Discussion: Bookish Pet Peeves

January 21, 2014 2014, discussion post, Uncategorized 134

bookish pet peeves


Welcome to The Midnight Garden’s January Discussion Post!

Here we go. This is one area where all readers come together and present a united front…for we all agree that there are many, oh so many, grievous acts of bad writing committed in too many YA novels. And it must stop for our brains and hearts can’t take them anymore. Is the leading female protagonist described as “normal” yet mysteriously attracts the attention of all guys? Is her potential beau a touch abusive? Don’t tell me the parents are on vacation, working too much so they’re never home, or dead. You can probably list an endless number of books where one, two, or all three of these crimes are present. So often do they occur, it’s become predictable — and where is the joy in that? Doesn’t that fact that we can foresee the plot’s plan defeat the very purpose of reading a book?

So this month, we present to you a list of what we consider to be the most overused tropes and stylistic choices in YA. These are our own personal bookish pet peeves. Don’t forget to comment and tell us yours!

This may very well be what you call a petition…or a cry for help.


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The Peevish List


  • “Bookish” heroines who don’t actually read or show no signs of being…well, smart
  • Heroines who protest too much. “I’m not REALLY pretty (but everyone else says so)”
  • Overuse of physical descriptions, especially if this substitutes for real character traits
  • Constantly describing characters as “hot”
  • Trend: siblings that die as driving plot device
  • Trend: absent parent syndrome
  • Characters that never apologize properly when they’ve committed a grievous wrong
  • Any time a male character exclaims, “You’re not like other girls”
  • When a love interest’s smile is “crooked”; or when when a love interest smiles “from the corner of his/her mouth”
  • Characters that do too much whispering or screaming, especially boys
  • Characters with too-similar names
  • Overusing cutesy nicknames
  • When a female character is described as very normal and ordinary looking, yet attracts guys from all corners and becomes Ms. Popular
  • POC characters whose skin is described as a food/beverage item aka The Starbucks Skin Scale. N.K. Jemisin offers great examples on ways to avoid this trope.
  • When secondary characters (or the best friend) is turned into a caricature to add humor
  • Unmemorable secondary characters
  • Similar looking characters: so many female protagonists have red hair and so many male protagonists have fair hair…just why?
  • Failure to ever show positive interactions between female characters (shopping for prom dresses doesn’t count if it’s the only one). C’mon, take the Bechdel test, authors.

aliens smirkRomance

  • Pointless love triangles, particularly if there’s clearly a “good” and “bad” choice
  • Controlling, abusive actions excused as romantic behavior
  • When precious time or text space is taken up by couple unnecessarily repeatedly declaring their love
  • Various themes when they’re done problematically/without balance: virginity, soul mate fetishizing, love solving everything

Oh-So-Convenient Plot Devices

  • Major emotional dilemmas miraculously solved by death or magic
  • Surprise sub-plot introduced in the end that has no relevance to the major storyline
  • Plot elements that hinge on a character behaving out of character
  • Problems always being solved because adults are too dumb to see what the teenagers can easily deduce
  • Disabilities cured by book’s end

Style, Content, and Themes

  • Words that grate: “smirk,” “whine,” “chaff”
  • Overuse of “whatever” to shut down a conversation, or too many one-word sentences for dramatic effect (Loses. Its. Effect.)
  • Anachronisms in historical novels: too many characters given modern-day PC attitudes, too many girls sneaking into breeches
  • Long, boring journal entries or letters
  • Poorly researched subjects
  • Extraneous POVs that don’t add any significant interest to the story, especially if they have similar voices
  • Excessive descriptions about pointless things like what a character is wearing or what a room looks like (we don’t need to know EVERYTHING)
  • Characters freezing in place for dramatic effect when the situation really doesn’t warrant it
  • Freaking txtspk
  • The repeated calling-out of the title of the book
  • Books that are too long
  • Surprise sequels
  • Series that would be better as standalones or companion novels. Too many stories are dragged out interminably.


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Additional Commentary (because we just have a lot to say):

Kim’s Bookish Pet Peeves

Whenever a male character informs a girl that she’s “not like other girls,” I perform an eye roll worthy of Liz Lemon. Right, because we know being considered an exception to one’s gender is a compliment. Obviously, most girls are, by default, superficial, catty, and awful. It’s great to find that rare girl who can rise above such weakness.  I absolutely loathe this false dichotomy. It encourages girls to “other” other girls and I can’t stand it.

Wendy’s Bookish Pet Peeves

I’m capable of overlooking a lot of things if I’m enjoying a book, but I’ll admit it–if I’m not, there are a lot of things that start chafing at my patience. The joint list we came up with is a pretty comprehensive list of many things that can drive me crazy, and if I weren’t reigning it in, I could probably spend a good paragraph or so ranting about each item. Doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions to some of these themes working in books, and of course, reactions to stylistic choices are always a matter of taste. But seriously, there’s entirely too much smirking that goes on in YA books. And it is annoying.

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Ah, what say you? Did we get everything? We’re sure we didn’t. What are some of the things you read in YA that personally irritate you? Feel free to add your own complaints to our ever growing list!

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134 Responses to “Discussion: Bookish Pet Peeves”

  1. Yzabel

    Ah, I sense common pet peeves here. A lot of those are on my own list (although, like Wendy, I can sometimes overlook peeves if the story keeps me entertained all the same).

    I think I’m especially peeved when it comes to slut shaming—and, in general, the main female character being shown as better than ALL the other female chars. As if she only was worthy, and all the others were meant as foils at best. Often it is combined with flaws that aren’t true flaws (the main FC being “clumsy” and tripping on her own feet doesn’t count, since too many of them are that anyway).

