5 YA Tropes that Make Me Feel Old (PLEASE BRING AID AND COOKIES)

5 YA Tropes that make me feel old

So you guys know that I LOVE YA. I live and breathe those hormone filled, perfectly tormented souls who feel everything three times as hard as the rest of the world, and I know I always will.

But the thing is, as a YA reader, I have always been a teenager reading about teenagers.

Now, I’m 24 years of age and I have to face the facts that I am DOING THE ADULTING THING. WHICH IS WEIRD. I still consider myself a ‘young adult’, as I kind of feel this bracket continues to about the age of 25, (wait a minute, that’s only a year away, gulp) but I’ve certainly grown older and wiser, my views have expanded, and my book tastes have evolved.

I feel so incredibly lucky to be living in a time where I have access to talented YA authors whose stories have mass appeal. YA is not just for teenagers folks, it’s for everyone, and I will defend that to the depts of Mordor.

But now that I’m older, I do sometimes come across tropes/storylines, or certain scenes in YA books that make me feel, well, kinda old.*

*Using the word ‘old’ with a wide scope here obviously, by old I mean ‘adult’. Still got a while til’ I find me some grey hairs!

Although I guess you could say that having searched for Horcruxes, fallen for Fae Princes, and taken down corrupt dystopian governments in such a small space of time, that is bound to age a gal!

So what do I do about this crisis? Discuss it with you guys, obviously! Below, I’ve listed the top 5 things in YA that are guaranteed to make me feel  ‘old’ in the hopes that you can tell me I’m not alone!


1. When I start siding more with the adults over the teen characters

This really freaked me out the first time it happened. You know how our protagonists are always getting into some kind of trouble? Whether its boy trouble, breaking the law trouble, or must collect 5 artifacts, do the hokey pokey and read some weird latin to prevent the end of the world from a big bad evil trouble? Well, when this happened, I always used to be on the teen protagonist’s side. OBVIOUSLY, there’s nothing they could have done to prevent their own hardships…. except, oh wait, if only they’d listened to their mentor when they said not to pick up that glowing ancient artifact, and paid attention when their mum said the boy with the dark smoldering eyes was trouble in chapter 10! NO SYMPATHY.

Vampire Academy series books

2. When the protagonist having a relationship with their teacher/instructor/mentor equivalent is hella creepy, NOT CUTE.

*I’m looking at you Vampire Academy*

I’ve never been the biggest fan of this trope, but it just gets creepier and creepier. When I was younger, I used to be able to overlook some problematic romantic pairings (such as huge age gaps or teachers falling for students) if an author wrote some gripping or satisfyingly good smutty scenes that made me ship the characters. Now, I can’t overlook it at all. I CANNOT EXPRESS how psychologically messed up it is for an adult teacher/tutor/mentor to fall for their student. When someone is in a position of authority and there to guide and support, you DO NOT cross that line. Major alarm bells! I now actively avoid novels that mention these kinds of relationships in the burb because I know it will ruin the book for me. Just nope. Nooooppppeee.

nope gif

3. When the teens knowing more than the adults starts to seem less believable.

So we all know its an extremely common YA trope that the teens are normally the first to solve the big mystery, unearth the conspiracy theory, or uncover a plan to start the apocalypse while the adults remain totally obliviousHarry Potter, the Divergent series and The Mortal Instruments are a few popular examples that consistently use this trope. Additionally, when the teens DO try to tell an adult, they completely dismiss them!


Not, I’m just like are y’all for real? There is no way an adult wouldn’t take a life or death situation seriously, whether they believe it’s for realskies or not. (They may think you need to be committed if you start talking about vampires or demons sure, but they would still take it seriously). This has become such an unrealistic plot point for me, and I guess it links in with point one where I once again find myself siding more with the adults!

harry potter fandom

4. When the characters are getting hot and heavy and my brain is just screaming PRACTICE SAFE SEX DAMN YOU

Have you ever noticed how little YA mentions practicing safe sex? When I was younger, this wasn’t something I even thought about, I would just get completely wrapped up in the story and the emotions, and be ecstatic that my SHIP HAD FINALLY SAILED. However, in YA authors will often skip over discussing the serious side of sex, and (especially in fantasy YA), these scenes often occur spur of the moment in the middle of nowhere where protection is unlikely to be available!

