The 12 Worst YA Novel Cliches

12 worst ya novel cliches

I don’t post about books very often…or ever but I am an avid reader. I used to read 2-3 young adult novels at any given time and now I find myself reading memoirs and self-help books with the occasional YA novel mixed in. I don’t know if it’s because I’m now 19 and just on the cusp of exiting the main young adult demographic or if I’ve become more of a jerk these days, but I’ve had a lot of qualms about the young adult novels I’ve been reading recently.

Let me elaborate. Now, I typically don’t post book reviews or anything about books on here but my jimmies have been so rustled by YA novels lately that I’ve decided to write about the worst YA novel cliches. In case you’re curious as to which novel sparked this outrage, it was The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder. You can read my scathing review complete with horrific quotes from the novel HERE.

I’m not dragging YA novels, mind you, those were my life throughout middle school and high school. I am dragging the cliches, stereotypes and bullshit, though.


The Worst YA Novel Cliches

1. Every kiss leads to fireworks, explosions of fairy dust and kittens shitting glitter.

No offense to any of the people I have kissed, but no person’s lips has ever made me see Jesus Christ and transport to a land full of bubbles and fairy dust.

2. Character names are obscure and quirky.

Cherisse, Keats, Ephiriam…Those are all names from The Museum of Heartbreak. That novel alone has enough quirky names to make my head spin. In almost every YA novel there’s at least one character with a name that’s nonsensically quirky.

When I had a brief stint of attempting to write a YA novel in middle school I named my characters things like “Kekel,” and “Hawthorne.” I actually came up with the name Kekel in third grade and I still remember my third grade teacher saying, “Kekel? Don’t you mean Keke?…No?, how creative!” These YA novels remind me of my thirteen year old brain trying and failing to come up with fun main character names.

3. A problematic father.

I don’t remember the last young adult novel that didn’t include one of the following or all of the following:

– A father who left the mother to marry a young blonde woman who the protagonist at first hates but then comes to like. Alternatively, a father who cheats on the mother during the novel.

– A pair of parents that are getting divorced. It’s always the dad’s fault and he ALWAYS finds someone else while the mother is trying and struggling to move on!

– A cool but slightly estranged dad who works as a professor at a college. I don’t know what it is but professor seems to be a popular fictional YA novel dad job.

– An estranged father who the protagonist finally decides to reconnect with. She later finds out he’s been sending her birthday cards all of these years and trying to get in touch but the mother hid this from her! GASP!

I guess Young Adult novelists have a lot of daddy issues or something. I think there should be a support group for fictional YA novel fathers, they’re always portrayed as the villain when really they’re a victim.

4. A happy ending involving girl getting the boy.

So you’re telling me that the average protagonist who has a blood lust for a perfect little Prince Charming always gets one in the end? Seems fake, but okay. I’m all for a happy ending but why does the happy ending always have to involve a boy?

5. A guy best friend that ends up being the right guy all along!

In a shocking turn of events the guy best friend who is loyal and sweet and has been dropping hits and flirting the whole book ends up being the perfect match for the oblivious narrator? Well, plump my lips and call me Kylie Jenner, that’s shocking!

6. A dreamy crush who turns out to be a jerk.

Wait, so you’re telling me that Hunter Bloom the mysterious, attractive and unattainable man crush who doesn’t even bother to learn the protagonist’s name until she magically becomes pretty after removing her glasses is an ass hole? No way!

7. A one dimensional BFF.

“Jessica’s been my best friend since third grade! We’ve been inseparable ever since *insert preschool incident involving one character defending the other and bonding over crayons* and she’s such a fashionista.”

She serves as only to have a fight with, to give advice and to help move the plot along. Her only defining qualities are being the protagonist’s best friend or being a fashionista or *insert any trivial hobby or label here*. They also almost always met when they were very young children and usually the author details a cute albeit cliche backstory of how they became BFFs!

8. A love triangle.

The protagonist is generally unappealing and annoying so you know which YA novel cliche could make this even better? A love triangle!

9. A protagonist who is utterly average and doesn’t realize how beautiful she is.

“My name is Willowisp Jones. I have mousy brown shoulder length hair and round blue eyes. I have a smattering of freckles across my nose and I’m too skinny and a little taller than most boys my age, which is the worst! I’m average looking and flat-chested and no boys give me attention.”

Is that a real excerpt from a YA novel or did I just pull that out of my ass? The world may never know. The protagonist has to be plain looking and described as average so she’s relatable!! Her Prince Charming convinces her otherwise while “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction plays in the distance.

10. The only makeup they ever wear is lip gloss and lip balm.

“I swipe on a layer of lip gloss before leaving the house. Today, Sterling Princeworthy was so going to be mine.”