    And love triangles are all over the place. I wouldn’t mind a GOOD triangle, but most seem to be included only because “it sells”, and have no real meaning whatsoever. -_-
    Yzabel recently posted…Review: The Edge of Never

  2. Mary

    I so agree with text speak. I text and tweet in full sentences with full punctuation. Not everyone does that, I understand, but 2 manE abbrv mk me wnt 2 vom. I don’t want to feel like I’m reading a badly written fanfic or somebody’s status update. Also, I’m so sick of a lot of romance tropes and descriptions. Falling off the edge together is the WORST. Overly poetic eye descriptions, though, may be my least favorite ya trope ever. If I have to read the phrase “brings out” while referring to eye color, I may seriously stab myself with something dull in my own eye.
    Mary recently posted…EXCITING NEW BOOK NEWS

  3. Lauren's Loquacious Lit

    Faux bookishness is a huge peeve of mine and I think it stems mostly from when I watched the pilot Episode of One Tree Hill. I was so excited cos Chad’s character was a big reader and I thought it was awesome because apart from Jess in Gilmore Girls there’s not many male teens who read in TV shows. Yet when I went back for the next couple of episodes, his reading and being smart was dropped completely and my thirteen year old self felt very betrayed and outraged.

    I’m okay with book characters not being readers. They don’t have to be just because they live on the pages in a book, but I hate when they are written as such, like I’m incapable of identifying with them on any other level but reading, and THAT is what annoys me.
    Lauren’s Loquacious Lit recently posted…Just for Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

  4. christy comstock

    If I like a book/author, I am fully prepared to forgive anything. I do get tired of boring secondary characters though.

  5. Rashika

    I want to print this off and get it framed because it’s so perfect.
    I kid you not.
    It highlights almost everything that has ever gotten on my nerves. This should be sacred piece of paper (or blog post?? paper sounded better… and I cannot think of anything else :P)

    (I’ll stop fangirling over this now)

  6. Elizabeth

    I agree with all of these. Unsurprisingly haha. Although I’d definitely say slut shaming, or being “better” than other girls is definitely at the top of my list. Along with rapey things being dismissed, or explained as “he just couldn’t help himself”. COME ONE PEOPLE. Some of these I hadn’t even noticed before though, like The Starbucks Skin, but will definitely be paying attention to next time I read. How could I not notice that? It’s so obvious!
    Elizabeth recently posted…Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

  7. Bill Radford

    Unnecessary description bores me. If you say a word like “kitchen” you don’t need to follow it with a description of a very ordinary kitchen. Unless there’s something revealing about this kitchen… on with the story please.
    Bill Radford recently posted…Five (More) Kids’ Lit Heroes!

  8. Lucy

    Yes to all of this! I think you should make bingo cards so we can play Spot the YA Trope at home :)

  9. Fry

    To be fair, my husband does have a crooked/side of the mouth smile but! it’s a learned behavior from having to both smile and play violin all the time.

  10. Angie

    I love YA though I am not a teen anymore… I suppose maybe that’s why I can’t stand some of the cheesy romance. Ughhh I recently read Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler what a nightmare. The girl is a normal artsy girl and then high school football quarterback falls for her. She doesn’t have any friends but then in the book seems like the most popular girl. OKKKKKKK I did go to public high school and trust me the quarterback wasn’t interested in the normal non-popular girls. Sigh!!
    Angie recently posted…Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler- Review

    • Wendy Darling

      None of us are teenagers at TMG, so you are in good company! (We love all our teen readers too, promise.) I definitely agree that where you are in your life directly correlates with how you react to romance, especially those fantasy wish fulfillment scenarios like the one you just described. It’s totally understandable that what works for one reader may not work for another.

      We’re up front about being adults, though, and our readers know we’re providing a different perspective than that of a 16-year-old’s. With so many adults buying YA now, varying reactions to silly romantic scenarios shouldn’t come as a surprise to authors or publishers.

  11. Missie

    I think I am going to have to write a post like this! What a good way to get out the bookish frustrations!
    Missie recently posted…Prized

  12. Sarah J

    This is perfect. So many things like this annoy me. It’s weird but in some books I don’t mind it, but others it just has me raging. I’m also quite tired of drug out series. >_> Once it’s done it should be done. *coughs* Mortal Instruments *coughs*
    Sarah J recently posted…Looking for Alaska by John Green

    • Wendy Darling

      No, not weird at all–sometimes these elements don’t bother me either, it’s only if there’s a lot of them, there’s not too much going on that I like about the book, or they’re just clumsily done.

  13. Clover

    I was trawling the comments and was surprised I didn’t see this one: girl in a tiny backwards town and can’t wait to leave. Can’t stories ever be set in a city? Or at least a decent sized town? It just makes it worse when, despite the town’s minuscule population, the high school still manages to have two guys who are movie-star hot.
    Another thing that bugs me is how the girls are always smart. Always. I can’t recall a book where the girl gets average or only slightly above average grades. Or even excels in one subject and is completely normal in everything else.

    • Kate Bond

      Oh, these bother me, too.

      BUT in defense of the authors, I am from a backwoods Georgia town of 2500 people, and there were several movie star-level hot dudes (I have some VERY fond memories of a pair of twins who looked like Keanu Reeves, and my boyfriend looked like a blonde Daniel Day-Lewis). Although most of them now (ten years later) have hideous bloated cigarette and beer faces. That said, MOST of the dudes were not hot. At all. The ones who were tended to be pretty short–just like real life movie stars!

      But yeah, YA set in cities is way better for me. Have you read Anna and the French Kiss, which takes place in Paris? I freaking loved that.

      Wren in The Promise of Amazing wasn’t very smart, and it made that book really boring because she wasn’t very ANYTHING. But Rose in the Vampire Academy books was a pretty indifferent student, if I remember correctly, and that worked well. I think that if the girl isn’t smart, she has to be a bad girl. She can be boring OR dumb, but not both.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  14. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH! YESSSSS. LOVE TRIANGLES are my no forever. I need to bookmark this and come back to it to read slowly. And on appearance: so so many YA characters have green eyes. Or Blue. It’s way more than average. Also, these heroines have x-ray vision, because they can see a guy across a room and immediately tell their eye color. It is not usually the first thing that I notice, especially from far away. But I’m not a YA girl.
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

    • Kate Bond

      LOTTA green eyes. And ice blue. It’s funny that this bothers me, because my dad’s eyes are ice blue and my mom’s are green, and my sisters and I all have blue-green (as does my husband). For me it’s more of a diversity problem, because almost no non-white people have blue or green eyes, and that aspect of it makes me legit angry.

