new literature.
I have seen it mentioned that books rife with these stereotypes and cliches are often in the best seller lists.
There’s an audience for it. And I don’t think we should forget that.
That’s not to say that you YA writers out there should scurry away to your computers and write yourself a trope-wriddled monster of a manuscript. But people like what they like. Sometimes I want a book that I can feel safe in knowing what I’m getting. I want a ‘chosen one’ female lead who falls hard for the bad boy, and his holier-than-thou brother too. Give me a love triangle, an ugly duckling turned swan, a fade to black perfect sex scene, unrealistic character descriptions, wish fulfilment, absent parents, the one ring/sword/crown/egg to rule them all.
Sometimes it’s ok to want that kind of safe escape.
That doesn’t mean that these tropes are ok. But look at hard core romance books (see ‘Mills and Boon’). These really go for it, and they don’t shy away from the tropes and expectations that their readers have.
I tweeted that it was a bit like saying ‘we’re having turkey for Christmas, AGAIN?’ When there are so many alternatives. But people will gravitate towards tradition and the habits that make them feel good.
There are plenty of YA writers that are working hard to smash the stereotypes and trample over the tropes. And this is such a great thing. There are also people just writing what they want to read, and if that’s full of all the things that makes some of us want to vom? So be it. There’s always going to be an audience for it.
Where it becomes dangerous, or damaging, is when you don’t accept it for what it is. It’s an informed decision. All writing is. You’re either going to try to break the mould, and I bet most do, or stick to what has already been done.
It takes all sorts to fill a book shelf.
Giving young people the choice to have either/or, from a varied range of themes/genres, is a powerful thing. You just gotta trust that they’ll take something positive from it every time.