Problematic Tropes that Misplaced Readers Hopes

This weeks Top Ten Tuesday is supposed to be all about tropes we love. The ones we read and cling on to, absoloutely adore and base our tbr on. But honestly, I don’t have that many? Call me crazy but I like the unique, the odd sprinkle of unusality and crazy turn of the unexpected. There isn’t one or two plot devices that I just think yep, I must have that.

However, because I’m a terrible person who loves a good moan, there are tropes I don’t like. Tropes I think are actively problematic and really need a rethink. Plot devices that really shouldn’t exist. So here’s an unorthodox list of those instead!

I’m not naming and shaming, this was just a pretty picture but is not related to the tropes!

Not Like Other Girls

1 Oh gosh, isn’t this so cringe? When the love interest likes a girl and says they’re somehow different, usually meaning they’re more like a man. It’s implying that all of the female population bar one are the same and the implication is usually catty, air headed women who can’t save the day.

Strong Women Can’t be Feminine

2 Women shouldn’t have to be like men to be strong, they can enjoy makeup, flowers, pretty dresses and save the world.

He’s Different for Just Her

3 I’m sorry to break this to young, angsty teenage me but boys with big egos, dark pasts and unexpected tempers who are guarded to everyone they meet probably don’t actually make the best boyfriends. It’s a sign of a really unhealthy relationship and he’s probably just an arse glorified in YA for far too young impressionable readers.

Your First Love is Forever

4 Ok, I get it, it’s cute to ship people. We don’t want them all to sink and it’s pretty depressing reading about break ups all the time. But also most readers are going to go through a breakup? How inadequate are we going to end up feeling if the novels we’re surrounded with are screaming that the first taste of a relationship is all we’re going to get? That little spark was meant to be forever? Yeah, no, that’s not a great message to young readers guys.

Women Not Supporting Each Other

5 Too often in media are we presented with that catty group of girl friends. When the male characters are sensible, getting on with it, showing themselves to be good friends and the women are just… nowhere? Or worse sitting jealous on the sidelines. Women don’t need men to save the world and female friendships should definitely be focused on more in YA.

The Lone Wolf

6 You know those characters that have no one else in their lives but their partner, or two love triangle caught potential suitors? Where they blow off all their friends in favour of the pursuit of love but it’s a book so obviously it all works out in the end, and the relationship is all they ever needed to be fulfilled? Yeah, that’s unhealthy. And needs to go.

Instant Love

7 The eyes meeting across the room thing is cute. Bumping into each other in the coffee shop, corridor, while fighting a deadly monster and instantly feeling a connection? Adorable. But not love. That’s called lust, that crazy hazy bit where they fart and you’d think it was perfume, can do nothing wrong and everything is butterflies and magic. It’s when they fart, you slap them on the arm, wrinkle your nose and say they stink that’s it’s actually love and the distinction is rarely made in YA.

All Love Interests are Unimaginably Hot

8 Besides seemingly every character in YA being described as drop dead gorgeous, which is getting really old by the way, all love interests have a formula. Big pecks on men and pretty without trying women that can leave readers feeling inadequate. Protagonists of YA a man does not need abs to be considered hot and you should all stop setting this unrealistic standard that could lead to readers feeling insecure.

Everyone Needs Love

9 We got to pair off all the characters right? They’re not happy if they’re not in a relationship, are they? No. They are. They can be single. They can be happy with a handful of close friends and nice shiny sword and maybe a pet dragon if they’re lucky. Not every protagonist needs a love interests and for goodness sake stop pairing off all the side characters like it’s the one route to paradise.

Toss in a Bit of Trauma

X One day I’ll get a discussion post out about this but for now this paragraph will have to do. Don’t toss in a dark past for the sake of it. If your character isn’t going to deal with that trauma and give it proper respect you shouldn’t shove it in there for the sake of it. It can upset readers and make them feel like they should ‘just get over it’ if they have gone through something similar. If you don’t have the page time to deal with a traumatic event you’ll have to use good old fashioned prose to make us feel something for your characters.

Let’s Compare Notes

So there you have it. Ten tropes that I see cropping up time and again and just wince at. Do you agree? Think any of these are particularly damaging? Have a list of tropes you’d like to share? Drop it in the comments section.