      And you can’t actually TELL someone’s eye color until they get closer to you. Especially if you’re blinded by his smirking.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  15. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    EVERYTHING in this post. Just…everything! I’m so TIRED of seeing these tropes in YA. What bugs me most, though, are the convenient endings that authors slap on to YA. It’s like problem, problem, problem, happily-ever-after! Out of nowhere! It’s like teens need to be placated by an unrealistic happily-ever-after all the time instead of being given the straight-up truth. Difficult endings leave the most lasting impact and those are far too few. Also, just convenience in general irritates me. Or predictability. Just because this is YA and not Classics or w/e doesn’t mean we don’t deserve complexity of plot or an actual resolution instead of the solution coming tied with a bow out of nowhere. Ahhh, anyway, fantastic post, ladies! Lets hope these slowly DIE out of the genre!
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…ARC Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

  16. Karen

    You’ve touched on so many of mine.

    “Characters with too-similar names” is one that I’m seeing a lot of lately. to the point that I’ve had to DNF. I can’t spend the whole book stopping to figure out who the heck I’m reading about.

    Abuse framed as love is a biggie for me but I’m getting better at just staying away from those books.

    If I read about “chocolate eyes” one more time I might gouge my own out.

    My biggest pet peeve is the I’m not worthy trope. I do understand how it would happen but then the character spends most of the book proving just how unworthy they really are and I can never get on board with their redemption. Be unworthy – but make a point of trying to change otherwise get out of the way so the girl will get with someone better.
    Karen recently posted…Review: The Chocolate Temptation (Amour et Chocolat #6) by Laura Florand

    • Kate Bond

      Oh! Oh! Describing the color of a minority’s skin by how much cream is in the coffee. I forgot to say that! So much the angry!

      I notice the similar names thing a lot lately because I have to help my husband name his characters to make sure they aren’t too similar. There’s an NA series called On Dublin Street, and the first book’s protagonist is named Joss. Guess what her best friend’s name is? It’s Jo. Freaking Jo. And she’s the main character of the second book. So then you get to the third book and Joss and Jo are both characters, and you have no idea who is talking. Ever.

      Insecure hot dudes who think they’re not worthy of the boring lead girl need to walk off a freaking cliff. I’m so over them. I’ve skipped whole sections of books because of this language. It can be really bad in romance novels.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  17. Sunny

    Thank you. THANK YOU ALL. The lists were amazing because I think my head almost fell off from all the nodding. I can’t even begin to comment on the peeves because I’d start listing everything you already did. Absent-parent syndrome, the supposedly bookish MC, abusive relationship…OH, definitely the “I’m not like other girls” line. I think I’ll scream if I see that again. It makes me think that they’re SO SPECIAL and I want to roll my eyes and gag. Preach it, ya’ll.
    Sunny recently posted…This vs That: Book Preferences

    • Wendy Darling

      The trend of “bookish” heroines really pisses me off. It’s completely unconvincing if you only say she’s bookish or there’s only a scene of her admiring a bookcase or there’s a single instance of her reading some book. Real, true, deep book love isn’t that shallow or that simple to portray.

  18. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    You hit the nail on the head with all of these!

    Abusive/controlling/overly-possessive boyfriends are a major peeve of mine; they’re creepy and dangerous, and authors aren’t doing girls and women any favors by suggesting that such behavior is romantic or “hot.”

    Triangles are also becoming a huge issue for me. C’mon, folks, it’s been done to death, and more than half the time it’s clearly a device to add tension rather than really required by the plot. (Unless it is the plot, which may be even worse.) Realistically, how many teenage girls have two hot boys after them at the same time? And I’ve always felt it’s dishonest and just plain wrong to date one person while you’re thinking that much about someone else. If you can choose, then choose one and be done with it. If you can’t choose, you probably shouldn’t be with either one until you have a better sense of who you are, who they are, and what you really want. The “torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool” thing (yes, I know that dates me) isn’t fair to any of the three people involved. Frankly, I’d like to see a main character nip a potential love triangle in the bud, kindly but firmly. Better yet, I’d like to see more authors figure out other ways to build tension into the plot, and let the main characters be friends (or even friends where two are a couple, with no-one else a potential love interest. Think it can’t be done? Go re-read the Harry Potter books.)

    I’m also concerned about the trend of “finding your forever love, your soulmate, your one-and-only”… before you’re twenty. Before you’re 17, in a lot of cases. That’s not realistic, either. Sure, some high-school sweethearts marry and stay together for a lifetime. The vast majority don’t. And it’s pretty unrealistic to expect that you will find your perfect mate when you aren’t even finished growing up yet. Even the idea that there is one perfect person just for you is probably unrealistic, but regardless, it would be a good idea to be a whole, complete person with a strong sense of who you are before you commit yourself to someone forever.

    Absent or abusive parents, dead siblings… Look, I know that sort of situation puts the main character in an unsettled, unhappy spot, which gives the author somewhere to go with them. But I miss books where the family support each other, and where parents are there for their kids. It’s not impossible to write a good book without family drama (whether in the present or past) – just challenging. I wish more authors would step up to the challenge.

    • K.

      Amazong response Lark :) Another thing that disturbs with disturbing behaviour from love interests is that sometimes you’ll read the author gushing over his/her male lead…and it concerns me that writers could actually, themselves, find these characters attractive.

