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:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, my novel ‘This Really Happened’ is free this week until 30th September. You can download it here.
I felt like I was seeing it all in slow motion; the car, sleek and black, careening around the corner, the sound of wheels skidding. Headlights illuminating her dazed expression like a spotlight as it made contact. Then I heard screaming, distant and muffled, as if I was underwater. It took me a long time to realise that I was the one screaming.
Erin has never really known who she is or what she wants. That is, until she meets her new University flatmate Allen.
Reckless, eccentric and creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure he feels it too, until he starts dating their mutual friend Charlotte.
Then one night changes everything.
When a drunken mistake leaves Charlotte fighting for her life, the victim of a hit-and-run, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…
My latest New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ will be available at the special reduced price of $0.99 for the next 7 days on the Kindle countdown deal! Get it now while it’s cheap!
This week, my New Adult romance novel ‘This Really Happened’ is FREE on amazon until Wednesday 12th April. Please share it, download it, read it, enjoy it, and (you’ll get cookies and my eternal gratitude for this one) review it!
You can see public reviews for it on goodreads and download the book now on Amazon
Erin has spent her life drifting, ruled by her controlling parents and social anxiety. That is, until she meets her new University flatmate Allen. Reckless, eccentric and creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure he feels the attraction too, until he starts dating their mutual friend Charlotte instead.
Then one night changes everything.
When a drunken mistake leaves Charlotte fighting for her life, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…
‘Annmarie McQueen has created a range of likeable characters in a recognisable setting, while introducing ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’-esque elements to set her story apart from other coming-of-age tales.’
‘A real breath of fresh air for the YA genre’
‘Jam packed with layer after layer of authentically written emotion’
Review written by Hannah Froggatt
‘Panther’ by David Owen is a coming of age YA novel focusing on the relationship between the teenage protagonist, Derrick, and his older sister Charlotte. Ever since Charlotte was diagnosed with major depression, her illness has been tearing the family apart. The stress has led Derrick to develop a compulsive eating disorder. However when he hears that a Panther has recently escaped from a local zoo, Derrick thinks that maybe capturing it can be his salvation, that maybe stopping the beast in it’s physical form will be enough to save his sister too.
When you first pick up Panther, you’re struck by its veracity. The characterisation is masterful. Derrick, our protagonist, is a perfect blend of naïvety and worldliness: perceptive enough to see his family is falling apart but ill-equipped to help them. Charlotte’s barbed interactions with Derrick are the best parts of the book, managing to be both sardonic and tender whilst digging right to the heart of Panther’s central theme of understanding — and accepting what we can’t understand. Despite some slightly self-conscious discussion of social media, Owen’s grasp of teenage world-views is sterling.
So is the depiction of mental health disorders. Few writers manage to depict such illnesses this dispassionately, but more impressive is Owen’s understanding of the three-dimensional presence of issues like depression. Derrick’s bewilderment at Charlotte’s behaviour — and his own — is completely genuine, and an excellent standpoint from which to explore how it affects those nearest sufferer and how it disrupts the narratives of our lives.
The only thing that doesn’t work is, unfortunately, the central metaphor. Derrick’s obsession with the escaped panther supposedly roaming his neighbourhood feels jarring and childish for the character’s years. The panther is meant to represent the depression that preys on Derrick’s family, but this clumsy attempt at magical realism clashes horribly with the blunt naturalism that makes the rest of the story so powerful.
Panther aside, it’s still worth a read. The beautiful character-craft and unblinking exploration of mental health make it thoroughly worth your time.
“We all have our own truths. Sometimes they’re the same. Sometimes they’re not.”
Erin has never really known who she is or what she wants, especially when it comes to relationships. That is, until she starts her first year at University and meets her new flatmate Allen.
Reckless, eccentric and intensely creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure it’s a mutual feeling, too, until he starts dating their flatmate Charlotte instead.
Then one night changes everything.
When a drunken mistake ends in tragedy and Charlotte is left fighting for her life, the victim of a hit-and-run, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…
‘This Really Happened’ is a YA drama being released on the Amazon Kindle Store March 1st. Follow for more updates, sneak peaks and giveaways to be announced in the near future! I’d also love to know what you think of the cover – please leave comments below.