I’ll be back Thursday with my review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

34 thoughts on “Problematic Tropes that Misplaced Readers Hopes

  1. I hate every one of those! Especially women hating on women. It’s so dumb! Women are so helpful to each other, even if I don’t like one and have a legit reason I wouldn’t refuse her a pad or a dumb hand cream! I also hate the ‘don’t get help for your mental illness because it makes you create art’ bs. I create way more art now that I’m on media than ever before and my life is more important than some drawings or poems anyway!

    My TTT:


  2. Preach!!!🙌
    Also, I read a lot of fantasy and historical novels, and I find it disturbing how they always include rape scenes with no consequence to the plot, or to the victim….it just happens for some reason… this is especially bad in books with only one or two female characters, who aren’t even fully developed, just there. The most infuriating example of this is The Painted Man. I wrote about it on my blog. Completely wrong, in my opinion


    1. Yesssss. Its so damaging because it normalises something horrible and if people are dealing with something like that they shouldn’t be told feeling distraught afterwards is ok and not weird and that they should just get on with life. Ooh I might check out that post about The Painted Man and will definitely be avoiding the book, it’s a terrible trope and do damaging

      Liked by 1 person

  3. SO MUCH YES TO NUMBER THREE. I was just thinking about how much I dislike this. You’re not special, you’re a temporary novelty sufficient to distract him from his status quo.


  4. Agree with a lot of these especially the women not supporting each other. There’s enough of this in real life, we have to start showing girls that women needs to stick together and elevate each other. Great choices


  5. I loooove this list! Every point you made is one I agree with; I want women supporting each other and I want people being allowed to be single. I also hate how many characters meet the loves of their lives at 16. It does happen (20 years on, my big sister is married to the boyfriend she first started dating at 16 and they have two children) but it doesn’t happen to EVERYONE. I’d love to see more characters, particularly in YA, actually having more than one relationship – especially girls, who are often completely inexperienced while their male love interests have a romantic history.


  6. Love your twist on today’s prompt. This is a great list and I totally agree with everything you wrote. These tropes are so bad and most of them make me cringe SO hard and want to throw the book across the room 🙈Lol

    My TTT post


  7. OMG ALL OF THIS! You’re so freaking right and I’m so glad you did this twist on the prompt. I’m so tired of seeing women compete against one another in books and shows for no reason! Seeing women be friends without any ulterior motives is so damn refreshing! Great list 🙂


  8. I’ve just joined the TTT group and posted my first post today.

    Warrior Women is a trope I have a love/hate relationship with. Some are just too perfect and good at everything to be relatable or realistic- and don’t even get me started on skimpy armour

    Apparently ‘warrior women’ have to be sexy and preferably show their perfect figure as well as emerging from battle unscathed clad only in a metal bikini. Its a hard job, being commando Ninja Barbie.


    1. Urg skimpy armour 😒 I think a lot of warrior characters are too perfect to relate to tbh, regardless of gender. I just feel strong female characters are often not feminine because traditionally male traits are perceived as strong and female traits like enjoying getting dressed up are considered weak almost


  9. Great post! I’m definitely tired of the lack of genuine female relationships in fiction, as well as the sexist descriptions of both the male and female bodies. Not everyone is drop dead gorgeous with or without effort! Nor do all men have or need abs to be attractive. What’s the male MC often having dishevelled hair? 😂


  10. SO many good points raised here and I agree with many. I think you’ve pretty much covered all the basis re: what I want to see tossed out in literature. That being said, as for other tropes I dislike, I often think I may not wholly dislike tropes in theory but rather how they are portrayed by specific authors? Which is basically still hating the trope in question but more circumstantial than anything if that makes sense? I don’t know, I think about that a lot. Not talking the straight up toxic, sloppy, problematic tropes but ones that more or less just grate my nerves when they appear. Ahh I am babbling, sorry!


    1. Haha thanks, it’s covers my basis too! It depends, a few of these I just never want to see because they’re damaging. Yeah ones that’s great I agree with you, like love triangles annoy me but sometimes can be done well. Babble away! I am permanently babbling and thinking about books and tropes 😂


  11. Oh I completely agree with you on all of these! Especially “everyone needs love”. I really don’t like when authors can’t leave a single character single – they can hold on their own perfectly well without another person all of the time. Great post! xx


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