      Re:the absent parents…what bugs me most about it all is how much it implies laziness on the part of the writer. Obviously everything is easier when the protagonist isn’t limited by rules, curfew, authority etc so to solve that — get rid of parents. WRITE around that problem, writers! Let’s see what you come up with.

      • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

        Yes, absolutely, to both those points! In fact, Both the absent parent and the love triangle can indicate a certain laziness on the part of the author. (I hate to call it that, but I don’t know what else to call it.) What I mean is, sometimes one or even both of those are really the best choice for the book and the characters, but too often, it feels as though the author took the easiest way to solve a plot problem or generate tension. Of course, that’s easy for me to say, since I’m not a writer! I imagine that as a writer, particularly on deadline, it’s a lot harder to tell yourself “no, I’m going to find a more creative way to deal with this even if it takes me three more months of banging my head against the wall.”
        Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard recently posted…The Peculiar Case of Lord Finsbury’s Diamonds, by Stephanie Laurens

  19. Tracey Neithercott

    This isn’t a YA pet peeve, but I’m so sick of New Adult books with the exact same plot: disturbed virgin girl finds disturbed bad boy (with dark hair, dark eyes, and tattoos, because non-tattooed guys are never bad) and they are the only ones who can save each other.

    • Kate Bond

      I’m kind of over virgins having sex, period. I get that dudes get better at sex when they have more sexual partners, but the reason that is the case is that they learn that every lady’s body works differently, and what one of us loves will be painful or gross for another one. I get all that. But bad boys and virgins are kind of a gross, rapey combination that doesn’t really have a place outside historical romance.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

    • Wendy Darling

      New Adult books are often riddled with SO many of the same problems. And yep, the blushing virgin thing is really getting old–it’s rare to find books that handle that in an interesting and non-icky way.

  20. Katie Hayoz

    Great post. Whoa. As an author, I was biting my fingernails going down the list. As a reader, I agree with pretty much all of them. I’d add the one thing I hate in YA/NA novels is when the sexual tension between the protagonist and her love interest is heightened through dominance or violence or force. Where the man pins the woman down, is rough with her or shoves her against a wall and only sheer willpower keeps him from raping her. Our society has spoon fed us this for so long that we often DO see this as seduction and as sexy, even knowing how damaging it is to young readers. Ok. Rant over.
    Katie Hayoz recently posted…Bad Luck List. 2014, You Suck!

    • Kate Bond

      I’m reading a romance novel with this right now–it’s a woman who was abused in the past, and she is drawing clear boundaries, and he is crossing them and kissing her and feeling her up anyway, but it’s ok because she really wants it. Which is rape culture in a fucking nutshell.

      I DO like the storylines where a dude who is a Dominant won’t have sex with a lady because he doesn’t think she’ll be down with the way he likes to do it, so he’s dismissive of her, and then she convinces him to try, and either she figures out she likes it or she doesn’t, but I hate the rapey “I can’t stop myself” garbage.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, as I was telling someone a few comments below, this really is a list that I view as stuff that annoys me when there’s nothing going on that I enjoy. I will sometimes read a book with several of these elements (as I’m doing right now!) and they won’t bother me at all, either because of the way they’re done or because there are other things happening that make up for it.

      I have such issues with forceful domination in YA, too. As an adult, you have a lot more judgment and if there’s a situation where it’s an exception or other factors going on, you understand it’s not the norm. But girls don’t have the life experience to know if something is a one-off or a problematic clue for violent tendencies, so romanticizing this kind of behavior really ticks me off. It’s rarely honest, too, if the guy acts that way about one thing, you know it bleeds into other areas.

      When it’s in NA, it can be annoying because again, it’s just not very well thought-out. It’s such a THING in this category for guys to behave like jerks, I don’t know why. And don’t get me wrong, I like alpha males and have enjoyed a lot of romance/adult books with dominant male behavior, but only when it’s well thought-out and he isn’t a selfish asshole overall.

  21. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    I hate when a character is really gullible. If you tell them that the sky is neon green, then they’ll believe it without hesitation. I hate that! I wish some characters would show more common sense, you know?
    I also really hate absentee parents or parents that seem to put up with anything. I understand that in YA the parents are usually “in the way” but I refuse to believe that your parents will just “let you” go to a foreign country with a random (although “smoking hot”) stranger just because.
    Oh! Also when the hot, new, mysterious stranger comes to town and ignores/is incredibly rude to the protagonist, but the protagonist writes it off as “him wearing a mask of indifference because he’s actually a tortured soul on the inside”. I hate it when they’re just jerks but the protagonist refuses to see it!
    I could go on all day, haha!
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…{Audiobook} Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

    • Kate Bond

      UGH gullible characters. The worst. Tonya and I both read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and, while it is an adult romance, it hits a lot of these pet peeves, and the gullible character thing is responsible for almost all the big plot points. Gullible character or people who tell each other everything leaving out one tiny piece of information. So frustrating.

      And dudes who are jerks and the main character sees through it to his tortured soul… She’s not seeing his soul. She’s seeing her own stupid teenager hormones.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  22. Pili

    Great post!
    I agree with quite a few of those tropes. I also tire very easily of a main character being a push over, not standing up to anyone. And then something happens and she’s super special… it just grates on my nerves!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #26!!

      • Pili

        I feel like smacking them on the head and give them a good shake! Even more when they simply are normal girls not dealing with any horrible trauma, I’m quite understanding with those characters.
        I’m actually taking a break for a book I’m reading for a blog tour cause the MC is such a wilting flower that let’s everyone make her choices for her and won’t assert herself in any way!
        Pili recently posted…Mark This Book Monday: ARC Review of Alienated by Melissa Landers!!

