Bookish Discussion

Dear Authors, Pls Stop: Tropes and Stuff I Wish I Wouldn’t Have to See in Books

Hello, friends! I’m here with a bit negative, a bit complain-y (totally a word!!) post today, where I point out certain things I detest in books and think authors should abandon. Obviously, this is a super-subjective post which is not meant to undermine anyone’s opinion, and I’d love to hear your thoughts – especially if you are not in agreement with me.

emotionally abusive male characters portrayed as romantic

I doubt this requires a lot of explanation, and I do believe/hope (?) that literature has grown a lot in this regard in the past few years. Even so, this is a trope some still romanticize, which is devastating, especially when I see it in YA. Of course lots and lots of teens can and will understand the difference between a toxic vs. a healthy relationship, but I do think authors should not portray unhealthy relationships/love interests in a positive light.

At the same time, I do need to acknowledge that (1) the author’s intention matters, and (2) people can ship something while understanding it’s toxic. I have two examples in mind – the first I’m too scared to mention, because most people seem to love that ship, the second is the romance in Shadow and Bone, of which I’ve written a full post about.

forcing romance into a series that doesn’t need one

I love romance, I do, and I fully understand that a romantic subplot can add something extra to a novel; for instance, scenes with your favorite couple may feel like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise heavy plot. However, at this point I appreciate genuine friends, family, or even a simple hobby the main character has more than I appreciate a romantic subplot, especially when said subplot feels ill-fitting in a story. Obviously, it’s all very subjective if a romance “fits” into a story, but I do believe we’ve all had books where we were like, “cool, cool, but WHY do we need this romance here!?”

pairing off all the MCs

This is something that I’m pretty good at overlooking if I like the couples – I’m looking at you, Six of Crows – but I do find it generally annoying when everyone from the main cast is paired up with each other. It feels so lazy and, in some cases, forced to ‘neatly’ pair up everyone. The same way not every book needs a romance, not every character needs to be paired with someone, in my opinion.

writing a sequel that ruins the previous book(s)

Again, this is super-subjective and, obviously, the author doesn’t set out to ruin the previous book(s) with a sequel, but man, this is one of my least favorite things. In these cases – and I have two vivid example, just you wait – the new sequel isn’t simply bad, or unworthy of its predecessors; instead, it has elements that destroy parts of the previous books.

My favorite example is The Heir, a continuation/spin-off of The Selection series that was a less than satisfactory follow up to one of my beloved series. The Heir follows Eadlyn, the daughter of the main couple from the original trilogy and, frankly, she is one of the most condescending, selfish characters I’ve ever read about. Having her as a main character and seeing some of the supporting cast of the original as adults was terrible, even though it should have been a dream to see one of my favorite couples as parents. The fact that my favorites had a daughter like Eadlyn and let so much slide with her… yikes.

Another good example is The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, which was one of my favorite standalones… until it received a sequel that, in my eyes, ruined all the character and relationship development of the first book. Disappointment, friends, disappointment.

let’s chat!

What would you rather not see in books again? Do you agree with my choices? Do you have other, positive or negative, examples for my points? (e.g. a book that really didn’t need a sequel)

26 thoughts on “Dear Authors, Pls Stop: Tropes and Stuff I Wish I Wouldn’t Have to See in Books

  1. Yes to all of these! I was so mad when I read The Heir because Eadlyn was incredibly insufferable and all the magic from the original Trilogy was gone 😨 That’s one addition/spinoff that was better left alone, as I found even the old characters that returned to be pretty superficial and not at all like I remembered them 😦

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  2. Pairing off all the main characters annoys me too. Especially in series with Fae or some other immortal beings, like they’ve been alive for hundreds of years and never found love, but now all of them found their one true love in the space of 3 years when the series takes place???

