My Goodreads Quotes

Allison’s quotes

"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."
Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I don't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe it."— E. Nesbit

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

YA Tropes I Hate

When it comes to literature, I am not a pessimist.  I love the classics, true, but I don't fall into the school of thought that we're never going to replicate them.  Maybe some of the books now aren't Shakespeare, but isn't that sort of the point?  That doesn't make them worthless.

In fact, there's only one YA book I really can't stand.  Unfortunately, it's been written about forty times now.

Here's an excerpt:

Once upon a time, there lived an angry young woman in a post-apocalyptic world that, for reasons never made clear, uses a caste system based on colors or numbers.  (Yeah, I know, just go with it.)  This young woman, who is only a step up from starvation, is so wildly angry with the establishment that whenever she sees someone less destitute than herself, she practically froths at the mouth with rage.

In fact, the only person this girl actually likes is her boyfriend.  He's compassionate but equally angry, and despite the fact that they're both, like, sixteen, they know that each other is The One.

One day, however, the girl's shallow, weak, and personality-less mother, who is always comparing her to her sweet, non-angry sister (I mean, really!), enters the girl in a lottery.  When she inevitably wins, she is whisked away from destitution to the lap of luxury, where she is cruelly forced to hobnob with the very people she hates!

The girl is depressed and angry until, among these glamorous socialites, she meets the boy.  (Not the boyfriend.  This is a completely different compassionate, angry, and handsome young man.)  He's even more angry at the establishment than the boyfriend is (take that!), appallingly good looking, and a prince to boot.  All the other socialites are positively drooling over him, but he, with the impeccable taste of the well-bred, instantly spots the winsome personality and talent that the girl has been effectively hiding from the reader.  Initially, the girl holds out with her self-righteous anger, but finally she realizes that he's different from the rest.  She realizes that he is, in fact, The One.  (Aside from a few self-pitying stabs of guilt, she's forgotten the boyfriend by this point.)

But lurking in the shadows is the Other Girl.  She brushes her hair and washes her face sometimes, which makes her a total attention-seeking (insert derogatory feminine word of choice), not like the naturally beautiful heroine, who doesn't need the trappings of personal hygiene to expose her inner worth.  Through insidious tactics like kindness, sanity, and a complete absence of dramatic breakdowns that the heroine seems so prone to, she seduces the prince, forcing him to wonder whom he prefers: a stable girl from a background similar to his own, or a vengeful psychopath.  (The sheer nerve of him.)

Fortunately for the girl, the boyfriend shows up the palace now, having either smuggled himself in or applied for a job there.  Despite the fact that she no longer cares a jot for him, she runs off with him to get back at the prince.  They inevitably get into mortal danger, and the prince, realizing that true love will always conquer a lack of personality, rushes off to save her.  She drops the boyfriend like a hot potato, the other girl is boiled in lead, and they all live happily ever after.

I can think of at least five books off the top of my head that fulfill this outline nearly word-for-word.  Obviously, there are variations.  Sometimes there isn't a lottery.  Sometimes the girl volunteers herself for the contest, instead of her mother.  Sometimes the boy isn't a prince.  But over and over, those four elements come back: the angry girl, the caste system, the love triangle, and the other girl.  So without further ado, welcome to the new series on my blog, where I explore these tropes.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to flesh out that outline and get it off to a publisher.  There's money to be made!

In other news, my wonderful father is taking me to a Maggie Stiefvater signing later in the month, which will be great fun!  And for those of you who aren't on Facebook, I was accepted to Duke University last month.  That leaves me with a good handful of choices, and I think I've made up my mind... but I'll keep that to my chest for now.  Any news from you, dear readers?  What do you think of these books?


Jenelle said...

You forgot Divergent and Twilight... :)

Jemma Tainsh said...

You put that very well. :)
I've only read two books like that, but I can see how it would be tiring. Bleh :(. I did actually enjoy the Hunger Games, I think the political side stood out more than the romance for me.

A book signing sounds fun! Who's Maggie Stiefvate?
I've just been re-reading the Lunar chronicles, introducing them to Mum, and researching synaesthesia (a condition were your senses are wired incorrectly and you can see sound and smell touch, that kind of thing)

Sarah said...

I've read three of these books- coincidentally, they're all on the left side of the page. (Another to add to the list: Matched.) I actually did enjoy them, for the most part . . . though the Throne of Glass series is going downhill pretty fast for me.

In all fairness, people could say a similar thing about fantasy novels, that they all follow the same basic format as well. (Ordinary boy/girl living on a farm or such receives a call to adventure. His/her home is destroyed or attacked somehow. He/she goes off on a quest with a mysterious adult (or, at least, older person). In the course of the adventure, he/she discovers that he/she has magical powers, a Destiny, and possibly a royal heritage, which he/she claims after having ousted the Evil Overlord from his Dark Fortress with the help of the aforementioned mysterious adult (assuming said mysterious adult survives) and a group of friends collected over the course of the adventure. Our hero, no longer any kind of ordinary, marries his/her True Love, mourns his/her fallen friends, and settles down to rule the kingdom/train the next generation/whatever else.) The difference, I would argue, is that the Hero's Journey encourages those who read it to be heroes, while the YA Dystopian/Fantasy Girl Journey encourages those who read it to rebel against society and work themselves into angsty love triangles.

Also: I didn't realize you were a Maggie Stiefvater fan? I'm just now getting into her books- I read The Scorpio Races a few months ago, and I'm going to give The Raven Boys a try as soon as I have time. Have fun at the signing!

Hannah said...

Lol, hilarious!

Candice Williams said...

I loved this post - it's so true!

"and the prince, realizing that true love will always conquer a lack of personality, rushes off to save her." This line is hilarious and it made me laugh!

Allison Ruvidich said...

@Jenelle- *face palm* Thank you for reminding me. ; D

@Jemma-- Maggie Stiefvater is the author of "The Scorpio Races." I'm visiting an event for the tour of her new book, "The Raven King." What an interesting condition! : ) I hope your research is rewarding.

Allison Ruvidich said...

@Sarah- First of all, can I congratulate you on the depth of thought you gave this comment? I'm normally like, lol ; D.

You make an extremely valid point about fantasy novels. I do not mean to belittle dystopian books solely; in all fairness, I usually dislike such formulaic books, regardless of their genre. The purpose of the formula is a very interesting point; I think fantasy is more rooted in human nature and understanding than any other genre.

And yeah, I'm a big Maggie Steifvater fan. I hope you love "The Raven Boys." I adore the characters sooo much.

@Hannah and Candice- Thanks! ; D