  23. Jessica Cooley

    The bookish girls who don’t actually read/aren’t very smart and that so often a strong female equals doing everything male. What the hell?! Just because you’re a strong female doesn’t mean you need to hate girly things or have a typically male job or one of the other numerous things that are easy to slap onto a female character to make her “strong” ugh. Dorothy of OZ was strong and she wore heels and a dress and didn’t feel threatened by every little thing that came down the block.
    Jessica Cooley recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday 10

    • Kate Bond

      Um, the thing where a girl has to hate girly things to be a strong character drives me absolutely ballistic. BALLISTIC. And I’m not even completely sure what that word means.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

    • K.

      I agree with you so much Jessica on both your points 1- about how women need to adopt male attitudes to be strong — this one really gets to me. It defeats the entire notion of girl power — meaning pride in being a woman. Strength and courage are not male characteristics!!! And 2- protagonists who are bookish but we never witness them even read a book! Hilarious!

  24. Michelle

    Definitely a comprehensive list ladies! I can agree on pretty much everything. Although, like you said Wendy – I’m willing to overlook some things if I’m really enjoying the plot/writing/characters/dialogue.

    The only one I have to add is related to me being a journalist. I find it extremely annoying when people write ‘news articles’ in books which break every rule of news writing. To me, you don’t have to be a journalist to know how to write a news article – you just have to look at the style of any newspaper. Anyway, that’s my one big peeve :)

    Great post!
    Michelle recently posted…Every Breath by Ellie Marney

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yes, this is really a list meant (in my eyes) as stuff that can get REALLY tiresome if there’s no originality/interest in the rest of the story. I’m reading LOVE LETTERS FROM THE DEAD right now, for example, and it has both letters, a dead sister, and a few other things on this list, and I don’t mind them at all.

      I understand how inaccuracies can grate if you have a background in the subject matter, too. My background is in film publicity, so I can’t read any YA books set in Hollywood, for example, I just know it’d be too annoying and far-fetched for me. But I was talking to the awesome Dahlia Adler on Twitter about this (she has a book set in Hollywood, hah, and says she can’t read anything set in publishing either) and I told her that it’s very true that there are terrible books written by people with experiences in their fields, too.

        • Wendy Darling

          I totally get that. I really like reading medical thrillers (or straight up thrillers) when they’re written by someone with a medical background, though. Like Tess Gerritsen was a doctor and studied anthropology, so the early Rizzoli and Isles books were great–you could see her background coming in handy with the morgue scenes in particular. And we just published a guest post by the author of a space-themed book, and her husband is a rocket scientist–research can mean a great deal. But people skimp sometimes because they don’t bother to look into things.

  25. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    Oh YES. I’m totally agreeing with so many of these. It particularly bothers me when the guys say “you’re different” to the girl. What is that even supposed to mean?!! Please, NO! Anyway, everyone’s different than you originally judged them to be if you take the time to know them properly.

    This is (I think) my first comment here! I keep seeing mentions of your blog around the blogosphere. I think it’s kind of famous. ;) So I’m following.
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (I AM SCOTTISH)

    • Kate Bond

      Thank you for joining us, Cait! It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance!

      This is one of my biggest pet peeves, too. Like, what’s wrong with girls in general that would make that even be a compliment?
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  26. Neyra

    Great post ladies! I agree with basically everything here, and my pet peeve is the whole “good girl having for the bad boy” or vice versa. When the characters are complete opposite and they “save each other with their love *rolls eyes”, who says two people from the same type of background CAN’T save each other?? Ugh, I’m sick of it..
    Neyra recently posted…Review: The League of Skull and Bones by MJ Fletcher

    • K.

      Oh Neyra, I find this particular pet peeve so common its sometimes not even worth complaining about.

  27. Nemo @ the Moonlight Library

    Sick to death of white characters with red hair or green eyes (or shock horror, both!), the two least common colour occurrences for Caucasians. Sick of character flaws being ‘clumsy’ or something insignificant as ‘cuticle picker’ – like anyone cares about cuticles! Crooked smiles piss me off, too.
    Nemo @ the Moonlight Library recently posted…Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist (63)

    • Kate Bond

      I just read two books in a row with red haired, green-eyed main characters, and boy did I ever roll my eyes. I DO, however, like when a redheaded character admits that she dyes it. That is charming. But fewer white main characters in general would be nice, too.

      I don’t find clumsiness to be charming at all, so I hate when it’s the main girl’s token flaw.

      I wish I didn’t smile crooked. This post is starting to give me a complex about it.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  28. Kim @ The Avid Reader

    Love this! I’m getting sick of the girls who are labeled “not pretty” yet are described in such a way that they are clearly gorgeous. I get positively stabby when characters “love” each other yet constantly hurt each other. I don’t always hate love triangles, but I think they are getting pretty overdone. And often one of the choices is TERRIBLE, and that is SO FRUSTRATING.

    Animals that die! Still not over it, Patrick Ness!

    Text speak. My eyes, my eyes!

    Plot devices that are too contrived or just plain don’t make sense. “Surprise twists” that I can see coming from a mile away.
    Kim @ The Avid Reader recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things on My Reading Wish List

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah, I don’t mind being able to guess a plot twist in advance unless it’s treated as a Big! Reveal! or whatever.

      And we ladies are told that our looks are the most important thing about us often enough FROM BABYHOOD that descriptions of clearly lovely girls who call themselves ugly make me genuinely upset.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  29. Tabitha the Pabkins

    Jeeezus yes you got everything right! If I read about one more crooked smile or smoking hot guy attracted to a normal girl. Come on why can’t the GUY be normal looking? Or them both? Love triangle bah. So I get that sometimes they happen in reality. I don’t think they happen THAT frequently that every YA book has to have one. Plus not EVERY YA book has to focus on romance to be good, make is a side plot instead of THE plot and I usually see it turns out better.

    I actually got so burnt on YA books lately that I’ve been reading more and more adult. I still read half YA books but take last year for instance I’d say 65 to 70% of what I read was YA. I went over the hill with it last year (probably because of BEA – they give out way more YA books than adult books). I’m signed up to go again this year but you know…I might even just skip it even though I already registered. We’ll see.

