Young Adult Novel Commonalities [Guest Post]

[**Everyone please welcome my wonderful friend Teresa! *waves* She has written a great post on YA book commonalities that I thought would be smart to share. Please give her some love!]

Consider the copious amount of books out there in the world—on the shelves of bookstores, tucked away in boxes, some new and freshly printed, some worn and used, and others out of print but equally loved by avid readers. Books have been around for quite a few centuries, and storytelling for even longer—and even today, hundreds of people continue to willingly pick up a novel for the thrill of adventure, the invitation for new knowledge, and even the promise of intrigue and mystery.

Of course, at some point in a novel’s career, it will have been read by at least one person—but lesser known novels pale in comparison to popular novels that have captured the world and the entirety of pop culture by storm. The question is, what makes books (like the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games trilogy, the Twilight series [whether people can agree on the quality of any of these books is a completely different story]) so popular? What aspects of books like these are able to take a hold of the reader’s attention? What kind of things enrapture and take the world by storm?

Five common aspects that one can find in many young adult novels:

1.      Love triangles

Admit it. Almost every single novel you’ve read, every story you’ve immersed yourself in, there is almost always a love triangle. The most popular scenario would be the one in which: girl has best friend who has secretly been in love with her for the entirety of their friendship; girl meets mysterious, tall, dark, and handsome guy; magical/paranormal adventure ensues best friend to confesses to girl; girl rejects best friend; girl realizes her “undying love” for the other love interest *cue dramatized scene of riding of into the sunset*

Maybe people like the excitement of a tormented hero/heroine agonizing over which love interest to choose; maybe people like to see the character suffer from the throes of love (because secretly, we’re all sadists at heart). But whatever the reason, love triangles are the money makers of the literary industry—not that anyone’s complaining about it.

2.      A coming of age story

Everyone likes a good story—even better, everyone likes a good story that they can relate to in some shape or form. Coming of age stories give you the opportunity to be able to immerse yourself in the hero’s adventure and to even learn a little about yourself along the way. As you journey alongside the protagonist, you are able to grow with the hero; you readily connect with the character’s realizations and ideas because you probably feel as though you’ve experienced the same events that the hero has. And in a way, you’ve learned some kind of moral lesson that you wouldn’t have otherwise come to the conclusion of by yourself. Yes, coming of age stories are common tropes—but it doesn’t mean that it’s something to scorn or avoid when you’re reading a novel.

3.      Dystopian novels

Honestly, what’s not to like? The idea of a society so completely different from our own yet somehow showing us what the world could turn into years or centuries from now (even though it may seem impossible or a ridiculously far stretch)—it’s strange enough to be able to catch the attention of millions of readers. Dystopian novels allow us to stretch our imaginations and create a ‘what if’ factor that boggles the mind because it is so alien to the culture we are accustomed to. Dystopians basically take aspects of society’s flaws (such as humanity’s greed, pride, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth) and create universes in which these flaws are what cause the downfall/transformation of society into a dystopia.

4.      Paranormal and Urban Fantasy novels

To generalize, paranormal and urban fantasy are genres in which aspects of fantasy (vampires, werewolves, fairies, psychic powers, etc.) bleed into the real world. What generally happens is the main character, who lives a boring and mundane life, is (by some coincidental or maybe not so coincidental chance) thrust into a life threatening situation which eventually leads to his or her assimilation into the supernatural world. These genres are extremely popular and the number of books will only continue to grow. It’s interesting to think and wonder if there could possibly be another fantastical side to the world we live in, where all those fairytale creatures we’ve heard stories of ever since we were children have suddenly become very, very real. It’s unlikely, but people like to imagine—which is why this genre is so popular among young adult novels.

5.      Love interests are always attractive—while the main character never is (or seems to think)

As shallow as it seems, it’s almost inevitable that people will find themselves attracted to extremely good-looking people. It happens just as often in novels—imagine this: Heroine finds herself face to face with “a perfectly fine male specimen with a divine set of XY chromosomes, his hair flowing in the wind created by a conveniently placed fan, perfect shining white teeth, and extremely kissable lips”. There is frantic heart-pounding filling the silence as she finds herself enraptured with boy’s gaze and she just can’t find it in herself to tear her eyes away.

The love interest is made out to be some Greek Adonis, someone who will not only take the protagonist’s heart but also millions of readers’ hearts as well. But somehow, in some strange twist of irony, the main character refuses to believe that she is remotely attractive. This situation is usually found with female protagonists—and it’s sad to see that kind of double standard in books. But that kind of thinking strikes a chord in readers because so many people have issues with their own self-worth and beauty—they can easily connect with the protagonist because of that. And as the main character slowly learns that they are worth something—that they’re beautiful—readers will get that same rush of happiness and understand that just like the hero, they themselves are better than merely a “plain Jane”.

There are so many other commonalities that could be listed, but to try to list them all would be impossible. But the next time you pick up a book, try to see if you can identify any other popular clichés found in young adult novels!

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