3 Trends in YA Fantasy that I Wish Would Disappear
There are many things about the YA Fantasy genre that I love – it wouldn’t be my favorite genre otherwise. But there are definitely things I see across multiple books and authors that really bother me. Especially when they become commonplace. Let’s review 3 trends in YA fantasy I’ve been seeing lately that I wish would disappear.
1. The one person who is nice to the protagonist invariably dies in the first half of the story
The protagonist’s world changes, and they must go to the new and foreign world of adventure, but they need an ally. Cue: the one person who is kind to this person, providing an unexpected alliance. Bonus points if the protagonist lives in a world of magic, goes to a castle in an arranged marriage, and the ally is an elder man. This ally usually dies – either intentionally or unintentionally – at the hands of the enemy and becomes a source of sadness and revenge for the protagonist. The protagonist now has a reason to fight against the enemy and work with the people in the new world of adventure. This death leaves the protagonist feeling sad and alone once again, but gives them a sense of purpose.
Why it bothers me:
This trend isn’t inherently wrong, but it’s so overused I feel like I could rip my eyeballs out. It’s also a bit annoying because of how much the death of this ally usually affects the protagonist. In actuality, the protagonist hasn’t known the ally for all that long, and really only knows a little bit about them. Death is a sensitive topic, but I rarely find it believable when the protagonist’s sense of revenge/drive/purpose is because of the death of this unexpected ally.
2. Magic Users vs. Non-Magic Users for absolutely no reason
The protagonist lives in a world where magic users and non-magic users are pitted against each other. Although this isn’t every case, it’s quite common for the Royal Family/major ruling class is the non-magic users. Which also doesn’t make sense because they literally have the worst disadvantage against magic users – like ??? how have the magic users not taken over? But the story never explains why this division exists.
Why it bothers me:
I can totally understand why there would be issues between those with power (literally) and those without. But the problem is that there is never a reason. This is such a common trope that at this point, YA Fantasy authors hardly ever give a reason as to why these people are pitted against each other. I can think of reasons why the non-magic users might hate the magic-users: jealousy, fear, a superiority complex, etc. And any of these might be the reason – but it is hardly ever explicitly stated. I don’t care that the non-magic users and the magic-users are pitted against each other, but I care why they are.
3. Underrepresented characters for novelty’s sake
Adding in characters who are generally underrepresented in literature, but just for the sake of adding them in. This could be ethnic/racial minorities, sexual minorities, gender minorities, etc. Bonus points if you add these details about the characters in after you’ve already written the books via a statement, tweet, etc. These characters might sometimes get a side-plot that is one-dimensional and boring. Another bonus point if the characters are killed off.
Why it bothers me:
I am NOT saying that it is bad to include underrepresented characters in literature, especially if it is relevant to the story. But I do have an issue when a white, cis writer includes these characters just for the sake of adding them in. Because they want to be seen as inclusive. This is exceptionally irksome when authors describe these details after their works are completed. They make it seem as if it was part of the story all along (when it never was). However, I don’t think that including these characters necessarily has to have some kind of significance to the story. People can just be people, regardless of what they look like or their sexual preferences. It’s a problem when they become the “token minorities” to a white-protagonist’s story. I would personally love to see more “own stories” in YA Fantasy.
I try not to be so picky all the time. Really, I do. But when you read as much as I do, and are expose to both the good and the bad in every genre, it’s hard not to be. I am personally tired of seeing these overused or irksome tropes.
Let’s talk about it
Have you noticed these trends in in YA Fantasy? What are your thoughts on these trends? Are there others that I haven’t mentioned, but that bother you and you wish would go away? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments!