Cliches in YA Romance


gabrielarava said to fixyourwritinghabits: Hi! I’m in the process of outlining a young adult novel and am very adamant about avoiding cliches in the genre, especially romantic ones. What are some of the most common cliches in YA romances?

Truthfully, I’m a real sucker for a good romance my in YA novels. I’m also quite picky about what I read and ship. I feel like somewhere along the line, this answer turned into “all-the-things-I-hate-about-YA-romance,” but here we go!

The Love Not-Triangle. I don’t mind love triangles, as long as they actually are triangles, not something that looks vaguely like this from the start:


A “love triangle” that adds no suspense because we know by the end of chapter one that A is going to eventually end up with B, and B and C have no relationship other than their competition for A’s affections. It doesn’t matter how great C is, or how badly B treats A, A will end up with B. 

Write a love triangle that actually has the reader guessing who your protagonist will end up with. Write a love triangle with fleshed out characters that includes other complicated non-romantic relationships interfering. Write a love triangle that is memorable. 

Not-Plain Heroine. A heroine that is plain only to her eyes. Often with brown hair. Extremely pretty when she dresses up. Love Interest finds her beautiful all the time. 

The Eternally Smiling White Knight in Shining Armour and the Brooding Baddest Baddass also known as your typical male love interests. Please, give the White Knight some flaws and the Brooding Baddass some reasons for being brooding. Less cardboard cutouts, more rounded characters. 

Tragic Backstory. Everyone needs a backstory, but sometimes it goes too far. Sometimes, backgrounds with abuse and other very serious things are taken lightly and used for the sake of a flashy tragic backstory, to make a “broken” character that can be simply “fixed” by love. 

“I’m dangerous/I’m not good for you/Stay away from me.” Please no. If they really have that level of self awareness, and really are as good as the book later makes them out to be, then they should have made the effort to stay away. If someone said that to me, I’d give the creep a look and walk away. 

Unnecessary and easily solved conflict. If the problem can be solved through an easily do-able 2 minute conversation or a text, then it does not need to be dragged out into 5 chapters of angst. 

Romantic Stalking. I don’t know why this is a thing. Stalking is never romantic, it’s a creepy invasion of privacy. Overly “protective” and possessive guys are not romantic, they’re abusive. 

First Love at First Sight/Insta-Love. Well, we’ve all seen this one. People get crushes, people fall in lust, but two people do not fall in a deep, maddening, meaningful and heathy love within five minutes of meeting. 

The Jealous Third Party who exists for no reason other than to tear the main couple apart. Usually horrible, vapid and shallow. No character development other than to hate the protagonist more and more. 

Straight, cis and white. Not exactly a cliche, but you get the idea. You see a lot of YA out there with straight, cis and white people falling in love, and I’m getting a little tired of it. Of course, writing about other genders/sexualities/cultures takes a lot of work and research, but I highly encourage you to do so! 

The Magical Healing C***. Sex heals wounds. Falling in love cures you of depression. Your relationship means an end to any mental illness you’ve been struggling with. Please, stop right there. Just no. Stop. Don’t do it. 

Oh my gosh. I don’t  read much that has romance in it, but I’m looking at you, certain popular books…

But in all seriousness, these tropes and issues happen in a lot of books written by first-time writers. If it’s the first idea you have, then it’s probably already been done. Go with your second idea. It will almost always be far more interesting.

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