5 Biggest Cliches in YA Romance

Recently, I’ve spent some time working my way through the bestseller list of YA romance fiction – everything from John Green to hit debuts such as ‘Everything Everything’ by Nicola Yoon, which was recently made into a movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. But for now I’m done with YA fiction and going back to my usual genre of world lit, classics and general gritty depressing stories that leave me in existential doubt for days afterwards. As charming as it sometimes is to indulge in the idealistic world of manic pixie dream girls (MPDGs), deep conversations under the stars and passionate, obsessive love affairs, it’s all starting to feel a bit fake. Here are the 5 biggest cliches that I think have been way overdone in YA these days:

  1. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s beautiful. She’s deep. She’s probably a metaphor. She’s ‘broken’ but ‘strong’ and wants to make cryptic remarks about the meaning of life on a rooftop at 3am. She’s ‘not like the other girls’ because she’s a special snowflake and apparently has the ability to understand life better than everyone else, despite being a teenager with no actual life experience. Most likely she has a mental illness that’s probably being romanticised by the male love interest. Examples: basically anything written by John Green, pretty much ever.
    .
  2. The MPDGs favourite activity? Astronomy of course. Because relating everything in your life to the workings of the universe automatically makes you deep apparently. Sorry, no. It doesn’t make you deep. It makes you sound kind of egotistical and occasionally like a bad science textbook. Example: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
    .
  3. The dead parent/sibling/relative trope. Quite often it just seems like a lazy attempt to remove the adults from the story so the author doesn’t have to write them. In reality, family relationships are a pretty damn huge part of teenager’s lives. It’d be nice to see some more YA novels accurately reflect that.
    .
  4. Romanticising mental illness. This one worries me. While I have read some books which have given the topic the gravity it deserves (Laurie Halse Anderson does this excellently) I’ve also read many more that treat it as ‘teenage angst’ or an interesting quirk to make the character seem broody, mysterious and ultimately more attractive. Yeah, no. Just don’t. Being depressed isn’t sexy, it’s just extremely unpleasant and soul-destroying really.
    .
  5. Instalove! Because why spend valuable pages on having the characters actually get to know each other when they could be discussing the stars and their undying love instead.

What tropes and cliches do you hate in YA fiction? 

On a side note, if you want to make me super happy please go download my new novel ‘This Really Happened’ here

Advertisements

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

‘In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer’ – Albert Camus

In 1939, The Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Thousands of citizens considered to be ‘anti-soviet’ were murdered, sent to prison or deported into slavery in Siberia. Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel ‘Between shades of gray’ is the harrowing story of these deportees, told from the perspective of Lina, a 15 year old girl whose family are taken in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers and sent to a Siberian work camp.

I first heard about this book on goodreads. I usually don’t read historical fiction, but it had such a high rating that I had to see what the hype was about. And believe me, that rating is well deserved. Haunting in its simplicity and brutally honest, this book tells the story of one of WWII’s hidden tragedies. While the horrors the Nazis committed and the holocaust are general knowledge, the invasion of the Baltic states is virtually ignored in history lessons, which is why I think reading this book is so important. It gives a voice to a silenced generation of people, uncovers a trauma narrative that has woven its way to the very heart of the nation.

Sepetys prose is not flowery or elaborate. It’s stark, cold and sometimes detached, reflecting the bleak reality of the protagonists lives. However this doesn’t mean that it’s unemotional; on the contrary emotion seeps into every part of the narrative, from Lina’s flashbacks to the happier times in her past, to her overflowing love for her family. Despite being subjected to hostile conditions, abuse and trauma at the hands of the Russian soldiers, Lina remains strong and determined to escape, to reunite her family and return to her homeland with them.

One of the things I loved about this novel is the characterisation. Lina, her younger brother Jonas, their mother and Andrius (Lina’s love interest) are all unique, three-dimensional characters with their own passions, their own dreams, but also sharing the same dream: to return home. Lina’s observations of the other deportees in their group are morbidly humorous, quirky and insightful. It’s a beautiful depiction of how adversity can bond people together and the strength of the human survival instinct.

I can’t say it was an easy book to read. There were times when I had to take a break and pull myself out of it because it was sending me into a downward spiral of ‘how can people be so cruel? What’s wrong with humanity?’ Saying this though, it was a necessary book to read. Based on true events, this novel is an education as well as a lesson in empathy. It’s heart-breaking and harrowing, but at the same time incredibly inspiring. While it showcases the worst side of humanity, it also showcases the best: how, in Ruta Sepetys’s words, ‘love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.’

Have you read this book, or others by Ruta Sepetys? Let me know your thoughts!