I don’t know why, but I always have a really hard time coming up with lists of tropes that I love or hate. I think I tend to focus more on how the trope is executed, so I won’t mind an overused one as long as it is done well. I tend not to like tropes when I feel like they’ve been done to death, and especially when most of those cases are not even done particularly well. I get really tired of reading books that feel like they are telling the same basic story over and over with slightly different characters, which is why I tend to make a conscious effort to vary my reading during the year so I at least don’t read too many books of the same genre or style in a row. I’ll follow one or two YA contemporaries with some fantasy, for example, just to mix things up a bit. There are some cases where the author manages to take a normally cringe-worthy trope, and subvert it or at least make it unique enough to feel a little fresh.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and the official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) Love Triangles – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
To be fair, I don’t hate love triangles as much as most people seem to. I’m just sick of seeing them in every single book or series that I read. It’s so unrealistic to have nearly every main character have two (or more) people in love with them, and to have strong enough feelings for both that they couldn’t possibly choose between them. What I especially hate in most of the love triangles that I read is that it is often immediately obvious which partner the main character will pick. I would actually love to see more books where the childhood friend actually manages to win their friend’s heart, over the random new guy (or girl, but often seems to be a guy) who the person is instantly drawn to. The Hunger Games series was one of the strongest examples of a love triangle that was done well. I was genuinely shocked by the person that Katniss picked because I was leaning so heavily toward the other person, and honestly thought that she was too. The further away I got from the story, the more I came to understand why she picked the person that she did and came to love them as a couple, but this series definitely kept me in suspense. It’s possible that it would have been more predictable if I read it now than when I first did, but at the time, I was caught off-guard, and I loved that!
2) Insta-love – The Sun is Also a Star and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
I’m pretty sure insta-love is one of the most universally hated tropes, and it tends to bother me because I hate books with poor character development. I tend to find those go hand-in-hand. I really have a hard time buying into relationships between characters who have literally just met and don’t know anything about each other, beyond an initial (often physical) attraction. In many cases, the relationship becomes the focal point for those characters to the point where all other character development stops. The two of them become defined solely by their relationship and interactions with each other, and I don’t get a strong sense of who they are as individuals. Even though both of Nicola Yoon’s books have relationships that develop very quickly, I still really loved both of these books. In The Sun is Also a Star especially, the quick connection made sense given that one of the characters was being deported, and I loved how the author used that. Their relationship developed quickly, but (at least as far as I remember) it wasn’t an immediate “I love you and now we will be together forever,” but more of a strong interest and connection with an uncertain future. In Everything, Everything, the relationship between Olly and Maddy also happened very quickly, which made sense given her very limited interactions with other people, but it was so adorable that I really didn’t mind.
3) “Love Cures All” – Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
It really, really bothers me when authors try to present characters’ relationships being a complete cure for any kind of mental illness they may have. I’ve read many books where characters’ symptoms of schizophrenia or compulsive behaviours completely stop, but only when their love interest is around. Or, books where characters who have a long history of anxiety or depression suddenly have no problems anymore as soon as they fall in love. To be fair, I can understand people feeling better through their relationships with friends or partners, and it’s possible that some of these books are attempting to go for that temporary approach, but they often come across as seeming like a magical cure. It’s just not realistic for a relationship, especially as teenagers, to completely cure someone’s mental health. The two books I picked for this one both include characters who have social anxiety, and whose relationships with their love interests helped them, but didn’t necessarily take away all of their problems. I think Starfish is a great example of the opposite of this. The main character has social anxiety and a very difficult home life, and her friendship/relationship with her childhood friend helps but doesn’t completely remove her social anxiety. It also did a great job of showing the other side — how her anxiety can sometimes frustrate him, but he showed a lot of patience and did his best to be understanding and support her.
4) Girl Hate – Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty
I think this trope doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it bothers most other people, because I think sometimes it is very realistic. In general, I’ve seen many complaints about this trope that it promotes the idea of women as being catty and rude toward each other unnecessarily, where they should actually be supporting each other. I don’t always have a problem with this trope because I think it is often true to life. There are many women who do behave this way toward other women, and it is often for no real reason. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to have female characters in books who do tear each other down, but it definitely seems to be an overused trope and it often happens for no reason (or almost solely because of a man). I think Those Other Women did a fantastic job of subverting this trope. It focused a woman who, bitter over her husband cheating on her with her best friend, starts a Facebook group for women who don’t want to have children, as a response to a group she sees that is exclusive to mothers in her area. It spins out into a huge rivalry, with some very interesting perspectives about the attitudes of women towards others (ie. working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, parents vs. non-parents). It was very well done, and I thought it did a great job of showing multiple sides of the issue, and showing how these kinds of attitudes don’t really help.
5) Unlikable Protagonist – Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
Again, this is a trope that I don’t necessarily hate, but it is often not done very well and it can be really hard to enjoy a book when the main character is annoying. I don’t have to like or agree with what characters are doing in order to enjoy reading their stories, but I am getting a little tired of seeing so many alcoholic women as protagonists in thrillers. I find there are generally two kinds of unlikable protagonists: the ones who are just flat-out irritating to read and that you don’t even like as a person, and other who you may not like, but at least make compelling characters. I think Enter Title Here easily falls into that second category. I’ve mentioned this book several times in the past, always with the disclaimer that the main character, Reshma Kapoor, is not likable at all. She’s an extreme perfectionist and overachiever, and she will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. The Goodreads synopsis really does not do justice to this one at all. Even though she was not a likable person, I couldn’t help but root for her and get invested in her story because she was just so fascinating to read. I would love to see more characters who may not be the best person, but who have an interesting story and especially where their annoying traits actually contribute to their story, instead of just being frustrating to read about.