With new YA books coming out every week, each one with new characters and worlds flying across the pages, we here at Pine Reads decided to take a look at one thing that’s remained consistent through the years: tropes. For those of you who aren’t Lit majors or haven’t taken an English class in a while, I’ll explain. A trope is a literary device such as a setting, plot, or character that is repeatedly found in books. This blog will introduce some of the most famous— and most infamous—tropes of literature, and suggest some new books for you to read that include the tropes you enjoy the most in new and refreshing ways. This blog will be split into two parts: the first one will tackle fiction tropes, and the next one will dive into fantasy tropes, so make sure to come back for Part Two of Pine Read’s YA Trope Book Recommendations on January 12, 2022.
You might be asking yourself: what is the Forbidden Love trope? This trope has been around for quite a long time and has been used in a multitude of stories. It is essentially two characters who fall in love despite insurmountable odds. You may recognize this trope from one of its most famous stories, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Content Warnings: Racism, xenophobia, strong language, anxiety
A Pho Love Story by Loan Lee follows two Vietnamese-American teenagers, Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai. The teens are employees at their parents’ competing pho restaurants, and they both struggle with their families expectations and their own personal goals and dreams. When Bao and Linh have an accidental encounter that sparks a friendship, they begin to realize that they may have more in common than their families wish to believe. As Bao and Linh attempt to discover what led to their families feud, they start to develop feelings for each other that cannot be ignored.
Loan Lee’s A Pho Love Story makes a great use of Romeo and Juliet’s trope. Though A Pho Love Story may follow the typical equation of Forbidden Love, Lee’s overall story and setting was one-of-a-kind. The circumstances surrounding Linh and Bao’s family feud, and the inclusion of Vietnamese food and culture, made the book all the more unique in comparison to the other stories that utilize this trope. This book is perfect for anyone who appreciates star-crossed lovers and enjoys reading about delicious food.
The Love Triangle is a supremely popular trope that most people know, even if they aren’t aware of the specific terminology (thank you, Stephenie Meyer). However, if you don’t know what a love triangle entails it’s pretty straightforward. Basically, one character has feelings for two other characters at the same time. As the story develops, the main character’s two crushes both express interest and shenanigans ensue.
Content Warnings: Racism, slut shaming, abusive relationship, cheating, depression, mention of suicide, alcohol consumption, eating disorder
Chien Tan is supposed to be a strict summer long program to study Mandarin, but in reality it is Loveboat, a place where anything goes. When Ever Wong’s parents send her to a summer educational program in Taiwan, Loveboat is the last thing they expected. There are no overbearing chaperones and the students are able to hook-up with whoever, drink what they want, and party all-night long. Ever’s classmates are not who she expected and are full of secrets. Ever herself is hiding something, because even though she is studying to be a doctor, she has dreams of becoming a dancer and has been accepted into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Ever’s summer gets a lot more interesting when she gets to Taiwan and finally has a chance to break her parents’ strict rules and meet ridiculously handsome classmates.
Abigail Hing Wen’s debut novel is enthralling with drama on every page. Wen’s story adds life back into the Love Triangle trope. With a twist ending and a lovable main character, Loveboat, Taipei is not a book you want to miss. And good news for readers, Loveboat, Taipei is being made into a movie, so we will get to see Ever’s story play out on the big screen.
This trope is basically any book that takes place in a boarding school. They tend to include some sort of mystery or drama that makes the reader wonder where exactly the chaperones are. The good news is that when you research this trope, almost every single book is described as very dramatic, so get ready to pour the tea.
Content Warnings: Abandonment, suicide, self-harm, violence, human experimentation, death, murder & attempted mass murder, disappearance of a loved one, animal abuse and death
Wilder Girls by Rory Power follows the students of Raxter School for Girls after they are put under quarantine for a deadly disease called the Tox. The disease hits the teachers first, leaving the students alone in the island boarding school to watch over themselves. The girls have been left alone for eighteen months, separated from the rest of the world, because the Tox has left their bodies altered and mutated and the outside world has become savage and dangerous. Hetty, Byatt, and Reese are best friends who have survived by looking out for each other; but when one of the girls goes missing, Hetty will risk anything to save her—even journeying outside the confines of quarantine.
Rory Power’s debut novel Wilder Girls turns the Boarding School trope on its head. It is no longer a place of laughter and trivial drama, but a location straight out of a horror movie. Power’s setting adds a sense of confinement and reality to her otherwise shocking story. Raxter School for Girls is a place that readers should enter at their own risk.
Fake Dating is a tried and true trope made popular by books such as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han and Frankly in Love by David Yoon. It’s hard not for readers to find the Fake Dating trope entertaining. You follow along as two characters begin their doomed-to-fail fake relationship; watch as they begin to catch feelings for each other; roll your eyes when they (inevitably) break up; and cheer when they ultimately confess their love and get together for real.
Content Warnings: Bullying, underage drinking, strong language
After being openly mocked by her ex-bestie for not being in a relationship, Becca Hart decides to lie and say she has a boyfriend. What she doesn’t expect is for Brett Wells, captain of the football team and the most popular guy in high school, to step in and kiss her in front of everyone. A fake relationship seems like the perfect setup for them both—Brett doesn’t have to answer questions about who he’s dating, and Becca can pretend to have a boyfriend. But the pair start to get confused when a mutually fulfilling, pretend relationship begins to breed new feelings that are anything but fake
Alex Light’s The Upside of Falling is a sweet, heart-warming version of the Fake Dating trope. A relationship born out of necessity turns into a beautiful friendship as Becca and Brett find themselves swept up in their feelings for one another.
This trope is relatively straightforward. Two characters see each other from across the room and instantly fall in love. That’s it. That’s the trope. And what’s not to love about it?
Content Warnings: Ableism & ableist language, cheating, grief & loss depiction, death
When Texas high schoolers Carli and Rex play against each other in a basketball game, they know right away that it’s fate. But even though their raw, genuine connection is the stuff of fairytales, they have responsibilities to their basketball teams and their future selves. The girls want to be together, but their lives and their family secrets are holding them back.
Liara Tamani’s novel explores what a high school relationship looks like when both people are unsure and unhappy with themselves, but are desperately trying to connect with another person. All the Things We Never Knew was a great Love at First Sight novel that even managed to incorporate a twist I wasn’t expecting.
(I would like to give a special shout out to Wendy Waltrip. Thank you for all your insights and for helping me put together this blog!)
PRR Editor and Writer, Frances Drye