Ever since I discovered YA fiction, I’ve loved both reading and writing it. But after immersing myself in it for a while, I noticed something (something that I’m sure hasn’t escaped your attention either!). There are certain themes that crop up pretty often in YA literature. So often, in fact, that I now expect to come across at least one whenever I read a new YA book.
- The Love Triangle
Usually a girl and two guys. Usually a nice guy (kind and sensitive, possibly a best friend for years) and a bad boy (the kind your parents most certainly wouldn’t approve of). There’s a lot of emotional back-and-forth while the heroine tries to figure out who she really wants to be with, and you, the reader, can usually tell from the beginning who it will be. And neither boy ever seems to think, You know what? This girl is messing me around. I’m off to find someone else.
- Love At First Sight
I can understand attraction at first sight. That makes sense to me. You see a guy (or girl) for the first time, he’s really good-looking, and you feel attracted to him. But love? And that instant “connection” you often read about? Hmm. I have a hard time buying that. I think love and a connection can only come once you know a person.
- The Bad Boy Love Interest
Rude, obnoxious, sarcastic, dark-and-brooding, has a troubled past, pushes the heroine away, no one else has ever been able to change him, but for THIS HEROINE he will turn his life around and become a better person. Secretly, I like this one (if I have to pick a vertex on the love triangle, I’m usually Team Bad Boy). And I’d like to believe it’s possible. I’m sure in some cases it is. But surely in other cases, the guy who’s a jerk will always be just that – a jerk. And the heroine should tell him to get lost and instead find an awesome good guy (like Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door!)
I’m not saying these themes are wrong. There are, of course, instances where they work really well. For example, the love triangles in The Hunger Games series (Katniss, Peeta, Gale) and The Infernal Devices series (Tessa, Will, Jem) are cleverly pulled off and add much to the storyline. And sometimes the Bad Boy has a really good reason for acting like such a jerk (again, Will from The Infernal Devices series).
After thinking about it for a little while, I realized that none of these three stereotypes show up in Guardian:
- there’s only one main guy, Nate, so no love triangle;
- Vi thinks Nate is kinda cute, but once he ruins her perfect assignment record by following her into the fae realm, love-at-first-sight is the last thing on her mind;
- and Nate is certainly not a “bad boy”. In fact, the only bad boy here is Ryn (the faerie who reports Vi’s assignment screw-up), and Vi’s feelings for him extend more toward shoving him out of a tree than love.
But you may have noticed there’s a stereotype I haven’t mentioned yet . . .
- Forbidden Love
And that’s because, well, there may, kinda, possibly be a bit of this in Guardian! I mean, Violet's a faerie, Nate’s a human, it’s against Guild Law for him to know she exists, so of course any feelings Vi may, kinda, possibly develop toward Nate would be forbidden!
Okay, so I couldn't steer completely clear of stereotypes!
A question for readers and writers: How do feel about these YA “stereotypes”?
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Rachel Morgan is the author of Guardian, the first novelette in the Creepy Hollow series. She was born in South Africa and spent a large portion of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making. These days, in between teaching mathematics to high school children, she writes fiction for young adults.
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