By Nyla Lee
YA fiction would not be as popular as it is without its many cliches and tropes. From dystopian societies and chosen ones to love triangles, fiction tropes appeal to YA readers in the grand scheme of fiction writing. However, there is a specific trope that has taken a leap with the other tropes: the found family trope.
The found family trope takes a great deal of self-reflection and observation to write. It forces you to think. Ask questions.
What is your friend group like? How do they interact with you and one another separately, as a unit? It makes you question your family and friends, and their interactions with you and other family members.
But the real question stands is, what is a trope and what is the “found family” trope?
Table of Contents
What is a Trope?
Tropes are character traits or plot devices that authors use brazenly in fiction.
Many popular YA books use fiction tropes as a means of adding well-liked dynamics and situations to instill a likeness among their characters.
Julia Quinn’s first novel in the Bridgerton series, titled The Duke and I, takes a spin on the fake-dating trope with Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset.
These tropes, among many others, are evidently people’s favorite tropes in literature. These books gained great success in their use of tropes. The authors used them in ways that worked for the story and character presented to the audience.
Many people dislike fiction tropes because authors use them to such big degrees–some tropes even bore literary agents. However, this is the point of a trope.
They are meant for you to use and alter to your satisfaction because readers enjoy them, especially in a manner that deviates from the traditional uses.
One such trope that speaks of closeness and diversity among people, and many readers gravitate towards is the found family trope.
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What is the ‘Found Family’ Trope?
The found family YA fiction trope is a trope that includes a group of unrelated individuals coming together in a familial manner.
Many takes on this include a few related characters coming together with unrelated characters, though it mostly pertains to those who are completely unrelated.
S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders portrays this trope excellently, with Ponyboy finding family outside of his older siblings as he immersed himself in his situation with Johnny.
Harry Potter is another prime example of this trope and the foundation the found family trope stands on.
Found family is about finding people that make you feel loved and protected regardless of their relation to you. It expands the idea of family beyond its traditional definition.
There is more to the trope than that, though. The main question here is why so many people love this trope?
Here are three reasons why people gravitate towards the found family trope in YA fiction.
The Found Family Trope is Diverse
In YA fiction, diversity is of the utmost importance. Especially in the modern world, where diversity is a significant part of the world and how it functions.
The found family trope contains much diversity. Not in the traditional sense of race, but personalities.
One of the points of this trope is to highlight different people coming together as one coherent unit. Working together to function in a familial aspect, despite their varying differences and lack of relation.
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels are prime examples of seamlessly describing POC adequately in YA literature. He includes characters of color throughout his books and uses them to relay the idea that family is not simply of blood relation. From Grover Underwood to Leo Valdez, their physical differences are what strengthen their found family in the Percy Jackson books.
On the other hand, S.E. Hinton uses found family as a means of differentiating personalities. Ponyboy’s found family includes his older brothers, their goofy companions, the soft-spoken Johnny, and the bad boy archetype that is Dally.
These examples merely highlight the different levels of diversity that the found family YA fiction trope can accumulate in stories. You want a trope that readers can relate to and find comfort in.
So many readers find solace in creating a system of people that support and love them. The found family fiction trope successfully encapsulates this desire.
My small group of friends and a handful of my immediate biological family make up the entirety of my familial relationships. For example, my best friend is like a sister I have never had, while her friend is like that of a brother.
It just comes to show that you can find familial bonds in the strangest places.
LGBTQ+ Youth Gravitate to the Found Family Trope
The found family surely does not only pertain to diverse bodies collaborating to maintain a family unit. The YA fiction trope also pertains to survival and support within that unit, and LGBTQ+ youth may gravitate towards that.
This is due to wanting that support when their family fails to do so. Humans require support from others for survival, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Pertaining to LGBTQ+ youth, their status requires this support and connection from people who will accept them as they are.
This is why the found family fiction trope is important and appealing to LGBTQ+ youth. Your biological family may not be as beneficial and supportive as other families. Thus, creating your own can allow you to have that sense of familial love without missing it from your biological family.
The Found Family Tropes Contains Drama
There is always drama in a familial setting. With the amount of diverse and opposing bodies that make up a family, there is bound to be drama.
This is what attracts readers to the found family fiction trope. YA fiction is about drama and dramatic situations.
Your family, whether biological or chosen, will have some drama. People have opposing views, interests, and hobbies. And due to this, personalities can clash and result in disagreements and temporary strain within the family unit.
But this is the point of family. You’re not meant to consistently agree with family members, which is something the found family trope highlights in its dramatic situations.
So…What’s The Deal With Found Family in YA Fiction?
The found family YA fiction trope is meant to bring comfort to readers. The diversity and supportive appeal to choosing your own family is what makes this trope so popular and well-loved.
Not only that, but the appeal to struggling groups and the amount of drama in the found family fiction trope makes reading it worthwhile. As much of writing this trope requires self-reflecting, it allows for pondering on our chosen family and their impressions on ourselves.
The key to writing this fiction trope in a manner that the audience will enjoy and find comfort in is to use your own found family as a means of influence. Families are influential and dramatic. And that’s what we love about them, regardless of who we choose to be our family.