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3 YA Female Character Tropes That Can See Themselves Out ASAP

Let’s face it—even though we’re living in the golden age of young adult fiction (I just decided this is true, you’re welcome), there are certain plotlines we see over and over. The star-crossed lovers. The hero destined to save the world. The big misunderstanding. For me, part of the fun of YA is seeing how authors reimagine these tropes over and over (for a defense of tropes, check out this post). It’s a hero destined to save the world, but underground! Star-crossed lovers, but one’s an alien and the other’s a witch! I love seeing how many directions these stories can take.

However, there are a few YA cliches that I’m ready to retire. Let’s put them out to pasture, along with uncomfortable underwire bras and gender norms.

The Damsel in Distress

She fawns. She faints. She needs to be saved! She’s weak! Help her! This trope is ready to take a long, long rest. Forever. We live in a world filled with strong, take-charge, brilliant women, both fictional (Shuri from Black Panther, anyone?) and real (Emma Gonzalez, Ava Duvernay, the U.S. Women’s hockey team... the list goes on and on and on). Kick-butt young ladies have also made their way into our YA novels, and I’m ready for them to (gently) push out the damsels in distress from days of yore.

The Ugly Duckling

The year is 1999. The movie? She’s All That. How can they ever make mousy Laney Boggs prom queen? She has GLASSES! And PAINT ON HER OVERALLS! Gasp! They did it! I’m sure we’ve all read a YA novel where the school nerd/wallflower/artist/drama geek is magically transformed into a hot nerd/wallflower/artist/drama geek. I’m over these stories. You can keep your new hairdo and contact lenses; I’m drawn to characters who stand out no matter what they’re wearing.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

You could never understand her! She’s far too funky for you! She drinks out of a mason jar (oops, I do this sometimes). She can only be understood by the One Perfect Boy who unlocks her true specialness. Now, don’t get me wrong—I love an offbeat protagonist (anyone who knows me has had to listen to many passionate talks about Stargirl). But the super-special lady who is too cool for school? She’s not my fave. Give me messy, complex female characters over these aloof cool kids any day.

What YA cliches are you ready to say goodbye to? Tell us in the comments below!

Author spotlight

Kat Brzozowski

Native New Hampshirite. Broadway musical nerd. Work team softball slugger. Embroidery aficionado. I’m one part Ramona, one part the monkeys …

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