So now, the characters will often be having their special moment and I’m like, that’s cool, EXCEPT YOU’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A FOREST WITH NO FOOD OR WATER AND I AM CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR WELFARE.
Ah, being a responsible adult.

Mean girls gif


5. When the protagonist is all ungrateful to their parents

Now this one just really bugs me. It is natural for teens to be unappreciative of their parents once in a while, it just wouldn’t be a YA book without a little angst. But wow some of these characters take it to the extreme!

Again, this is something that never used to bother me, but now, when a character decides they will refuse to talk to their parents for a month because the parent told a little white lie to protect their child from death, pain and impending doom and the character gets in a hissy fit about it, I want to reach into the book and shake them! YOU HAVE PARENTS WHO ACTUALLY CARE IF YOU LIVE OR DIE, THIS IS A GOOD THING AND YOU ARE LUCKY, FORGIVE THEM.

Mortal Instruments series Cassandra Clare


So I guess this post means I’m turning into a responsible adult? And I’m kind of not sure whether I should be happy or concerned about this?! *CRIES AND LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY AT THE SAME TIME*. Although I clearly still love Caps Lock and exclamation marks, so that’s a good sign, right?


Lets chat

Do you ever come across tropes, scenes or conversations in YA that make you feel old? Perhaps there’s a trope you used to love but now find problematic? Or maybe sometimes you read YA and no longer feel like the intended audience? PLEASE SHARE YOUR WOES WITH ME  AND MAKE ME FEEL LESS ALONE.

42 thoughts on “5 YA Tropes that Make Me Feel Old (PLEASE BRING AID AND COOKIES)

  1. I love this post. I’m in my 30s and I still read some YA and I agree with every single one of these. I used to read almost anything and everything YA, but over the last couple years I find I don’t have the patience for a lot of them and they have to be pretty special now.

  2. This is a great idea for a post! And I do love when YA characters have sex, since it is really age appropriate for a number of them, but I am with you on the “where are the condoms/birth control?!” thing. Haha. I always thought that was more just me though, since I do health/sex ed for a living. 🙂

    • Thank you. 🙂 I must admit it was the Vampire Academy series that inspired it (it was guilty of pretty much every one of these!)
      Haha, nope, definitely not just you! I think a lot of authors possibly don’t feel it’s age appropriate to talk about the specifics of sex e.g. if you mention characters using a condom you’re getting dangerously close mentioning where that thing goes, uh-oh), so they end up going really vague and only mention feelings and butterflies, not birth control. There are arguments for both sides, but I do sit firmly on the side of being more detailed to promote being more responsible.

  3. If you think these are bad at 24, you should try them at 46. 🙂

    Semi-related to getting older: In Release by Patrick Ness, there’s a line “He was of the generation that would look at his watch rather than pull out his phone.” Hmmm.

    I never really notice most of these: Perhaps I just accept it as the genre and roll with it, the same way I accept that Stephen King is likely to have a psychic character somewhere.

    I think the ignoring adults thing is like working with a safety net: At least the adults will (hopefully) catch the characters when they fall. And maybe they learn something about themselves and their carers on the way down.

    I’ve read one YA where the adults did all the work and took the kids seriously…it was, surprisingly, very unsatisfying to read!

    Another book series *cough*Twilight*cough* had Bella’s father, I believe, wanting to date one of her classmates. Yeah…uh, she’s seventeen and you’re a police officer? Ugh. They dropped that by the next book, thankfully.

    Sorry, but I’ve been guilty of unsafe sex writing! My mitigating circumstances were A) It was World War Two, B) They were in an internment camp and C) I faded to black before it got heavy, so maybe they *were* prepared!

    I remember a John Marsden book where the character stops the boyfriend with the line, “Yeah, are you going to have the baby for me?” Good on ya, JM!

    (Is this the blog you lost, btw? I can see why you wanted it back. The pictures are excellent!)

