April 20, 2019

Rehabilitating YA: 20 Trope-Free Standalones/Series to Read if You've Given Up on It (Pt.3)

Hello sweeties!

I've been wanting to write a post like this for a while. Every now and then, I hear someone say they've given up on YA (or are reading much less of it lately) because they got fed up with the tropes that come with the "genre". Now, while of course it's not mandatory to read YA at any age, and while I'm not denying the existence of such tropes (though really, any literary genre/age range has got its share of them...), I made it my reader's life mission to discover YA books that stand out for any reason and employ as little of those overused plot devices as it's humanly possible (hence, of course, my blog's name). So I thought I'd put together a list of YA novels blissfully devoid of tropes (or employing them in minimal doses), hoping to prove those reluctant/jaded readers that there's so much more to YA than meets the eye. And I ultimately decided to make this post into a series, because my list was too long for a single one. Here goes Part 3 (broken down by genres/my blog's Reading Rooms)...
(Note: these are not necessarily my favourite books - though some of them are. I only choose them for their lack/minimal amount of tropes. Also, there are a few mature YA/NA/adult friendly books in this list).



(see my review)

  • Unlike most multiverse books, this one plays by a set of rules and it's plausible (despite a few inconsistencies that won't affect you reading pleasure). It doesn't bog you down with science, but it's built around real theories that you can look into if you're so inclined.
  • It has a strong friendship/adventure/coming-of-age angle, plus fleshed-out characters (and minimal romance). Also, the characters talk like real teens and are not "chosen ones".
  • Behind the adventure facade, it's a celebration of human curiosity and courage, genuine friendship, and a reminder that choices always bear a weight - even when you have a whole set of different universes at your disposal.


(see my review)

  • While the main characters aren't what you would call unconventional (and their story could have gone so much deeper), they manage to stay above trope level, or at least the protagonist does. She feels so much like a real teen, even if some of her issues aren't addressed as deeply as they could have.
  • The book perfectly captures the feeling of an imbalanced friendship, and the hurt it causes to the weaker partner. The endless attempts at being good (or bad) enough, worthy of love; the small (and yet bittersweet) victories and the reiterated failures.
  • There's no derogatory romance, and there are at least three positive male figures of different ages in here - though I'll admit that the predatory young men are pretty much cardboard-cut villains, and the good men/boys get very little screen time.

(see my review)

  • Resourceful, unhinged heroine, who's not trying to save the world - only to stay alive. Her fear of being destined to follow into her estranged, criminal mother's footsteps, and of being toxic/literally deadly for everyone she gets close to, makes her human and relatable, even when she does unthinkable things.
  • Lots of action and morally gray ground (though I personally thought the author tried a bit too hard with the villain).
  • There's no romantic subplot, though the protagonist is close to someone who might ultimately become more than a friend to her off-screen.



(see my review)

  • Friendship/coming of age story without the derogatory romance (though two of the side characters do hook up eventually).
  • The female protagonist has a peculiar hobby (escapology) and the male lead is a closeted gay; they both don't fit the mold/are afraid of becoming visible for different reasons, and have to face a different kind of coming out.
  • The author either avoids classic high school cliches, or gives them an unusual depth and/or a redeeming quality. Also, in your average book, the first time is either great or horrible (especially for girls), and it's refreshing to read a story that's honest enough to depict it as something in the middle (which I suspect it's the case more often than not).

  • A story with Christian faith at its center that doesn't take sides and is respectful of every stance (though it exposes those who exploit faith for their own profit of course).
  • Wonderfully fleshed-out teen characters (shout out to siblings!) and trope reversals about girls AND boys. Plus, all the characters are flawed somehow, but everyone gets their chance at redemption (not necessarily in a religious manner).
  • Slow-burn romance (based on intellectual connection/exchange as well as on physical attraction) and sex-positive attitude.

(see my review)

  • Don't let the cover (and even the title) fool you. This is not your conventional love story - it's a story about childhood friends, bullying/abuse and identity. Ultimately, Jenna admits that her feelings for Cameron go way deep, and they may be another form of love. Only, not romantic love.
  • The book also touches on themes as compensatory stealing/eating and mistaking sex for human contact. The only real trope here is embodied by Jenna's boyfriend Ethan, who ends up acting like a jerk when Jenna tries to make him see the real her.
  • Parents are alive and kicking in this one. If Cameron's dad is a horrible person, and Jenna's mum is partially clueless (or does what she thinks it's best for her daughter while it's not always the case), Jenna's stepdad is there for her - both as an authoritative figure and a confidante of sorts - and manages to help close the gap between the two women.


Stay tuned for Part 4 of this series, where I'll recommend you a few Unwalled books/series (that is, books/series that defy categories)!


  1. I actually read Sweethearts. It was kind of sad.

  2. I figured The Art of Escaping would make its way onto your list at some point. 😍😍😍

    The Switch is an excellent choice too. I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but it was definitely unlike any book I've ever read. Sweethearts sounds interesting!

    1. You know I'm not biased about Erin's book - TAOE has a lot going for it in the no-trope department! And multiverse books are SO tricky, but The Switch pulled it off. Sweethearts is touching, and the best thing about it is that the two main characters aren't in a romantic relationship, but still have strong feelings for each other. I think you might like it!


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