Can we talk about YA tropes? Let me first say that tropes exist in books because they actually exist in real life—some of them, but not all of them. For instance, love triangles are too rare to be real. I say that as someone who witnessed one during college, and it was an epic comedy of errors that made my own romantic missteps seem trivial. What’s a broken guitar between former friends?
Some of the other YA tropes, to varying degrees, exist in reality, but they need to be well written to avoid harsh judgements, eye rolls, exasperated sighs, and laughs of derision. Poorly written tropes become cliche, and that’s not good for the story or the reader. Unless . . .
Today, I actually laughed out loud when a trope rose from the page and slapped me hard. In fact, it may have been a trope wrapped in a cliche wrapped in a discarded sandwich wrapper. This was no brief guffaw. This was a gut busting, tears streaming down my face, never ending laugh. It was the kind of moment where you laugh again later just thinking about what made you laugh in the first place.
It was a book. Not the entire book, but a single line. The scene that includes this line had already primed me for laughter, but it was just a few words that pushed me over the edge. And those words were:
“He was the maestro, but I was the instrument.”
Melodramatic much?! The book has been pretty melodramatic so far. How melodramatic is it? It is whispered ghost stories around a campfire. The ones that end with a whimper instead of a bang. It is creeping through the jungle in designer knee high leather boots while loudly shushing your companions over your shoulder because the dinosaurs might hear you, but it turns out that you are actually shushing the dinosaur, and all of your friends have already run away. The audience laughs. It is the shy ugly duckling with a heart of gold who turns out to be a beautiful duckling who overcomes her shyness in order to win the role of Juliet in the school's spring production of Romeo & Juliet. Because spring is about love, and (apparently) so is Romeo & Juliet. It is Lois Lane armed with a mini notebook, a pen, and a plucky attitude walking into secret lair filled with murderous gun runners. Her life is on the line until "here he comes to save the day!" Are you exhausted? I'm exhausted.
Honestly, I’m happy for the laugh because until that moment there was little pleasure in reading this book. I was feeling things, but not the kinds of things an author hopes you feel while reading something they are rightfully proud of producing. I’m feeling things like:
This is a YA book, but it feels like the first-person narrator is on their deathbed revealing the secrets of the manor to her middle aged children. Middle aged children who are only humoring their dying mother while awaiting their ascendency to wealth.
It feels like one of those joint efforts between PBS Masterpiece and BBC, but not one of the good ones. The ones where you welcome instead of fight the sleep. In fact, I keep thinking this could have been a Masterpiece production circa olden times.
Why isn’t anything happening?
I’m on chapter 12 is this building to something? Is this still exposition?
What’s the conflict? Is there a conflict? I see poor choices and bad decisions and naïveté, but no conflicts.
I’m so bored.
How cool! I'm loving the occasional use of movie dialogue throughout the book. It's like little Easter Eggs, and a great call back to the game she played with her father. Cute.
I'm so bored.
It may seem like I've judged this book and found it wanting, but that isn't the case. I'm still holding off on making a final judgement because reading, like life, is a box of chocolates
P.S. By the way, in regards to the girl and the dinosaurs. Her friends really left because she looked so stupid wearing knee high fancy boots and skinny cargos on a jungle trek. Their fear of being eaten by dinosaurs was secondary. I mean . . . that's why I would have left.