Thoughts on Thursday: The Most Annoying Trope

The Most Annoying Trope

What is one book trope that gets on your nerves? What do you wish the publishing world would STOP doing?



Trope has become a word that we use to often describe themes or common recurring situations in literature. They are the clichés of literature.

I’m going to address the elephant in the room: most of the most annoying or bothersome tropes of focus typically spring from YA. Another reason I have abandoned it until further notice. Sorry, not sorry.

After some thought, I realized I couldn’t pick a most annoying trope because there are a handful of them that equally grind my gears.


Love Triangles

Ugh. Sweet boy-next-door is in absolute love with the girl-next-door, who is hot for the star quarterback that fumbles in the academic aspect of school. Rewrite the triangle any way you’d like. We can all find an example to substitute. Love triangles are no good right from the start. I always feel integrity and honesty – honest to one’s self – is called into question in love triangles. The concept of realism completely escapes this trope.



Instalove is so far beyond my frame of mind as any kind of realistic that it is beyond embarrassing for this trope. Instalove does not exist in real life. I used to think it could, but I felt really stupid in a blocked undergrad/graduate Latin American anthropology class when our professor – who lived extensively in the Yucatán – asked if feelings or actions made love possible. I, of course, raised my hand for feelings. They just happen. Boy, was I wrong. Not only did I learn that I was wrong in that class, but I learned it in real life. Actions sustain relationships and foster trust, commitment, love, and all those pheromones that fire in our body because of that special someone. Not a look. Not a touch. Not a few words.

Deep, Troubled, Dark Past

Lord have mercy. Talk about the trope of the century. Historically, male characters were those with the deep and dark pasts. Not anymore! Now it is very common in books that feature a romance to have a female character with a troubled and dark past. Case in point, Broken Things to Mend.


The Aphrodite Effect

That girl that is super stunningly gorgeous with amazing everythingness. She may or may not be a total asshat, but every girl wants to be her, wear her clothes, have her hair and flawless skin, drive her car, live in her house, and spend her money. There are people who I have encountered throughout life who I would say have The Aphrodite Effect, but very few. It is not as common as the trope makes it seem.

*Please note: This effect can also apply to male characters who are super stunningly gorgeous with amazing everythingness. This term is referred to as The Adonis Effect.

Absentee Parents

These kids are so trustworthy their parents don’t even come home sometimes! The story is so focused on the main character and his or her conflicts that the element of reality is once again ignored. Entirely. Some of the books I’ve read with absentee parents are definitely never going to wash in real life. Parents would be on those kids like white on rice. Overlooking this element is very critical and also very obvious of inattention to detail. Let’s be real.


What is the trope that rubs you the most ?

Which tropes would you add to this list? 

29 thoughts on “Thoughts on Thursday: The Most Annoying Trope

  1. As someone who got away with a LOT in high school, I wouldn’t be so quick to add absentee parents to the list of mostly unrealistic. While I will agree that some books take it to the extreme, I think you’d be surprised what kids can get into while their parents are away at work. Nice list though, I don’t mind love triangles when well-written, but I really can’t stand melodramatic female leads. I’m working my way through The Mortal Instruments series at the moment, and dear lord, I want to strangle Clary sometimes.

    • I lived in a small town where the entire varsity football team was arrested for underage drinking. Right behind my house and over a fenceline. I know kids can get away with quite a bit (come on, I teach middle school!). When I thought about the absentee parent trope, I was thinking of those books at the extreme end with parents who are never mentioned or showing faces whatsoever. Readers don’t know if they even have parents, if they are alive or dead, having no clue where they are. Those melodramatics! They do try my nerves. I did stop reading a book for that reason.

  2. All very good points, Charlie, and yep, those tropes can irritate me as well. As a parent, I find the absentee parents in YA lit particularly irritating. I *know* those types of families exist but are they really as common as YA lit would make you think? And how about showing the influence of involved parents?!?
    Thanks for sharing the tropes that ‘grind your gears’ Charlie! 🙂

    • I teach middle school. It is not as common as YA lit makes it appear. Yes, there are parents who take off and leave the family. But the way most books set up the parent component is hardly accurate. It is the exception, not the rule.

  3. I don’t read much YA but I stumble across these tropes quite a bit in contemporary romance. I hate the love triangle! And I the absentee parent thing drives me crazy at times in the YA and MG that I’ve read. I have teenagers and a young child and there have been several times when there is no way something that happened in the book would have happened.
    My least favorite trope is the surprise pregnancy/ secret child in an adult romance. I HATE those. Great topic!