    Now lets see a collection / list of awesome YA books that rock haha.
    Tabitha the Pabkins recently posted…Teaser Tuesday: Between & The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz

    • Kate Bond

      Oh, I’m at like 75% adult books, Tabitha. Right there with you.

      And love triangles don’t bother me that much because so much of being a teenager is having crushes on people who don’t like you, and vice versa, and I think the triangles are a kind of simplified version of that, but I’m definitely in the minority there.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

    • Wendy Darling

      I realized recently that I mostly hate reading about outfits because a lot of descriptions are really boring, or the clothes sound AWFUL. But if it’s really well written and they sound beautiful and it’s that type of book, I like it. But as you say, as long as it’s not overdone.

      “Pregnant pause” isn’t a favorite of mine either. I don’t remember seeing it in a YA book, though, that somehow seems especially weird.

  30. Angie

    I can’t stand when a girl is average looking yet the quarterback on the high school team loves her as well as all the other boys. I think we find a lot of these themes common in YA books because if it works in one YA book publishers feel that is will work in the next. Keep that same formula and that will be a best seller! I wish more books would branch out.
    Angie recently posted…Blogger Horror Stories!

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah, this feels the same as the ugly sitcom husband with the beautiful wife: it’s an unrealistic fantasy held by a specific portion of the target audience. Blarg.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Dress the Part: Cress

  31. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    Character wise: constantly described as ‘hot’ and endless details about appearances.
    Romance: not interesting for the plot and the abusive relationships. Gosh, I hate those! So unhealthy and I don’t like how it’s portrayed as romance..

    I hate when things are just TOO convenient. ‘I need a spell book that has been lost for over 100 years’ *stumbles and smacks against a wall, where a hidden door suddenly appears* OF COURSE, why not.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Short Review 229. Adam Gidwitz – The Grimm conclusion.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yes, I wish those spell books would suddenly appear when I need them, too. Is it that hard to think of a convincing way for it to be found?

  32. tesscatiful

    LOVE this post!
    I think I agree with all of these. The things I hate in books are special snowflakes, mary sues and ridiculous character names.
    Oh and it *really bugs me* when a book has a UK setting but is written by an American author who doesn’t know their terminology (it is a BISCUIT, not a COOKIE)
    tesscatiful recently posted…So…OKCupid majorly pissed me off

    • Kate Bond

      I’d ditto this with all cultural stuff. I wonder whether the lack of diversity in literature comes from authors not knowing how to write other cultures without resorting to caricatures?

      Also, we saw something similar but different in the American version of The Book Thief when we did our readalong. In the Aussie version, he says a girl has “full-stop” freckles, but they changed it to “period” freckles for the American release, and K and I both thought he meant “period” like “menstrual.”
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  33. Kate @ Ex Libris

    “Controlling, abusive actions excused as romantic behavior” – this is so problematic in YA romance, especially in paranormal romance, where being a werewolf/vampire/whatever is apparently permission to be a dick.

    “Anachronisms in historical novels: too many characters given modern-day PC attitudes, too many girls sneaking into breeches” – This x 1,000.
    Kate @ Ex Libris recently posted…Fragile Spirits by Mary Lindsey

    • Wendy Darling

      Yessss. Werewolf dominance is hard to pull off in adult paranormal romances, but I find the way controlling behavior is portrayed in YA to be problematic a lot of the time. If you’re an adult, there’s generally a concession that you are acknowledging an exception to the rule or weighing other factors in or whatever, with girls you don’t have the same life experience and so you have this innocent girl just blindly going along with whatever the guy says. And thinking he’s so romantic because of it. Ugh.

      I’m glad the anachronisms bother other people, too. An author told me on Twitter that she was asked to ignore that and give her character more feistiness, which annoys me so much. I think it’s possible to write historical heroines who are appealing and relevant and sympathetic without turning them into Buffy in a petticoat.

  34. Giselle

    Haha I was laughing all the while reading this post because so much of it match my own pet peeves! Characters who scream all the time – and the screaming is in bold so in my head it’s always this loud screaming that often doesn’t really fit in the conversation tone the author was likely going for.

    “When a female character is described as very normal and ordinary looking, yet attracts guys from all corners and becomes Ms. Popular” YES!

    And Txtspeak = barf!!
    Giselle recently posted…Review: The Lure by Lynne Ewing

  35. Mai

    It’s funny because I don’t write YA but I read all that my friend writes and I was so checking the list against her stories. I emailed her the link with a “don’t worry, you don’t do these things!” But, she may have to check and see if anyone has a crooked smile. I couldn’t remember off the top of my head.

    • K.

      I can overlook a crooked smile but if this crooked smiler also smiles from the corner of his mouth or half smiles or smiles but it looks like a smirk — god help me.

  36. Mai

    Yes to Kim’s comment about teaching girls to “other” girls. I hate that. It teaches girls to be competitive with each other in a zero sum game type of way.

  37. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    Oh, also, amnesia that makes everything easier. I’ve lost all my memory except for the bits that help advance the plot. And it comes back just a tad every time more knowledge is needed for plot advancement. I want to knee this trope in the groin.
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Review: Hollow City

    • Wendy Darling

      I was waiting for someone to bring up your favorite expression, Christina–the breath she doesn’t realize she’s been holding! I don’t really care one way or the next about that phrase, but I know it drives a lot of people crazy. It’s definitely one that gets used a lot, though, strangely.

      I kind of enjoy amnesia stories when they’re done well, but yeah–often the mechanics of it are just all too convenient in extending the mystery. Ask some freaking questions, man.

