5 Clichés to Stay Away From in YA

Young Adult Fiction. It’s a genre that’s been debated for as long as it’s existed.  You might hate it; you might love it, but we all have to agree that it has its fair share of clichés that everyone is pretty much sick of.  Personally, I love YA, but some of the clichés have gotten so bad that I can hardly read this genre anymore.

If you’re planning on writing something in the YA genre, try to stay away from these 5 clichés.  If you must use them, morph them into something amazing that makes them no longer seem like a cliche.

1. Love at First Sight

Originally posted by mademoisellepoupee

Do not make your character relationships akin to that of Marius and Cosette (though I love them and have a concerning obsession with Les Misérables).  No one here is falling in love with a stranger they just bumped into on the street, and then having a flawless relationship with them. You might believe in love at first sight, but it’s hardly ever believable in writing. If you are going to make characters fall in love, do it gradually with some bumps in the road every once in a while.

2. Every Girl is a Damsel in Distress

Originally posted by thegirlisstrange-noquestion

“Just as Stephanie thought that her world was going to collapse, she met Brad, and he changed everything.” 

If I ever see this on the back cover of a book, I immediately walk away. Not only is it overdone, it’s completely wrong and unnecessary. Girls’ lives do not just suddenly become perfect because some guy whisks them off of their feet. Yes, meeting someone they really like can help make things easier, because of the joy that they bring them, but that doesn’t mean that everything is somehow magically better, especially if they are a character struggling with conflicts that are out of their control.

Women are not damsels in distress.  We are not waiting for a night in shining armor to save us, so stop putting this in YA novels. It’s by far the worst cliché in any sort of fiction (in my opinion), so please stay away from it at all costs.

3. Every Guy is Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Originally posted by lilsparrow72

Not only is he tall, dark, and handsome, but he’s also captain of the football team, he volunteers at a rescue center, he’s the funniest guy in school, he’s attending an ivy league school next year, and he’s willing to fall in love with the main character.

*slow clap*

People aren’t perfect! That means your characters shouldn’t be either, and that includes male love interests. You must add “imperfections” to your characters, whether that is physically, morally, or personality-wise. Readers will never be able to relate to or sympathize with a perfect character, so through some vices in there. I promise that you can still love your character, even if they aren’t perfect.

4. The Character That Suddenly Realizes How Attractive They Are

Originally posted by fuckyeahplease

This is a more recent one that keeps popping up in YA, and it’s primarily been in female characters. A character thinks that they are ugly and are incapable of being loved, and then the designated love interest of the novel calls them beautiful, and they suddenly have a great sense of self-worth.

Guys, it doesn’t happen like that. Of course, that can help give the character a confidence boost, but going from hating yourself to believing you are flawless and anyone would be lucky to have you is pretty hard to accomplish just from having a single human compliment you. 

For once, I would love to see a YA character who is confident in themselves from the beginning, and doesn’t need to have their self-worth validating by anyone but themselves. That’s a positive message that needs to get out there, and books have the power to do that.

5. Everyone’s an Orphan (or at least has terrible parents)

Originally posted by stupidteletubbie

Why are all of the parents either dead or abusive? I don’t get it. Of course, these can be real issues with true impact and meaning, but lately I’ve seen books that have orphaned/abused characters in which their home life has no meaning at all. If it serves no purpose, take it out of the book. Write about orphaned kids or abusive parents, as long as that has meaning and can make a (usually dark and haunting) impact on the novel.  Otherwise, let the parents be good and alive. I think it’s about time we let them live.

“This is a YA book, so the plot is not as deep or involved as an adult book.” 

This is the kind of shitty mentality that needs to stop. There are good and bad quality books in every genre. I’ve read awful adult books with no plot whatsoever so should I just generalise and say that all adult books are superficial? No. So it shouldn’t be any different for YA books. 

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Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Intense and eye-opening Crank follows the story of Kristina Snow, the perfect daughter and student. A semi-autobiographical novel, Kristina’s good behavior changes when she visits her absentee father and is introduced to what she calls “the monster:” crank, the highly addictive drug crystal meth.  As Kristina’s grades plummet and life deteriorates, she hits her lowest point when she is raped by her drug dealer and decides to keep the baby. Not even her pregnancy seems to stop Kristina’s addiction. The consequences of her use of crystal meth are horrifying and shattering.

Hopkins terrifies her reader. She introduces Kristina’s story as a worst-case scenario where there is no possibility for recovery. She urges you to reach below the surface and educate yourself on addiction.

Get the book here!

Read excerpts from the book here!

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