Without choice, Jon is thrust into a world where parallel universes are real, shapeshifters exist, and dangerous “intruders” can control the elements with a mere thought. Jon learns he’s inherited his shapeshifting ability from his long-dead mother, and now, like it or not, his mission is to protect our world from invaders from other worlds.
But is it a mission Jon will accept? His decision will determine the fate of the people he loves -- and our whole world.
Five Boring Young Adult Tropes (and how I tried to avoid them)
I didn't mean to become a fan of young adult fiction. Before YA, I was just another geeky sci-fi and fantasy reader. Orson Scott Card, Anne McCaffery, Charles de Lint -- this was my kind of stuff. Then JK Rowling came along and made it okay for adults to read about teens, and so began my YA reading binge.
That was fifteen years ago. Since then, I'd say about 75% of my reading diet has consisted of young adult books.
Over the years, even though I love YA fiction, I've also discovered a number of young adult tropes that bore me to tears. Here are five of them, as well as how I tried to buck the trend in my Guardians of the Portal trilogy.
1. You know who the love interest is going to be by the end of the first chapter.
The "obvious love interest" YA trope makes me a little crazy. We could all probably name ten or fifteen stories where it's completely obvious that the hero and the heroine are going to get together before the end of the book or series.
All three of my Guardians of the Portal trilogy include romance sub-plots, but I tried to make it a little less obvious about who's going to get together with whom. I think it's working, because my beta readers are now commenting on Book 3 and they still ask me, "Does so-and-so still have a chance?" You'll have to read it for yourself and let me know if I managed to subvert the "obvious love interest" trope successfully.
2. Every protagonist is a superstar.
From Harry Potter to Katniss Everdeen, it seems that virtually every young adult protagonist is an absolute superstar. I understand why this trope exists: A superstar is more interesting to read about than someone who is merely average. Nevertheless, don't you sort of roll your eyes and say, "Of course he's The Chosen One" when you find out the young adult protagonist is like no one else who's ever lived? I do.
That's why I tried to make the three main characters in the Guardians trilogy a little more on the "average Joe" side. They still each have unique abilities that (I hope) keeps them interesting, but they're not superstars. They're regular kids, with the problems and dramas that regular kids experience.
3. The setting is a big city or a decaying one.
Marie Lu's Legend series is set in a decaying Los Angeles. Divergent is in a ruined Chicago. Hunger Games has the Capitol.
There's nothing wrong with big cities, but I'm a small town girl. What's wrong with having a young adult fantasy set in a small, rural town? It's my hope that other small town residents will enjoy reading a story set in a place more familiar to them.
4. I'm so tired of vampires and werewolves.
Don't get me wrong. I confess to having read (and enjoyed) the Twilight series, and I can't wait for the last book in Richelle Mead's Bloodlines series to come out. But the young adult market is saturated with vampires and werewolves.
When I set out to write The Portal & the Panther, I wanted to write about fantasy / paranormal characters I hadn't seen before. That's how it came to be that the protagonist is a shapeshifter (and NOT a werewolf shapeshifter!). Most shapeshifter novels I've seen are paranormal romance tales -- the wide-eyed young woman falls for the handsome, burly man who turns out to be a werewolf or a werebear or something like that. My young adult shapeshifter novels are definitely not like that. I'd tell you more, but I don't want to give away the story.
5. Not every young adult science fiction novel needs to be a dystopian one.
I feel like I'm getting old, because when I grew up, the science fiction I read was about trips to other planets, colonizing new worlds, and battling aliens. These days, young adult sci fi is almost always a futuristic dystopian novel.
My novels are halfway between fantasy and science fiction. There are shapeshifters involved, but there are also parallel universes and X-Men-style bad guys. Perhaps most importantly, there's no dystopian society ruled by despotic leaders. That's another young adult trope that's getting old.
What YA Tropes Are You Tired Of?
The five young adult tropes above are the ones I'm most tired of, but what about you? What are you wishing to see in a young adult novel that you haven't seen before? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts. I'm sure a lot of other young adult authors would also like to know.
About the Author
RA Marshall writes young adult fantasy novels. The first two books in her Guardians of the Portal trilogy, The Portal & thePanther and The Girl Between Worlds, are available on Amazon. The third book, The Rook & the King, is due out in May 2015. You can find excerpts and more at Ninja-Writer.com.
Click 'Read more' for an excerpt:
"I'm sorry he's being such a jerk," she said. "He's not always that way."
I shrugged but didn't answer her. It wasn't the first apology she'd given me this year. I still had the sticky note that said "I'm sorry" in the back of my American History book, but I wasn't entirely sure I was ready to forgive her yet.
"How've you been?" she asked.
"Only ok?" she asked, a strained smile on her face.
Well, I thought to myself, I'm hanging out at a party with a bunch of kids I'm not sure if I like that much, your boyfriend just reminded me that half the football team still calls me "faggot" behind my back, and yesterday morning, right between homeroom and first period, I turned into a panther in the bathroom. Did you hear about that? No?
"You know." I shrugged again. "I'm ok."