    • I know, right? Who knows what else I’ll be adding to this list in the next decade!

      That quote is actually surprisingly telling – I fall in the middle, I used to check my watch but no longer wear one and now use my phone!

      That’s a good thing! The reading experience is much more enjoyable if you don’t notice them. I wouldn’t say that any of these things ruin a book for me at all, I just find it so interesting that they are things I never used to take notice of until recently, and that made for some interesting self reflection!

      Ignoring adults is definitely a useful plot device – from convenience to character development. Again, it’s just not something that ever used to strike me as odd until I got older.

      Oh, Tony, how could you? SHOCKING. I think, if it was world war 2, you could be forgiven for not mentioning it for the sake of historical accuracy. Safe sex was not something that was widely talked about, and many people got into trouble for that very reason!

      This is the post that I lost yes, still annoyed about it! Luckily, I think it still turned out okay. 🙂

  4. What an interesting post!! I wouldn’t worry though – you just have a slightly different perspective now and will probably still always love to read YA just like I do at 53 :). I find that I notice all the tropes you just mentioned and react to them similarly, but I love how at the same time they also make me remember what it was like to be a teen.

    • Glad you liked it, Cindy. 🙂

      It certainly did weird me out a bit when I first started noticing it, but like you say, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a reflecting of how I am changing and developing as a person, which should be a good thing? Even if I’m not ready to fully adult yet, LOL!

      By the way, are you going to watch the TV adaption of A Discovery of Witches? I’ve started recording it but I haven’t read the book yet, so it may be on my planner for a while!

      • I’m 53 and I’m not ready to fully adult yet. Bahahaha!! Maybe that’s why I love YA so much :).

        As for the TV adaptation of A Discovery of Witches, it’s soooooo awesome! It’s actually only in the UK so far, but I have an Android box and have been able to watch the first two episodes. They have done a wonderful job. I can’t wait for you to read the books so I can hear what you think of them. She’s actually one of the most fascinating authors I have ever heard speak because she’s a professor who teaches European history and the history of science and therefore very knowledgeable and well spoken, and I can’t recommend highly enough that you try to see her when she’s on her UK tour at the end of October and beginning of November. She’s an absolute doll – you would love her :).

      • Well, that makes me feel much better, teehee!

        That’s really good to hear! Since you mentioned it is based in Oxford, or at least parts of it, I’ve bumped it up my TBR pile, and seeing the TV series has made me bump it up again. By aim is to get to it by the end of this year! It’s about time I stopped staring at the pretty cover and cracked that baby open. 🙂 I’m so glad the TV series is living up to your expectations! I always love reading books my authors who really do their research, like Samantha Shannon, so that sounds dreamy to me, LOL!

      • Oooh, I still have to order that one. I’m finally caught up in that series!! I just preordered a book box with a signed copy of the new Cassandra Clare book and other things like a mug and a tote bag, but I’m really behind in that series. I need more hours in the day and the ability to stay awake longer LOL.

      • I just caught up as well – I read Tower of Dawn a month or 2 ago and loved it! I was so surprised because Chaol was one of my least favourite characters but Maas incorporated enough other elements to reel me in, and the romance got me right in the feels.

        Oooh that sounds awesome, I love a good tote bag! I’m so behind on my Cassandra Clare as well, probably more than you! I’ve read the original series but haven’t even started the Infernal Devices yet. :S Oh to be a bookworm!

  5. WOW. THIS POST. IT’S SO DANG ACCURATE. I am EXACTLY the same. Like, literally, I was nodding my head the whole time I was reading this. For example, I just finished reading Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin which is about a girl who dies at 15. In the afterlife she meets her grandmother and gives her such a hard time. SO MUCH BACKTALK. And I was like, “Um, excuse me, your grandmother is a wonderful human being. Why are you talking back to her, missy?” And then I felt like an old woman. Sigh. Anyways, I loved this post! Thanks for such a great read 🙂

