I was thinking about tropes recently. I see critiques of books saying that it is “too trope-y”, but I don’t think that is a bad thing. If you have some tropes you like, that can help you find books that you could be interested in, or conversely, steer clear of books that include tropes you don’t like. I have listed some of my favorites and least favorites from some genres that I regularly read!
Best: Fake Relationships
Fake relationships are my absolute favorite trope! There is just something so good about seeing two people realize that they aren’t pretending anymore. I don’t really have a preference between fake dating and fake/contract marriages because I think either one can be done well. I have to admit, I found my love for this trope through Korean dramas, not books! However, I have read a few good fake relationship novels since then.
In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean decides to have a fake relationship in order to cover up the fact that she was in love with her sister’s boyfriend. Holland and Calvin must get married and pass a Greencard interview in order to avoid Calvin’s deportation in Roomies. The Kiss Quotient features Stella and Michael, the escort she hired to teach her about dating.
Worst: Love Triangles and Instalove
Love triangles are my eternal enemy. It feels like whenever I’m super invested in one side of a love triangle, the other side is what is canon. This most notably happened to me with Avatar: The Last Airbender, Voltron: Legendary Defender, and Throne of Glass, though I was Team Edward back in the day, so score one for me, right? Aside from picking the wrong side, I just feel like love triangles bring out the worst in people. It makes people jealous and unnecessarily possessive, two things I hate in romance. I don’t think that all love triangles are bad, but I certainly don’t get excited about them.
Insta-love is another one of my enemies. I absolutely don’t believe in love at first sight. Attraction and interest, certainly, but not love. If a love at first sight relationship develops beyond that, then great, but so often it feels like that initial “love” the only thing keeping the relationship going. An example of this is Twilight. What do Bella and Edward even have in common? I don’t know if they do have any common interests, but they locked eyes across the cafeteria, so I guess that’s enough to sustain an eternity-long relationship.
I’m not quite sure why, but I love royalty in fantasy books. I think it just makes it feel that much more of a fantasy to me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel about a hidden royal who may (Throne of Glass) or may not (The Lunar Chronicles) know that they are royal, faerie royals (The Cruel Prince), captive royals (Ash Princess), or working for royals (Green Rider), I love it all.
Worst: Medieval European Inspired
While I was growing up, I thought that a medieval European based fantasy was the only way that high fantasy could be. I was reading things like The Song of the Lioness Quartet and The Inheritance Cycle and watching movies like The Lord of the Rings. I thought that’s just how things were, but it turns out, that’s just how unoriginal the fantasy genre is. I think I want to write a full post on my issues with fantasy in general, but this is one aspect that really gets me heated. There can be unique stories that use a European-based world, but it gets tiring, especially as someone who reads a lot of fantasy.
Best: Ragtag Team and Found Family
I adore ragtag teams, which a lot of the time is kind of also found family. It is so interesting to me to see a bunch of people from totally different backgrounds all use their different experiences to do something and form relationships with each other along the way. However, in young adult fiction, it seems that a lot of ragtag teams are basically sets of romantic couples, but I really appreciate it when everyone has their own distinct relationship with every other people in the group.
A great example of this is Six of Crows, where a group of outcasts and criminals gather for a heist. The Lunar Chronicles is another group of teens with diverse backgrounds coming together to try to save the world. A Court of Thorns and Roses also features a group, albeit less ragtag and more found family. In all of these, I really love the romantic and platonic relationships between characters and the unique experiences each character brings to the group that helps them accomplish their goal.
Worst: Protaganist that Thinks They are Ugly (But they Obviously Aren’t)
This definitely seems like more of a young adult book issue, though I have definitely seen it in adult novels before, but it annoys me all the same. I totally get having a low self-esteem and not thinking you are attractive, but I feel like this trope takes it too far. Usually, this is a girl thinking she is average, but then like every guy she meets is in love with her instantly (aka based on her looks). This just overall rubs me the wrong way in a way that I don’t know if I can explain. In most cases (maybe even all?), how attractive someone is does not really matter to a story, so having this element in it is just unnecessary.