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  3. I loved this post as I certainly think they are a few things that I’ve fed up of seeing. Like you said about toxic relationships, I don’t really like them and in YA they can be dangerous depending on how they are handled so I think this is important and I’m glad that this has changed in recent years as emotionally healthy couples as my favourite.
    I also know exactly what you mean about everyone getting coupled up– I find it annoying and it leads me to thinking everyone has to be in a couple to be happy but that really isn’t the case especially when they are usually quite young. I mean there are cases when I love books where this happens *cough cough six of crows* but overall it is not my favourite thing.
    I also hate it when they get married all the time in YA, this is definitely just my opinion but I feel like most of the time they are young and it feels like we just seal their lives of as happily ever after in the most stereotypical way. I don’t mind the occasional one and I think it is less common now but it always used to annoy me a bit!!
    Great post!! ❤

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    1. I definitely am very pleased by how we more often than not get good relationships these days – like you said, it can be dangerous to present a toxic relationship as this big romance. Yes, lots of teens will be able to understand the problems with the relationship, but what about those – not just teens – who are in an abusive relationship? Seeing an abusive or toxic relationship supported by fans (and the author) could make it harder for them to leave their own relationship. It’s just a bad trope, imo.

      Yeah, SoC handles the “everyone’s coupled up” well, but I definitely agree – it’s such an unnecessary trope to add to most books. Marriage in YA is horrible, haha. I really hate it both when it’s used as a “have to do it” for whatever reason and when the characters choose it themselves. It always feels so rushed – not only because of their age, but also because the characters have only met months ago in most cases.

      Thank you!

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  4. I’ve got to stop doing this, I swear I commented on this post but now I have a feeling I just read it on the bus home and was going to comment later and forgot… but three days later and here I am. I have to ask, which is the book you’re too scared to mention with the emotionally abusive love interest. I need to know! I do agree, that is a trend which needs to stop it’s not a good thing to have in YA as it’s sending the wrong message to readers.

    I used to have the same complaint as you that not every book needed romance and I hadn’t even thought about how some books pairs off all the MCs! I mean, I get it to an extent but I prefer it that a book goes to try and pair up all the MCs and one couple is all like ‘should we?’ and promptly laugh it off because they don’t work or try it and don’t work out. But back to the romance subplot, I kind of like it now. I hate it when it’s forced and normally end up DNFing (but I pretty much DNF at the drop of a hat lately) but I kind of need the romance side plot because I just love romance. To be fair, it’s not often I read a book where the romance isn’t central anyway.

    I think we can all agree that sequels which don’t live up to the previous book are the worst and if we could all agree not to do that anymore that would be great. I think I’ve been let down by so many books whenever I’ve loved the first book in a series or the original series I am genuinely a little scared to read the next book because what if it’s bad?

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    1. Haha, that’s happened to me before as well. It’s The Cruel Prince – I’ve just finished the final book and while I know most don’t agree with me, I just can’t support the relationship. I think there’s a difference between enemies to lovers and toxic relationship to lovers, and Jude and Cardan are the second. I felt like Holly Black, instead of working on the relationship, kind of buried the negative things to make it seem more positive? IDK, I’m def in the minority, so I may be super-wrong, but this has rubbed me the wrong way from the start.

      Ooh, I like what you said about the couple either being “nope” to getting together or a relationship just not working out in the long run. It’d be a lot more realistic than the everyone is paired up thing. I do love romance too, it’s mostly when it feels forced when I get frustrated over it being included, because I don’t think every book needs it. (Although, yes, a romantic subplot is always nice, but only if done right.)

      Ugh, yes, sequels that disappoint are the worst!! I read a couple of series that really went downhill, and it’s the worst. It ruins the book(s) in the series that I actually loved as well.

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      1. Not gonna lie, had to go read the whole series just so I could read this comment. I mean, I knew there was a Jude/Cardan romance in it but still, spoilers! I don’t completely agree with you because I was wholly invested in the romance… but I do think Cardan was a terrible person and a bad upbringing doesn’t excuse being a genuinely awful person. And a little apology and a proclamation of love are meant to make it ok? One trope I hate in romance is the ‘I like you but don’t want to like you and will blame you for it and act like a dick to you’ why yes, that is the full name of such a trope. But you know what I mean, I hate when there is blame placed on one character for the other one falling for them and they use that as an excuse to be awful and push them away. I find it so frustrating because we’re just meant to forgive them for being a dick because they’re in love? No. And I saw a lot of that in the series. I mean, Jude wasn’t blameless, she made terrible life choices, but Cardan also acted awfully. I definitely feel like it wasn’t a healthy romance to feature in a YA series. But I couldn’t help but be sucked in by it all the same. Thinking back on it, I do feel like Holly Black may have had other romances which were a little questionable in her book, but I can’t remember because it’s been a while since I’ve read some. But if she does they’re written in a way I kind of get sucked in. I think it’s the morally questionable characters that work for me.