      • Boyanna

        oh, you bit me to it! i was just browsing thought the comments to see if anybody mentioned the dreaded breath holding! :)
        My pet peeve: Girls blushing whenever something s-x related is mentioned (even after having some experience)! Its like they are trying to convince us that being shy is much more desirable then confidence and curiosity, also i don’t thing all teen girls are that ashamed of their sexuality. Why is so important to be timid?
        Boyanna recently posted…[review] AVALON BY MINDEE ARNETT

        • Kate Bond

          Yeah, I’m SUPER pale, and I don’t really blush all that much. I mean, I’m a big ol’ whore (or was before I got married), but still. These heroines must have VERY translucent skin.
          Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  38. sarabara081 @ Forever 17 Books

    It drives me nuts how many times I’ve read about an average looking girl who all the ‘totally hot boys’ fall for. Really? Come on, that never happens in high school.

    Also I am so sick of parents being conveniently absent while their child is basically running for their life or never home. I want more books with family being present. Be different and unique and write ways to make it all work without the family being dead or deadbeat!
    sarabara081 @ Forever 17 Books recently posted…Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

    • K.

      Something that I hate, I just remembered, is how a book starts off with a girl going to a new school and she has all these trepidations about how she will be the laughing stock or a complete loner then BAM she’s invited straight to the Popular table, invited to a bonfire that weekend and asked out for prom.

      Shoot me.

  39. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    To go along with the “smirking” and “side of mouth smiling,” the inevitable female response to it: the blush. I am SO tired of heroines collapsing in blushes when they should actually be mortally offended by what the guy just said. Then he smirks and points out her blush and she blushes more. JUST NO.
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Review: Hollow City

    • Kate Bond

      Oh, I responded to someone else about this! The offensiveness of the response aside, WHO ACTUALLY BLUSHES? I am SUPER fair-skinned, and I can count the number of times I’ve visibly blushed on one hand. I know these are all white girls, but still.

      Another similar thing: The Jennifer Armentrout-y nonsense of the dude being rude and the girl snapping back, and then his calling her like, “kitten” or something, and suddenly she’s into him. Fuck. That. Noise.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  40. Savannah

    Yup, I agree. I also get tired of reading the same plot line in NA. It’s always an abusive relationship or a rape. I get that this drives emotional response and some stories are really well written but others just follow the same scenario.
    Savannah recently posted…Book Tag: The Seven Deadly Sins

  41. fishgirl182

    Haha I saw your smirking post on GR, and thought it was hilarious. I get seriously annoyed when every boy has a “crooked” smile. I mean seriously, isn’t anyone’s mouth straight? Or if no one’s is, aren’t they all just normal smiles then? Too lenient parents are also a pet peeve of mine. Oh go ahead and stay out til all ours or disappear for days at a time. It’s cool cause we’re cool. Also, girls that are unlike other girls but who show no signs of being unique or interesting.
    fishgirl182 recently posted…TV Spot: Vampire Academy

    • Kate Bond

      I have a crooked Harrison Ford smile, and I have to actively work to make it go straight. It’s like I don’t have the right muscles on the left side of my face. Like I have Bell’s Palsey or something.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  42. Lanaia

    For me, slut-shaming is a big pet peeve, I really can’t stand it. Or when the main character is so much better, because she’s a virgin, unlike other girls who have sex and are consequently clearly immoral or evil.

    All the hot guys with blue eyes (does anyone has brown eyes anymore?), who are cool and grinning and smirking..bleh. They’re usually very rich too! And controlling and possessive.. so not my type. And these are supposed to be boys that young girls would like? It’s verging on problematic.

    I agree with most of these, except “absent parents syndrome” never bothered me, but that’s probably because my dad died when I was very young. Still, I know this happens just too often in YA books. Great post!
    Lanaia recently posted…Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

  43. Whitley

    “Pointless love triangles, particularly if there’s clearly a “good” and “bad” choice”
    It’s gotten to a point where you can tell which side will ‘win’ the triangle based on which one treats the MC the worst. Oh, one is ignoring her wishes, being overly-protective, and is generally a jerk while the other is deferential and polite? Well, gee, I *wonder* who will win the day…

    “Anachronisms in historical novels: too many characters given modern-day PC attitudes, too many girls sneaking into breeches”
    THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS. Every time I see a princess who’s absolutely shocked and appalled that she’s expected to marry for politics, I roll my eyes so hard they fall out.
    Whitley recently posted…Mockingjay: Ch 26

    • Kate Bond

      What bothers me in love triangles is that that interesting dude–the one she has chemistry with, and who flirts and has a sense of humor about himself–is always the bad choice. And the author gives him dumb qualities that make him bad so she has to choose Mr. Boring.

      I’m always on the wrong side in love triangles. Except Hunger Games–I was Team Peeta all the way. And I liked Edward better in Twilight.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  44. Audrey

    I agree with pretty much everything on your list, although I would add “grimace” to the words that drive me nuts.

    Also overused: male love interests with “messy hair”. This one doesn’t really bother me, though.

    Here’s one that would come under “poorly researched subjects”: YA books that are set in Maine when the author clearly has never lived there (and maybe has never even visited). Maine ends up being some sort of shorthand for “middle-of-nowhere” or “spooky place” (which makes sense since Stephen King wrote a large number of creepy books set in Maine). I get why they do it, but some of the things these authors get wrong could easily be checked with Google. But, please, just don’t do it in the first place.

    Do readers from other places have similar issues with books they read?

    • Kate Bond

      Georgia. And the south in general. People write us like it’s the freaking 1800’s. The Fever books by Karen Marie Moning made me SO angry because of this.

      I’ll bet people from New Orleans hate how they’re written, too. And Boston.

      The biggest one for me, though, is Los Angeles. My husband and I, and almost all of my friends (Wendy counts because she used to) work in the film and television industry, and the way we are portrayed in books can be pretty upsetting. So many assumptions are made about our values and morals and shit, and it’s like people from everywhere else think we live 24/7 in the clubs with Paris Hilton or something, when the reality is that it’s kind of like working for the town factory–not exciting or glamorous or sexy at all. Grrrr.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

    • Wendy Darling

      “Grimace” is an ugly word in general. :/


      Totally agree regarding un-researched settings as well. I love books that describe the cities/towns well, but it’s annoying when they get obvious details wrong. Don’t get me started on portrayals of Southern California/LA/Hollywood.

