Trope Talks I: In Which I Give my Very Honest Opinions on Some of YA Fiction’s Most Common Romance Tropes!

Welcome to the first installment of a new feature here on my blog!

One of my favorite things to talk about with other readers is their opinions on the various recurring tropes that make up the backbone of YA fiction. There are just so many astoundingly good tropes out there (and, if I’m being honest, so many that are appallingly bad as well), and it never fails to start an interesting conversation. So I figured I’d turn it into a series of blog posts, affectionately named “Trope Talks” for alliterative effect… and here we are. πŸ˜€

In each installment of Trope Talks, I’ll pick several of the most common tropes from a certain genre and, well, talk about them! I’ll give my thoughts on the trope, some examples of books I read that included the trope (if I can think of any), and an overall rating that reflects whether or not I think the trope deserves to be used in future books. (I’m really excited for this series, to be honest, because I have a lot of Thoughtsβ„’ regarding all the different tropes that are floating around out there, and I can’t wait to share them with you all.)

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the first-ever Trope Talks, this time featuring what is probably the most cliche-prone genre of all: romance!

πŸ’˜ Trope #1: Slow Burn πŸ’˜

Definition: A trope in which the two love interests fall for each other excruciatingly slowly, sometimes even over the course of multiple books. Common side effects include denying their feelings for each other, pretending to just be friends when it’s obvious they both want to be so much more, and high levels of general angst.

Examples: I’ve read a LOT of good slow-burn books over the years, and there’s not enough space in this blog post to list all of my favorites. So I’ll settle for mentioning a few of my recent reads: Last of Her Name by Jessica Khoury and Syzygy by J.K. Ullrich both have excellently written slow-burn romances. And I’ve heard The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo do as well, but I haven’t read either of them (yet… I really want to, but my TBR is currently consuming me) so I can’t confirm one way or another.

My Thoughts: Arguably one of the best tropes of all time. I don’t think I have to say much more, because this seems to be the general consensus of the book blogging community β€” I guess we all like torturing ourselves with the angst that inevitably accompanies this trope! In all seriousness, though, the delayed gratification that comes from watching two people finally get together after falling in love ever so slowwwwlyyyy is super satisfying. It’s no wonder this trope is such a hit.

Overall Rating: πŸ‘ πŸ‘ (10/10, would read all day every day!)

πŸ’˜ Trope #2: Opposites Attract πŸ’˜

Definition: A trope that comes in many different flavors, but always involves two people who are different from each other in some significant way falling in love in spite of their differences. Some of the most common subtypes include: a billionaire or celebrity falling in love with a common person, an innocent person falling in love with a daredevil, or a human falling in love with an alien.

Examples: I haven’t read many books like this, unless you count the dozens of billionare-meets-normal-girl stories I read on Wattpad in middle school (yeah… that was a dark era). Off the top of my head, I know that the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout features an alien-human relationship, and Cress by Marissa Meyer (the third installment of the Lunar Chronicles) features a relationship between the badass Thorne and the adorably innocent Cress. Both are amazing stories!

My Thoughts: I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. Sometimes, like with Cress and Thorne, I absolutely love the juxtaposition of the two characters’ opposite traits, and I’ll find myself really rooting for the relationship. But some other iterations are just… weird. The books where an immortal-being-that-still-somehow-looks-like-a-teenager-but-is-really-thousands-of-years-old falls in love with a teenager, for example, bug me quite a bit. I mean, if you were an immortal being with thousands of years of experience, would you really want to go for a teenager as your partner? And that’s not even mentioning how creepy the age gap gets if you think about it for more than ten seconds… so yeah, I’ll pass. If executed right, however, this trope is a winner.

Overall Rating: πŸ‘ πŸ‘Ž (It has potential, but should be used with caution.)

πŸ’˜ Trope #3: Fake Dating πŸ’˜

Definition: The two love interests aren’t attracted to each other at first… but then they’re forced to pretend to be dating for any number of reasons (making an ex jealous, needing a date to stave off the “why are you still single?” questions around the holidays, etc) and they unexpectedly fall in love for real over the course of their fake relationship.

Examples: With the recent, wild success of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before‘s movie adaptation, which was based on a book of the same name by Jenny Han, this trope is having something of a moment right now. The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger also comes to mind, though I must say I’ve only seen the movie and therefore have no personal experience from which to vouch for the book. (I’m sure it’s just as good, though.)

