By Victoria Garcia
People are attracted to familiar things, whether they are choosing food, friends, or literature. In literature, familiar things are more formally known as clichés, which are predictable patterns of plot. A reader is more likely to pick up a book if they have an idea of how the book will go, based on its blurb, a book review, or a recommendation.
While many people want to distance themselves from clichés that have become stereotypical in regards to gender, race, or sexuality, we all enjoy indulging in clichés. Clichés in YA novels are especially popular as they allow us to find a familiar type of book and enjoy a favorite story. Here’s why it’s okay to be cliché in YA literature.
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Examples of clichés
Yes, clichés can become tired, but many people still enjoy them. An example is the “sad gay” cliché. While many LGBT+ people have become tired of the “sad gay” cliché, we have seen it burn brightly with books like The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, as (spoiler) both books star LGBT+ couples who do not have a happy ending.
This cliché has become worn out since LGBT+ individuals want to be portrayed as more than just a tragic life, but it is still a cliché that many LGBT+ readers can’t help themselves from picking up, myself included.
Another example of cliché YA literature is The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles, also known by the same title on Netflix. While this book (and movie) is filled with clichés in romance, plot, and characterization, that doesn’t stop viewers from reading the book or watching the newest movie on Netflix.
It’s cliché, but it’s so hard to stay away from!
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Pros of clichés
Clichés can be seen in various genres of YA literature, such as the three main characters cliché. This cliché is foundational in books such as Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, The Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.
This is a popular type of cliché where the story revolves around three main characters. It is convenient because it is easy to manage and connects the stories of the characters without disregarding their character arcs. The three main characters can be compared to a triangle: points connected and held together equally.
While clichés are common in mainstream literature, they completely rule another popular form of literature: fanfiction. Fanfiction is fictional stories written by fans of a specific narrative; this can include movies, TV shows, or books. Yes, literature is written based on literature.
In fanfiction, clichés are guidelines. Writers even use hashtags to let readers know which characters form the romantic pairing in the fanfiction. These relationship clichés are important to readers because fanfiction is where readers go looking for a specific piece of literature to fix what a book broke (their heart). Readers can spend days inhaling clichés just to feel better. And that’s okay!
Clichés are useful in literature because they give the author a platform to build on, and also give the reader an idea of what to expect. Authors don’t go into writing blind; they need structure and an idea of who this story will be about. Likewise, most readers don’t like to be surprised and often look for a certain style that defines their personal comfort book.
As a reader myself, I look for clichés. What kind of character is the main character? Are they a kind, strong, motivated character? Maybe a silent, traumatized, mysterious character? What kind of romance will this book have? Enemies to lovers? Friends to lovers?
I want to have an idea of what I am planning to read.
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Clichés are deeply embedded in our society and everyday lives. Our mind naturally categorizes people into types, making clichés unavoidable in literature. We enjoy clichés because they let us relive similar adventures over and over again. A certain trope you like? Read every book with that trope you can find! A certain romance you’re looking for? Fill your bookshelf with the books you crave!
As readers, clichés are like a comforting blanket. As writers, clichés can be solid foundations. Instead of thinking negatively of clichés, we readers should keep an open mind to the benefits of clichés.
It’s okay to be cliché in YA literature, because at the end of the day, clichés are enjoyed and valued by all!