Chatterbox: Five Most Disliked Contemporary Tropes

June 29, 2017 by Jenna | Chatterbox, Features

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Chatterbox discussion post so let’s chat. Also, I have to admit that this post came about because I was finding it hard to get through the book that I was supposed to be reviewing today… but that book shall not be named!

Let’s talk about five of my most disliked tropes in YA contemporaries. Contemporary is my most read genre but there are certain tropes that get on my nerves and make me want to throw the book across the room. These are listed in no particular order.

1. The absent parent narrative

This is something that I thought was becoming less common but I’ve seen a few books floating around this year with plots that revolve around parents disappearing off into thin air. Often this means that the main character needs to fend for themselves or a younger sibling, which leads to a ton of character development. (If you’ve read my review of This Raging Light, you’ll know how much I hate this trope). As much as I personally love it when my parents aren’t around and I get the whole house to myself, I’m a bit tired of the ‘flaky parent who disappears off on an adventure and doesn’t care about their kids’ narrative. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that and there are many different types of families out there, but I’d really like to see more stories where parents are present and supportive. These kinds of parents exist too.

2. Broken friendships for no reason

Okay this trope has been bothering me for a really long time and it’s essentially when the book starts off with a strong friendship between the main character and her best friend, but this friendship disintegrates because of something really minor… or for just absolutely no reason at all. It might be because one of them has acquired a new hobby, a new set of friends that the other is adamant about not being friends with, some small lie that one of them has taken offence with… etc. This happens in the majority of contemporary novels that I read and usually the only purpose of this broken friendship is so that the main character has more time to spend with her newfound love interest. I mean, if you don’t have to write about this friendship, you can spend more time writing about this swoony romance right?

3. Insta-love/Love cures all

This one is really self-explanatory and is probably on everybody’s list. There is honestly nothing that I hate more than insta-love and you’d be surprised by the number of books that I’ve read where the main character looks across the room/street and falls in love within the first 10 pages of the book (The Boundless Sublime comes to mind straightaway). Like please… spare me. And of course, lumped in with that is the love cures all trope, where anything can be made better with a strong dose of romance. Mental illness? Incurable cancer? Have no fear, here’s a boy!

4. That ‘pesky’ girlfriend

I don’t really have a problem with the ‘other’ girl trope because people have relationships and things happen, but when the other girl exists only to be the sole conflict in the book, it irks me a little. Or a lot. Because the book becomes all about the romance and essentially two-thirds of the book is full of angst and them pining for each other, and please just give me some actual plot?!

5. Love over hopes, dreams and opportunities

I’ve read a few books this year where the main character has given up on an opportunity or withdrawn from some prestigious competition that they would’ve won so that their love interest could win, and this is a trope that really bothers me. Maybe this is because I identify as an independent career woman, but I don’t think anyone should have to give up anything that’s important to them for somebody else. I know people make sacrifices on a regular basis but in a YA contemporary context, I don’t always understand why it’s necessary to give up some sort of scholarship or opportunity that you want just to make someone else happy.


So that’s it for my list of five disliked tropes in contemporary novels. The next time I post, I’ll be in Toronto, Canada!

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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. You can usually find me binge reading series, fangirling with fellow readers, devouring pastries, or binge watching Netflix shows. You can find me on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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27 responses to “Chatterbox: Five Most Disliked Contemporary Tropes

  1. I agree with all of these so much! I feel the absent parent trope is present in so many genres and I feel sometimes it’s done a little bit so the writer doesn’t have to deal with more characters (truthfully, I’ve done that in some of my own stories!). But I think it’s really important for parents to be present in more contemporaries in particular, because parent/child relationships are complicated, even if they are healthy ones. I think exploring those relationships in different ways will reach a lot more young readers who can relate to experiences similar to their own.
    I also dislike how romance-centric contemporaries can be, in a way that it breaks friendships, has girls hating other girls, and requires self sacrifice. I dislike most of all that those things aren’t questioned. Romance isn’t the end of the world, and not every teenager even experiences it, espeically in a way that forces them to change things about themselves.
    I really enjoyed reading this list!
    Helia @ Rose Quartz Reads recently posted…Meddling Kids // a darker, more adult and twisted version of Scooby-DooMy Profile

    • I completely agree! I love my contemporary romances but I’ve increasingly started moving towards contemporaries that don’t include romance at all. There’s just so much more room to explore other issues once the romance is not part of the picture!

  2. Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog

    Yes to all of these!! The absent parent trope drives me bonkers. Also love cures all. I hate when everything is ok because of a boy. Great post!

