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Top 5 Worst YA Fiction Clichés

Seven years, four books, and five movies ago Twilight was released and since then the young adult genre has exploded with new paranormal romance titles. Say what you will about Twilight, but that one book has since altered the entire genre, doing for YA novels what Halloween did for horror movies. Now the following clichés are not all Twilight’s fault. For something to become a cliché a very popular title has to give birth to a slew of knockoffs which then give birth to new knockoffs which then mutate into four-toed baby knockoffs. Their weird genetic similarities are the clichés and the worst of the bunch are right here. You were warned.

5. The supernatural bad boy with model good looks:

He tells the girl to leave him alone, he says he’s dangerous but he’s just so gosh darn sexy that she pursues him anyway. I understand the allure of a gorgeous guy that no girl can get close to having eyes for you alone, but it’s been done to death and as a reader, I would like more variety.

Maybe a book about a supernatural guy that hasn’t walked off a runway or a supernatural being that isn’t inherently sexy. Hell, I’d read a paranormal romance about a leprechaun at this point just for a change of pace: “Baby, I have no time for your romance. I have a pot of gold to find.” Or maybe he is gorgeous, but do we have to hear about it on every other page? And does he have to be a bad boy? And why do all these boys smell so good after fighting and stalking and all their other sweaty work? Have the authors not smelled real men?

4. Love triangles:

Edward or Jacob? Adam or Warren? Peeta or Gale? Bwah, so many love triangles! Many of these are not even real love triangles. Usually, there is a couple and then there is the other guy, the one that is smitten with the heroine despite how clear she has made it that she will not choose him. What keeps me invested, is that usually I prefer the unchosen guy, not for the heroine, but for myself. You don’t want Jacob, Bella? Well, that’s just fine. Send him my way.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. What girl wouldn’t want to have two supernaturally hot guys fighting over her? No girl, that’s who. I would just like to see some YA authors mix it up a bit. I haven’t read too many books about a guy needing to choose between two girls from the point-of-view of one of the girls. And if you have, leave a comment because that is a book I would like to read.

3. First person point-of-view

There is nothing wrong with first person point-of-view…when it fits the story. The problem is that it has become the standard for YA novels. There are so many YA books that would be better told from a third person point-of-view. So many interesting stories told by uninteresting protagonists. Or those novels that are plot focused and would benefit from multiple points of view. Don’t have the friend tell the protagonist what happened. Show us the friend experiencing it!

2. Trilogies

There are many good things about trilogies. I enjoy the greater character and world development that can happen over the course of a series. I also love a great cliffhanger that leaves me wanting more. However, a trilogy or any series for that matter, only works when each book in the series tells a complete story. I have read so many trilogies where the first book reads like a movie trailer for the series to come. Or the first book is amazing but the follow-up books simply regurgitate the plot and offer nothing new. I would also like to see more stand-alone novels. They’re out there, but in the YA-verse they are hard to find. The more trilogies I see, the more I feel that the focus in the YA genre is becoming more about building a franchise and less about telling great stories.

1. “I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding”

Without a doubt, this is the my biggest pet peeve.

The worst offender has been Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout which had this same cliché within three chapters of one another:

“I released the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding” Loc 3391 (on my Kindle)

“I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.” Loc 4097

But Armentrout is far from the only YA author guilty of this cliché. In fact, there are loads listed on the Pinterest page, Evil Sentence, and more on this blog post from A Reader of Fictions.

Why don’t all these girls know that they are holding their breath? And why doesn’t any one else in the book ever comment on this. There is usually a guy with supernatural senses in the book, why doesn’t he tell her? And for those heroines who forget to breathe, have they considered writing a note on their wrists or something? Inhale. Exhale. This is a serious problem. If she keeps forgetting to breathe, she may pass out and I’ll never know which of the two supernaturally hot guys she will narrate choosing in book three.

Wait a second…

Now I want to hear from you! What literary clichés drive you crazy? Leave a comment below.

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94 thoughts on “Top 5 Worst YA Fiction Clichés”

  1. I tried a few different points of view for my novel before I settled on first person, which I tried to avoid at first since that’s so often the default for YA books. The main reason I landed on my decision was because the third person omniscient perspective I tried at first made the story feel too cluttered and broad. Centering it on one person gives my story more focus and writing it in first person makes it feel more intimate. Although there are a lot of interesting side characters that I wish I could get inside the heads of, my POV character is not the least interesting person in the novel, which is too often the case.

    1. Have you tried writing in deep third person? That would give you the intimacy with the characters you want and allow you more freedom with your characters. I think third person works best when the author limits their scope to a few characters. Too many povs makes it hard for readers to get invested. Two great books that I recommend on pov are Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson and The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley.

  2. read the “slated” trilogy. Easily the worst novels i have ever read. every sentence, plot arch and character, is just cliche after cliche.

  3. The worst is their writing about the occult which is close to worthless and based on no or little research. They admit this much. Just add some would-be sex and who cares in their minds.

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