1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Young Adult What are the tropes of YA?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Justin Rocket 2, Jul 4, 2016.

    For the sake of keeping things simple, the following depends on thinking of young adult as a genre. I really don't want to get distracted by an argument as to whether it is or not and I respectfully ask that you address the question I ask below rather than thread jack into a discussion of YA as a genre.

    Most Respectfully, Justin.



    What would you consider to be the tropes of YA? Which of these tropes would you consider to be cliche?

    Some of them are obvious; a teenaged (or early 20s) voice, first person POV, present tense, a female voice, an ugly duckling (the protagonist is trying to find their place in society).
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think anyone in the industry would label a book YA if their MC is over 18.
    YA is made and designed to deal with older teenagers.
    20 year olds would be categorized as NA (New Adult) if anything.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I don't think the age of the MC is a trope.

    As for tropes that do appear, it depends on the subgenre of YA. The most popular material seems to be paranormal/SFF romance, and with those you typically find strong love interests (love at first sight, for example), starcrossed lovers of some form, and often love triangles. The effectiveness of any of them all comes down to the author's ability to use them, so there's not much sense in discussing them in the abstract in terms of whether they're good or bad. Understanding tropes is more just a part of understanding your genre.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem with not getting into the discussion of whether or not YA is a genre is that there has to be SOME way to distinguish between the vastly different types of YA out there before you can really start talking about tropes of the different types.

    Like, the three YA novels I've written are trope-y as hell, written for a publisher that's very upfront about wanting trope-driven stories. But it's a romance publisher, and the tropes they want are the standard romance tropes. The books are first person, but otherwise they don't fit any of the criteria you've listed; honestly, I wouldn't call those tropes, really.

    The tropes this publisher mentions for their Teen line are described as: "boy/girl next door, ugly duckling, opposites attract, wrong side of the tracks, best friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, mistaken identity, etc." - http://www.entangledpublishing.com/teen-crush-submission-guidelines/

    But those wouldn't be tropes for a different type of YA.
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. It we accept, for the sake of argument, that YA is a genre, then I call those different areas subgenres. And there are a lot of them, each with their own set of tropes. And there is YA that doesn't fall easily into the subgenres, just like there is general fiction that doesn't fall easily into a genre category.
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    And then "What are the tropes of YA" is an unanswerable question, right? Because there are no tropes that are common to all of YA.

    ETA: So let's use a different word for "tropes". What are the defining elements of YA? Teen MCs and a teen-friendly writing style. What's being overdone in YA lately? Love-triangles... dystopias... What's popular/common in YA? I think that might be closest to the question the OP is asking?
     
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  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    True. I think you have to narrow it down to type of YA. Of course, the same is true for broad genres like Fantasy. It makes little sense to talk about fantasy tropes unless you narrow down to the subgenre of fantasy you're talking about. The genre as a whole is too broad and diverse to lend itself to such generalities.
     
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  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Defining elements, certainly teen MCs. Not sure I agree about the writing style, or what you'd even call a teen-friendly style, since I've seen YA styles that are all over the map. Transition to adulthood is a common theme. Works with strong romantic elements seem to dominate.
     
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  9. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Any genre will have tropes which are shared by 80% of that genre's examples, but not shared by all examples of that genre.
    Westerns, for example, have a heavy use of horses, saloons, harmonicas, six guns, high noon, school marms, Indians, wagon trains, shoot outs, railroads, silver mines, sheriffs, cattle drives, unshaven men, cowboy hats, chewing tobacco, long full dresses on women, etc. and, yet, for each of those I can point to examples of that genre which do not have that particular trope. Though, those tropes are all common to Westerns.
    I don't recall Indians in "There will be war" or silver mines in "Dances with Wolves".

    I'm not asking for the tropes which appear in every single example of a particular genre. I'm asking for elements that are usually found in a particular genre.
     
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  10. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Not quite off-topic, but this twitter feed is good for a giggle:

    https://twitter.com/DystopianYA
     
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  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But... seriously, at some point you're going to have to address the "YA is not a genre" issue. You can't put your hands over your ears and say you don't want to talk about it, and then ask a question that is unanswerable because of what you don't want to talk about.

    Look at the Amazon page for YA bestsellers - https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/3511261011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_kstore_3_3

    The first two are fantasy, both with what looks like male MCs, the third is scifi/dystopic with a female MC, the fourth is fantasy with a female MC, the fifth is apparently "urban fiction" with a female MC (and some appalling editing issues, based on the blurb), the sixth and eighth are scifi/dystopic with a female MC, the seventh and ninth are fantasy/vampire with what looks like a wide cast of MCs, and finally the tenth is what I think you may be thinking of when you talk about YA - contemporary, coming-of-age with a female MC.

    How are you understanding the word "trope" that you think you're going to find similar tropes in all these very diverse books?
     
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  12. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I'm going to have to learn that whenever I post an OP and politely request people to _not_ thread jack into a particular direction, it is going to be taken as encouragement to thread jack in that particular direction *grumble*

    To answer your question, the way I view genre is that it informs booksellers as to which books should be sharing shelves in the store. The goal is to empower a potential customer to quickly find and browse through books they may want to buy.

    So, as long as booksellers find a genre called "Young Adult" to be useful in marketing books, I see nothing wrong with treating "Young Adult" as a genre.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's fine for marketing purposes. Not as useful when discussing tropes since what would be separate genres in adult literature are all lumped together in YA.
     
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  14. BayView
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    I don't have a problem with using the term "genre" as a short hand for the marketing category. Sure, no problem. It's convenient.

    But now you're trying to bring the marketing category back into the literary world, and I really don't think it's going to fit.

    It's like... people sometimes call motorcycles "bikes", right? No problem, I'm not going to argue with them. But if the motorcycle needs repairs, you can't take it to a bicycle shop and get all bent out of shape when they don't have the right tools to fix it.

    ETA: Crossposted with @Steerpike. Once again, my verbosity is my downfall!

    ETA2: And I didn't ask you for your definition of "genre". I asked for your definition of "trope".
     
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  15. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I said that books are put on the same shelf so as to help a reader find and browse books they may want to buy.

    So, that raises the question, why might a reader who read one book on a given shelf most likely want to buy other books on the same shelf?

    I argue that the reader is motivated by certain commonalities those books have. Those are tropes. YA tropes might include
    • a teen POV
    • an ugly duckling trying to find their place in the world
    • a protagonist of an age that society doesn't typically consider them to be adult, yet circumstances have forced them to have great responsibility beyond their years placed on them
    these kinds of tropes can exist in nearly any setting from westerns to Dickensian London to star cruisers. Stories may belong to multiple genres and those genres will inform one another. The Fault in Our Stars is a YA Romance story, for example. In YA romance, the story may be about the first real love a protagonist may feel for another (which would make it have a teen POV, an ugly duckling trying to find their way, and a sense of growing into greater responsibility).
     
  16. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    something such as an idea, phrase, or image that is often used in a genre : Human-like robots are a classic trope of science fiction.
     
  17. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Adults being "the system" and teens being the answer to that (corrupt) system, whether it's as overt as Hunger Games/Maze Runner stuff or as simple as oppressive teachers/parents. This one kind of bugs me when I encounter it, if it isn't done well, but I understand that teens like stories which validate their own beliefs that they know more than the adults in their lives.

    Love-triangles is a big one these days, regardless of the sub-genre. Angst is obviously a theme of almost all YA, because angst defines the YA years, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a trope. Ditto the coming-of-age theme. The misfit-MC, which often borders on Mary Sue territory, is another element I see a lot.
     

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