        And yeah, I noticed it in a few YA fantasy series where they insist on pairing all of the characters off. Not every character needs a romance! It’s frustrating to say the least.

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      2. SO SORRY, omg! I genuinely thought you have read it, but I should have made sure before writing so much. I got a bit invested in the romance in the final book, but then I felt like all that happened before was forgotten/lazily explained away, as opposed to addressed and developed? It felt like I was reading about two different characters; especially Cardan changed DRASTICALLY without this change being shown to the readers. Don’t tell me he went from despising humans to being all “yes, pls, be my queen!!”

        I agree about the trope – it’s AWFUL, and makes me so mad, haha. Everyone thought that him writing Jude’s name angrily on a paper and being disgusted by being into her were hot, and I was just…. not having it. I’m so mad that there was no proper acknowledgement of Jude not being at fault for Cardan liking her – of the fact that she should NOT be punished for it. Holly Black has definitely written some questionable romances, I guess, in Curse Workers for instance, but there it felt better to me, while Folk of Air was so obviously… wrong. I do think it’s a weird choice for YA to feature a dark romance like this, especially one that’s not well-developed.

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  5. “emotionally abusive male characters portrayed as romantic”
    OMG NOPE NOPE NOPE.

    “forcing romance into a series that doesn’t need one”
    I don’t need to tell you how I feel about this one LOL. But seriously – there are enough straight-up romantic books out there for everyone who wants a love story of sorts…WHY (almost) each and every book out of the romance genre should need one (or more)??? and more often than not, a super-fast, falling-hard one that readers can hardly buy? Where are the books about friendship and siblings?

    I don’t read enough series to have encountered the sequel issue you mention, but I guess that it’s often a product of publishers wanting to milk the cow and encouraging authors to write trilogies even when things could be resolved in one book (or maybe two)…

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    1. Yes, I know where you stand on the romance issue, haha. I do like romantic subplots, but only if they are done well – if they feel unnecessary or underdeveloped I get really frustrated.

      As for the sequels, I wish duologies were more popular!! A lot of the times the middle-book in a trilogy feels like a filler, and like its content could have been divided between the first and final book.

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  6. I agree with all of these! I hate especially when authors force the romance in. Some stories don’t need it. And I even hate it more when they are cheesy and immature and just there for the sake of it.

    And about the abusive male characters portrayed as romantic…. there is nothing worse than that. Period. Books like fifty shades or After… this one even worse because it is aimed for teens whose ideas about love might be shaped by this type of shit novel. I don’t know. Abusive people exist but when you write a character like that and the author doesn’t challenge those ideas, it pass as if that’s love. And that’s the issue.

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    1. I really hope in the future it will be more acceptable to not include a romantic subplot – I love romance, but sometimes it’s just not needed and feels like it was forced into the novel.

      Exactly – and Fifty Shades is one of my biggest pet peeves, because it tries to hide the abusive, controlling, manipulative LI behind “BDSM” when in fact people actually into BDSM have repeatedly spoken up against Fifty Shades. When thinking of After I’ll always remember seeing the trailer (couldn’t avoid it, they showed it in front of a movie at the theater) and being all “okay, but this looks like a thriller?? I’m actually scared for her.” Yeah, I’m all for including abusive people in books, but only if that behavior is challenged and called out by the author.

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  7. Bravo! All of these things are overdone, but I’m especially dismayed by the idea that emotional abuse (or any other sort of abuse) is “romantic.” What a terrible message to send to readers.

    If you find books that fight against this, I’d sure like to hear about them.

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  8. I lowkey don’t mind series where everyone gets paired off >> Like I loved that about The Mortal Instruments and TRC (some exceptions here!) and The Lunar Chronicles. But I agree not every series needs it and I would love more no romance books because as much as I love a good romance it feels so unneeded in some books. Oh, and can we just stop the abusive relationships seen as romantic *gags*

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    1. I think TRC did the “everyone is paired off” trope well – it felt realistic and believable to me, maybe because of the exceptions. And The Lunar Chronicles was okay for me, because it felt like each book centered around a different couple – though they didn’t always get together in their book – so I knew all along what I signed up for, haha. I didn’t like it in TMI, though, but I’m glad you did. 🙂

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