    • Thanks Grace. The absent parent trope is one of the worst for me because I just can’t understand how people could disappear without a thought for their kids… and just assume they’re going to be fine without supervision or financial support. It’s just crazy to me!

  3. The whole “other girl” thing drives me crazy. I cannot stand the angst. Especially when the protagonist hates on this other girl for absolutely no reason. I side-eye the book as soon as she’s introduced. I put the book down if the protagonist gets jealous of her or hates on her within seconds of her arriving. AGH.

    • Me too! It’s so unnecessary and disheartening to see perfectly nice people being treated that way for absolutely no reason.

  4. Number 4 is probably one of the tropes I dislike the most, mainly because she is almost always made up to be a horrible person and it’s just so infuriating. Number 5 I just think it’s the worst. I always go, “Girl, when you and your love interest break up you’re going to regret you gave up your dream. Besides, if he really loved you, he would want what’s going to make you happiest and most successful and to be honest, you deserve the world. That boy is not the world.” I just hate so see characters throw away opportunities for “love.”
    Laura @ Beautiful Books recently posted…Monthly Recap: I’m Writing Again (!!!!), I Read Some Good Books and I Posted Semi-Regularly (WINNING TBH)My Profile

    • I completely agree with you on number 5! It’s probably my most hated trope right now just because I’m at the stage in my life where I have to make some pretty big decisions about what I want to do next, and I would hate to have to give up anything I really want for someone else! Especially big opportunities that could change my life!

    • Thanks! Toronto has been fantastic so far! I really dislike insta-love and that seems to be a common theme in the bookish community so I don’t understand why people keep putting it into their novels!! If there’s going to be instal-love, I’d rather there be no romance at all.

  5. Endless yeses to ALL of these. They’re actually the main reasons why (up until this year) I’ve tended to avoid flat out contemporary books. I literally can’t deal with the romantic love > everything else ideals. I feel really lucky that I’ve managed to find amazing contemporaries this year, but even then I feel like it’s because there’s more serious underlying issues happening. I still tend to avoid romance-summery contemporaries.

    • I agree! Most of my favourite contemporaries are more about the serious issues than they are about the romance. I love contemporary romances but I don’t feel like every story needs a romance. People can go through life without having a love interest and I think this needs to be recognised a little bit more in YA!

    • I completely agree! These lists have been around for ages and ages but the same tropes keep popping up! I mean… I thought we were finally getting to the end of the whole absent parent thing but I’ve seen a few books with this trope this year.

  6. “I don’t always understand why it’s necessary to give up some sort of scholarship or opportunity that you want just to make someone else happy.”

    Remember how Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe compete for the same scholarship and she beats his ass?

    • I have to confess that I’ve never read Anne of Green Gables but she sounds like she’s got it all figured out!

  7. The absent parent one especially bothers me so much. It makes no sense to me as someone who grew up with very strict parental supervision? I don’t know, maybe that’s how kids in America grow up lol! Some of my favorite books are those that include the parents!
    Love Cures All has romantic notions to it, but it’s so unhealthy when you think about it. I’m glad that we’re seeing less and less books with that trope now.
    UGGHHHH I’m so with you on the other girl trope. Its presence is honestly enough to get me to DNF the book, especially if they other girl is villified. Also agree on that last point. Like it makes no sense to even do that?? That’s like the one time you should be selfish in your life because it could make or break your life!

    • Yes to everything! I agree so much with the strict parental supervision thing! I can’t even imagine my parents going away without bossing me around and giving me a long list of precautions. It just doesn’t make sense to me how there are so many contemporaries with parents who just decide to take an impromptu vacation.

      And omg yes, I hate it when the other girl is vilified! Often she’s a completely nice person who is made out to be a bitch because she’s with the love interest. I mean… why don’t you just find yourself someone who is unattached?

    • Same tbh! I’d prefer to solve all my problems by myself thank you very much. it just frustrates me when it seems like people are useless unless they have a love interest.

    • Yeah I’ve noticed a lot more parents in YA contemporaries as well… which is probably why I’m extra annoyed when I see one with irresponsible parents who just decide to disappear and leave their kids to fend for themselves!

  8. These are all so frustrating for me, but I would have to say that number 2 and number 4 are the worst. I just don’t understand why something has to go ‘wrong’ for romance to occur. People can fall in love without it being the product of other people!
    Fleur @ Fleur Henley recently posted…Six Signs I’m Getting OlderMy Profile

    • I completely agree! As much as I like fluffy contemporary romances, there are other stories too and I’d like to read books where other things are more important than the romance.