My Thoughts: I definitely haven’t read enough books with this trope, so if anyone has any good recommendations, please drop them in the comments below! This is one of my favorite ways for a relationship between two characters to develop. It has all the delicious angst of a slow burn combined with the delight of the hilarious antics that two people in a fake relationship always get up to in order to keep their secret from getting out. (Oops, you mean there’s only one bed in the hotel room that we had to book together to keep up the facade? Guess we gotta share it!) Perrrrrfection.

Overall Rating: πŸ‘ πŸ‘ (Amazing. Splendid. Enough said.)

πŸ’˜ Trope #4: Love Triangle πŸ’˜

Definition: A trope in which two (or more, I guess; heck, it could be a love pentagon if the author so desires) people are all pitted against each other in order to win the heart of the person that they’re crushing on. The most classic example involves two friends having a crush on the same third party, which causes general angst to ensue.

Examples: There’s wayyyy too many to count. The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer is a classic example, and one of the most well known (although I personally haven’t read it, and probably never will). So is the Matched series by Allie Condie, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and the Selection series by Kiera Cass… the list goes on and on.

My Thoughts: This is definitely one of those tropes that has been overused to the point where it’s kinda boring to read about. That being said, as with pretty much any trope, the right execution can make a world of difference! Personally, I’m tired of the “two boys fighting over one girl” edition of this trope, but if an author puts some sort of twist on it β€” maybe a girl and a guy both going for the same girl? β€” I’ll always give it a chance. In the end, I’m a sucker for romantic angst above all else, and love triangles produce that in SPADES. πŸ˜€

Overall Rating: πŸ‘ πŸ‘Ž (Overused for sure, but still decent.)

πŸ’˜ Trope #5: Multiple Love Interests πŸ’˜

Definition: A trope usually employed in longer series where the main character has multiple love interests over the course of the series. Different from a love triangle in that the relationships are sequential rather than concurrent; instead of two guys being interested in the same girl at the same time, for example, the girl is interested in/dates both guys at different times.

Examples: So far, the only good example of this trope that I’ve seen is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. And while these books are kinda contentious in the blogging community, when we talk about them solely in terms of this trope, I can’t deny that they manage to pull it off brilliantly. The main character, Celaena, is involved with several different guys over the course of the series, and we get to see her evolve and grow with each relationship, which I thought was really interesting!

My Thoughts: I’m a HUGE fan of this trope, mainly because I think it teaches younger readers (like me) a lot of important lessons about how relationships are in real life. In most books, the main character only has one love interest, and by the time the book ends and their undying devotion to each other has been revealed, it’s basically assumed that they’re going to be together for life. But in the real world, you often have to date several people β€” and fall in love multiple times β€” before you find the person for you. We need more books that portray this real-world side of things!

Overall Rating: πŸ‘ πŸ‘ (Possibly my favorite trope on this list… yes, it even outranks slow-burn.)

πŸ’˜ Trope #6: Insta-Love πŸ’˜

Definition: A trope in which the main character falls for the love interest extremely quickly and without any or the usual buildup to their relationship. The subsequent relationship is usually overly idyllic and somewhat unrealistic due to its apparent lack of foundation.

Examples: To be honest, I couldn’t think of any examples off the top of my head; I tend to avoid this trope at all costs, and I can’t remember the last book I read that included it. A quick look at a list of “Worst Insta-love Books” on Goodreads, however, reminded me that Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Origin by Jessica Khoury fall soundly into this category. (I also JUST realized that the Jessica Khoury who wrote Last of Her Name, a book I loved, is the same Jessica Khoury who wrote Origin?! No way.) I honestly don’t recommend Delirium β€” I remember being pretty bored while reading it β€” but Origin wasn’t that bad of a read, despite the insta-love elements!

My Thoughts: Much like the slow burn trope is universally loved among members of the book blogging community, insta-love is pretty much universally hated. More often than not, insta-love gives off the impression that a book just wasn’t very well-written; it’s not a very realistic way for a relationship to form, so it’s disillusioning for readers and comes off as a bit sloppy and/or lazy. I’m sure there’s a way to write insta-love so that it’s bearable to your audience (though if Romeo and Juliet is any example, we’ve been trying and failing to do so for the last several centuries), but I yet haven’t come across a book that’s managed to do so.

Overall Rating: πŸ‘Ž πŸ‘Ž (Definitely my least favorite trope on this list.)