I swear, I’ve never read a YA novel that didn’t involve the main character nonchalantly applying a “layer of lip gloss” or her “signature cherry Chapstick.” Because she’s a cool low maintenance girl whose beauty routine includes one step that must be written about in every chapter.

God forbid someone in any of this books puts on mascara or lipstick without making a huge deal about it and turning it into a cliched makeover sequence. A protagonist who tries to look good? Nice try. Contouring doesn’t exist among YA novel cliches.

11. There’s a Queen Bee.

“That’s Kingsley Brookes. She’s so popular and she’s dating my crush. We were friends until a sleepover in fourth grade where I put her bra in the freezer as a joke! She’s hated me ever since and she verbally harasses me at school every day.”

Usually the Queen Bee used to be best friends with the protagonist until something happened. The Queen Bee is beautiful and is a relentless bitch who somehow manages to be popular and get the guy even though she’s just a bitchy airhead with boobs. The author never gives her any redeeming qualities because she’s a megabitch popular queen! She also comes with two minions who do what she says and also throw some shade throughout the novel. Seems realistic.

12. The brooding and mysterious hunky loner.

“Grayson Joybird is usually by himself at lunch. He’s always wearing obscure band T-shirts and a stack of leather bracelets while he writes in that leather-bound notebook. I wonder what he’s writing!”

He wears cool band shirts and braided leather bracelets. He probably has a sketchbook and is always listening to cool music. He’s got a secret awesome talent like drawing or skateboarding. He’s got so many attractive and weird quirks but deep down he’s a dreamboat!

To be honest the brooding and mysterious loner is more likely to be a serial killer than he is to be a magical Prince Charming in a flannel…or vampire. Don’t even get me started on that one.

What are some YA novel cliches you love to hate?

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  • Okay, this post had my sides hurting from laughter. I’m a massive bookworm, and every single one of these descriptions fits 99% of YA novels so perfectly. You hit the nail on the head and I’m loving it. Not that I’ll stop actually reading these kinds of books (so sue me haha) but it’s fun to make fun sometimes too! Thanks for the giggle!

    Stephanie |

    • I’m so glad you got a few laughs out my post! Than you! Trust me, I feel the same! As bad as they can be sometimes with the cliches, I’ll probably never stop reading these haha.

  • Shannon

    I loved this post! It reminded me of “The Kissing Booth” by Beth Reekles and “Geek High” by Piper Banks, both of which have literally every single cliche you listed (they’re good choices if you want something to hate-read haha). If you ever decide to write a YA novel that excludes most or all of these, I would definitely read it!

    • Thank you Shannon!! From those titles alone I can already feel the cliche lol. I would love to do to that some day! 🙂

  • The first one made me laugh out loud and then they got progressively better! This list was perfect. 😂

    Caitlyn |



  • Miles Lacey

    The list of cliches aren’t just found in YA but in a lot of other genres, especially romance and fantasy stories. Here are some other cliches that are often overused in YA including:

    13. Exotic But Dodgy Foreigner – A foreigner who is usually portrayed as having weird and backward customs, have rich or powerful family members (usually royalty) and are clueless, selfish, arrogant and untrustworthy. The foreigner is usually ignorant of American or Western values and mocked for it.

    14. The Great American Hero – The American protagonist goes to another country to save the day. Usually it’s saving other Americans from the locals who are usually portrayed as terrorists, sadists, corrupt, dishonest or incompetent.

    15. Secret Japanese Ninjas – Read any YA novel featuring Japanese people and there will invariably be the Japanese girl who turns out to be a secret ninja who attends a secret ninja school or who got trained by a sensei in the ways of a ninja. A similar cliche is the Chinese person who always seems to be capable of fantastic martial arts moves.

    16. Poor Protagonists Who Get Saved By Rich Aristocrat / Corporate Magnate – One of the oldest cliches is when the poor protagonist is saved by a rich person who introduces them to the high life. They clash with the conceited rich folks who think the poor person has no business being in their ranks (“Fancy allowing that trash into our establishment”) and with people from their past life (“You’re too good to hang out with us any more, huh?”). Eventually the people from their past life and the conceited rich folks get put in their place and the poor person is welcomed into the ranks of the rich people. Variations include Black People Saved From the Streets By White Mentor, Poor White Kid Saved From Streets By Elderly Asian Martial Arts Expert and Bitchy Rebellious Girl Saved By Girl Next Door.

    17. The Chapter(s) Where A Misogynistic Pig Tells A Girl She Can’t Do Something Because She’s A Girl – One of the most pathetic cliches is when the female protagonist gets told by a male character that she’s no good or can’t do something because she’s a girl. She then sets out to prove him wrong through undertaking a quest or action that makes such an impression on him that he concedes that girls can do stuff.

    18. Protagonist As Perennial Victim – The protagonist is always a victim of other people, circumstances and situations which is out of their control thus they avoid having to take responsibility for whatever happens to them – or what they do to others.

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