    • Surprise pregnancies really bother me, whether book/movie or real life. In the show I’m watching right now, I swear that almost all of the main female characters announced surprise pregnancies around the same month timeframe. Baaah!

  4. I don’t think all love triangles are unrealistic. In real life, there are times when a person is torn between two people, and there are times when love is unrequited. So, love triangles don’t bother me as long as the person makes up their mind after a book or two. It can’t go on for, say, a ten-book series.

    I think most cases of insta-love is actually insta-lust, even in real life. It aggravates me when authors try to pass of physical attraction as something more.

    I don’t read much YA, so I can’t say much about the absentee parent thing, except that it seems like a lot of good parents are dead in books.

    The dark, troubled past doesn’t bother me, either, as long as the character doesn’t brood about it the entire book. If there is too much self-recrimination, I get irritated.

  5. I think the trope I get annoyed with so much is the “miscommunication leads to conflict” one. It seems like a whole lot of contemporaries use this as the source for all of their conflict and I find it extremely annoying and unrealistic.

  6. These are all good, but the love triangle is probably my least favorite. If it was just once in a while it wouldn’t be so bad, but it just seems so prevalent it’s aggravating. And I always laugh when I’m reading a YA and the parents are literally NEVER there- and sometimes it’s not even explained why! Do they work a lot? Who knows lol???

  7. I feel you with these, some of them are just… no. Actually, I will say this- they are very much NO if they are thrown in just because. There ARE cases where I think that some of these tropes fit the actual story, but they are vastly outnumbered by the random unnecessary ones! I don’t know which is the biggest offender for me. The Aphrodite one really irks me. SO much. Like you said, YES I have met perhaps a handful of people throughout my life who fit this trope. Maybe 4 in all of my years. So how can so many books have these people in them!? Doesn’t add up- literally!

    And Insta-love… GRR to that. I am cool with insta-attraction, or even insta-lust, or “fake instalove” where the person might THINK they are in love but then realize they aren’t because it’s stupid. But to try to make it seem logical that someone would dump their whole lives for some rando they just met is not normal- so either the character has some severe issues that need to be addressed…. or it’s just NO.

  8. Ugh so tired of the instalove or love triangles and all that. Glad you listed those. Ooh great idea on the “Aphrodite effect”. I haven’t heard that term before but so true.

  9. All of these get my hackles up, but especially love triangles, instalove, and absentee parents. Instalove is one that seems to transcend genres (I’ve taken to calling it instalust in some cases.) I’ve seen it in romance and romantic suspense as well as YA. I’m ambivalent on this one, though, because I did feel an almost instant connection to my husband when we first met, and we’ve been happily married for over two decades. (But we were a couple for 3 years first.) But I’ve also seen instant-attraction relationships blow up in people’s faces, so I’m very wary of the trope, whether IRL or on the page.

  10. Oh the love triangle trope. How I hate it. I’ve still read books that use it, and sometimes (very rarely) it’s done well because a person has feelings for multiple people and they aren’t sure how to parse it – but that’s very very rare, and usually I just sigh and roll my eyes when I find yet another love triangle/square/other shape.
    Insta-love is a big problem, too. Insta-lust, fine, that’s one thing, but don’t try to convince me it’s anything other than physical attraction.

    Great list.

  11. Oh lord, INSTALOVE!! I absolutely hate it!! Immediately when it happens I lose all respect for the character’s intelligence. I’ve learned I have to put books down when it shows up because there is no recovery from someone talking about marrying a guy after speaking 5 words to him.

  12. I actually like love triangles, but I agree with the rest. I generally prefer adult to YA for this reason, and at least fantasy and sci-fi often has a non-romance to make these things somewhat bearable lol. Instalove is usually the worst, and the absentee patent thing is often just a cop-out to make writng easier because there are no parents in the way. I could never have been a YA character because my parents would not have let me do any of that stuff lol.

    • Kristen, I’m glad we think so alike! I think the absentee parent is also a cop-out for writing. Even when my mother knew where I was (at the Bega’s house, sleeping over for softball tournaments), she STILL called to make sure I was really there. I was never anywhere, doing anything, I wasn’t supposed to. I have stopped reading YA for the most part as well. Every once in a blue moon I’ll read one, usually for a tour. Thanks for stopping in!

  13. I agree with your entire list and would add my personal pet peeve – when the ONLY conflict in the entire book could be solved by a five-minute conversation!!! I hate it when the whole story revolves on lack of communication or miscommunication or misunderstanding. Drives me bonkers!!! Okay, I’ll stop now. 🙂

    Thanks for being a part of Booknificent Thursday this week on! Always great to have you!

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