    • YAY, I’M SO GLAD IT RESONATED WITH YOU. (Also pleased to find another fellow Caps Lock fan!)
      Oooh, I remember really enjoying Elsewhere but I read it when I was about 13 so I don’t know if I would feel the same now. But I feel your angst and that is EXACTLY the kind of thing I am talking about!! Sidenote: I read The Collected Works by A.J. Finkry by Zevin this month and it was really cute and about a moody guy that owns a bookshop, you should check it out. 🙂

      Thank you, this makes my heart happy. 😀

  6. I think I’ve become too much of an adult because I’ve been finding it way too difficult to emphasize with YA characters these days. 😦 I cannot bring myself to justify their actions or their attitudes… I’m dangerously close to being that person who says, “Ugh. Those ruddy teenagers.” Clearly I need some form of intervention.

    • Uh-oh, THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, RIGHT? Like you say, the attitudes are one of the main things that really get me these days, these whiny teens don’t know how good they’ve got it… even if they’re being chased by vampires, ha.

      I know I will still always love YA, but I guess I’m just pickier now? We’re aging like fine wine, Zen 😀

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  8. I LOVE THIS POST so much. It’s terrible the details and things that start bothering us as we get older, isn’t it? 😂 though I guess it’s okay, too, I mean, it should be okay for a young adult and teenager scene the most, since they’re the main target of it all 🙂
    “When the protagonist having a relationship with their teacher/instructor/mentor equivalent is hella creepy, NOT CUTE.” >> I completely agree with you on that one, I just…. not a fan, at all hahaha.

    • Thanks, Marie, I’m so glad you liked it!! It certainly is now that we don’t have our rose-tinted teenager glasses on anymore. I think now, it also makes me hesitant to reread old favorites in case they don’t have the same magic anymore – at the very least, I would probably find more flaws!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog. 😀

  9. Hello Becky!
    As an adult who reads YA fiction (I’m 27) I relate to everything you’ve talked about in this post! There are definitely times when I can sympathize with the parents lol. I hate it when parents are just portrayed as nagging and annoying. I also have a love-hate thing with child geniuses who are so much smarter than their adult counterparts and end up saving the day. It’s so unrealistic! Great post 🙂

    • Hello Sophie, thanks for visiting my blog! 😀
      I’m so glad this post resonated with you, and you are making me feel LESS ALONE. Yay.
      Now I’m older, I appreciate what my parents do so much more so it seems unfair to paint them as such moody cardboard cutouts. Heck, some books just make excuses for the parents to be absent altogether because it’s convenient!
      Child geniuses just make me think WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING WITH MY LIFE?

      • Absolutely 🙂 I think part of growing older is that we see our parents as human beings haha… Yeah, I can think of so many YA books where the parents are just not in the picture!
        LOL yes I feel the same way about child geniuses!!

  10. 1 and 5 are something I always hate in books. I would get disowned if I ever talked like most YA characters talked with their parents, and tbh, most of the problems would not even happened if only the characters listened to the older ones. Yes, they might be not fun, have a different ways, views, etc. But they were young too and obviously they’ve been through, even though they give different reaction, it’s appealing how 99% of YA characters disregard this older figure :/

    • That is so true! If I talked to my parents the way YA characters did I think I would have been grounded for a month! I realise that there is a dilemma here, because obviously if the characters listened to their sensible parents straight away it would make for a much shorter (and less interesting) book, however, I feel like its reallllllyyy important to get that balance, otherwise it just results in me becoming a parent to the characters and telling to go sit in the corner with no dessert!

      Thanks for visiting my blog. 😀

  11. jsdlkfjsl I love this post so much, especially bc you defend YA books for everyone and I’m so happpppyyyyyyy. AND OMG, YES TO PRACTICING SAFE SEX!!!!! I’m always so disappointed when this isn’t done well in YA books. and so true w teens knowing more than adults, I love when the adults in YA books are dynamic, real characters w realistic stuff to say + contribute c:

    • Ahh, thank you so much, I’m REALLY glad you enjoyed it! *Happy dance*.
      I think the practicing safe sex side of YA is something that authors are becoming a lot more aware of now, whereas previously more was censored and everything just went to an abstract cut-scene, LOL. I’ve particularly noticed this recently having been working my way through some of my YA backlist books!

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