πŸ’˜ Trope #7: Enemies to Lovers πŸ’˜

Definition: A trope in which the two love interests start out as complete enemies, sometimes because they’re on opposite sides of some sort of battle and sometimes because they just can’t stand each other. Either way, they’re forced to keep running into each other over and over again, until they eventually realize that they’ve fallen for each other despite their better judgement…

Examples: I just finished the second installment of The Thousandth Floor series by Katharine McGee (which I highly recommend!). It’s called The Dazzling Heights, and it’s a perfect example of the enemies-to-lovers trope. Same goes for the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, which I mentioned earlier in the Opposites Attract section, as well as Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

My Thoughts: Oooh, boy. There’s something about this trope that really appeals to me β€” I think it’s the contrast between the passionate hatred that the characters have for each other at the beginning of the book and the equally-as-passionate love for each other that they have by the end. It takes a skilled writer to make such a polar switch of emotions seem believable to their readers, so these types of relationships are almost always fantastically written, and I wish I knew of more books that featured them!

Overall Rating: πŸ‘ πŸ‘ (10/10 trope once again; would read every time.)

What are your favorite romance tropes? Which tropes can you absolutely not stand? Did I leave out any big romance tropes? Do you have any examples to add to the ones I mentioned above?

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12 comments

  1. Ahhh… I love talking about tropes so I am excited for this series. And I adore the way you have set it out– it is so good!!
    Of course I love slow burn as well— the sometimes painful process of two people getting together is amazing and I think it highlights the small details which I love— they are so tender and sweet as they are not big shows of emotions but they in a lot of emotion behind the acts!!
    I like opposite attracts as well (Cress and Thorne are amazing) but I think my favourite is the innocent falls in love with the daredevil or the introverted and the extroverted because I think they can bring out new traits in the other person but still really accept each other. But you are right that age gap with immortals and teenagers is really creepy when you think about it!!
    I agree that multiple love interests is good to see and healthy as like you said you rarely find one person straight away that you are going to love forever— people often fall in love many times and books should show this, you are so right!!
    Yeah insta-love is not a loved trait!! I don’t like it either— I want the angst!!
    Great post Alex!!! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Sophie! I always love reading your comments and I’m honored that you liked this post & this series concept so much. πŸ˜€

      Slow-burn is definitely my favorite romance trope — like you said, I want the angst! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that had well-executed insta-love in it, so I’ll take slow-burn all day every day, thanks. Just like you mentioned, I love seeing the small hints that the characters drop for each other to show they’re gonna fall in love — it’s just so cute! And innocent falling in love with a daredevil is like, the best variation of all. Han Solo and Princess Leia is one of my favorite examples of that trope, but it isn’t from a book so I couldn’t mention it in this post!

      I hope you like the rest of the posts in this series just as much when I get around to writing them! Thank you again! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent survey of romance tropes, but how do you feel about combining them? My favorite fictional ships fuse elements of slow-burn, opposites-attract, and antagonists-to-lovers. That deliciously dysfunctional alchemy ensnares me every time, from “Pride and Prejudice” to “The X-Files” (and tons of other crime shows; there’s something irresistible about the psychology of “I’ll literally take a bullet for you, but I’ll never admit that I fancy you”). Thanks for highlighting so many examples for my TBR list!

    Like

  3. Absolutely loved this post Alex!!
    Apart from insta-love (hate hate hate) I like all the tropes on this list! My favourite would definitely be the fake relationships, although I’ve only read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (and a few Wattpad books haha) in this category!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh thanks Emme! I’m so glad you liked it! πŸ˜€ And yeah — insta-love is probably the worst trope to exist. It’s just so cheesy. But I do love fake relationships, and TATBILB is on my TBR for sure! I just need to find the time to read it… easier said than done, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love romance tropes! I’m an absolute sucker for the fake dating trope, especially when there’s only one bed! I don’t love slow burn romances as much as other people do because I find that I’m rarely satisfied with how long the couple is actually together by the time the book ends. I get very annoyed when they only figure out they love each other with only 10 pages left in the book! But I do enjoy a friends to lovers every once and a while, which tend to be slow burns!

    My favorite trope by far though is enemies to lovers! I just love watching the relationship progress throughout the book! In fact my favorite book of the year, Red, White, & Royal Blue has this trope and it’s part of the reason why I loved it so much! I also think that Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett is amazing since it’s friends to enemies to lovers!

    Great post! It was so interesting to see what you thought of each of these tropes and I loved the examples you gave for each one!

    Like

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