  45. Dreams

    Love this post.

    If boys smirked are much in real life as they do in books, we’d have no boys left because us girls would have wiped them out in a fit of aggravation. Because while everyone in books thinks it’s cute, it makes you wonder if they’ve ever have really seen anyone smirk. It’s not cute or funny, it just makes you want to strangle someone.

    And don’t forget all those best friends out there who are (a) slutty, (b) absolutely horrible to the heroine that you wonder why on earth they would be best friends in the first place, or (c) both of the above.

    “Major emotional dilemmas miraculously solved by death or magic” = Best way to solve a romance triangle. Kill one of the possibilities. Not. *cries* Just why? That doesn’t endear me to the other possibility.
    Dreams recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – Things On My Reading Wishlist (31)

    • Wendy Darling

      I know, I would smack anyone who smirked at me. Or I’d bite my lips until they bled with the force from restraining myself. I always wonder whether people have seen/looked up the word “smirk,” too–it’s such an ugly and conceited thing to be doing. And the ones that do it seem to smirk over and over again in the same book.

      Oh yeah, negative portrayals of slutty, horrible friends are often so one-note, too. I think Rachel Vincent did a really great job with writing the female friendships in her Soul Screamers series (complicated relationship with her BFF, a romantic rival who drives everyone up the freaking wall, etc), but that’s one of the exceptions rather than the rule.

  46. Kelsey

    Just yes. All of these. I am so sick of reading the same things over, and over, and over. Besides, I hate feeling like I’m seen as a dumb reader. Another thing that bothers me are bangs on boys. Not necessarily the fact that they have bangs, but I hate how the writing goes on and on about how the bangs hang over his eyes. Or we could go on about the eyes and how they are constantly compared to gems. I get really bored of these trends and tendencies. Great post!
    Kelsey recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist

  47. Patricia

    Tangentially, they’re smirking in Adult romance also. I just read one where every time the character smiled, he smirked. I’dve punched him.

  48. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    One of the things that really peeves me is the missing parents or hardly any adults present in a story that is a YA, and where those kids are at least supposedly still living at home! It’s become so bad that I have actually started to point out, in a positive way, when there are some real adult characters that have a part in the story. It’s a little sad, that I feel that it’s important to point out that ‘uncle Mark is a great adult, he tells Bristol she can come to him, and he actually listens to her and gives her good advice – so good that she’ll come and talk to him the next time she needs help’…

    I agree with a lot of the others, too, and I think that when the tropes become so over-used that it’s difficult to find a story without a love-triangle, or that has parents who are present in their teens’ lives it’s less fun to read.

    Great post, ladies :)
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Teaser Tuesday #16 – The Edge of Never

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah–I get that it’s easier to have pesky parents out of the way, but it’s honestly the easy way out. In most cases, adults ARE very much a part of a teenager’s life, and not even touching on that is a cop-out, imo. I always appreciate it when authors are able to describe relationships with adults in a believable way–and I agree, I think it’s a positive thing to portray as well.

  49. Anya

    Omg love saving the world kills me! How does that even work?? One of these days I’m going to find a book where you think love is going to save the day and the character tries to use her love to knock her boyfriend out of whatever mental hypnosis he is under and it’s not going to work! It’s going to be a great day when I shall shake my fist at the ceiling, mwahahaha
    Anya recently posted…Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge eARC {4.5 Stars}

  50. Amanda @ Book Badger

    I can totally see your point on a lot of these points, especially the one concerning descriptions of characters.; there’s a lot of black hair and green eyed ladies in YA as well, and if not that, red hair. Excessive descriptions and stories that are dragged out I also agree with, but there’s a lot here that I agree with strongly and I can totally see your point. This is a great collection of peeves!
    Amanda @ Book Badger recently posted…Top Ten Tuesdays #11 – Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

    • Wendy Darling

      Red hair is alllll over the place. I guess because it’s the least common, and so you know, ladies have to feel special.

      I’m glad you liked our list, I felt pretty indignant writing it, hah.

  51. Hannah U

    Such a good post!

    Off the top of my head…

    The beginnings of a smile at the corner of the lips/smile that didn’t quite reach their eyes – I think a lot of us have problems with smiles in YA!
    Looking up through her lashes
    Strong forearm muscles
    Boys with floppy hair
    Hot, new boy in town who’s so mysterious and hot. And he won’t talk to anyone but the heroine. And he’s hot.

    • Kate Bond

      Word on the strong forearm muscles. That always makes me think the guy masturbates a lot (which is fine and healthy, but not necessarily what the author was trying to convey).

      Further word on floppy hair. it’s so Tiger Beat/90’s.

      No word on mysterious hot boys, although I agree that it is so annoying when they will only speak to the heroine (this bothered me in Twilight–why go to school if you’re not going to try to blend in? Isn’t blending in the point of going? Also, you’re freaking apex predators; stop worrying about what humans think.)
      Kate Bond recently posted…Discussion: Bookish Pet Peeves

  52. Lisa Farhana

    I have a problem with male characters overusing the word “babe/baby”. And half smiles/grins. HOW do you half smile?? You either smile or you don’t :/
    Lisa Farhana recently posted…19/365

      • Kate Bond

        Right? Eyes are not a mood ring. I mean, they do change color SLIGHTLY with our moods (mine are a-gorgeous when I cry) and our pupils dilate a lot based on things like sexual arousal (gross words) (this is part of why the actors in movies like twilight seem like terrible actors, when they’re ok in other things–we can’t see their pupils’ full range), but do they really FLASH that often?
        Kate Bond recently posted…Dress the Part: Cress

    • Kim

      Oh yes. Babe/baby irks me *so much*. The second it is uttered I am like, “I don’t like you! And I don’t like your dynamic!” Not even overuse. I just flat out hate it.