Discussions Only We Know
Today we’re talking about repetitive themes in books. I was going to ask if there are any repetitive themes in the books you read, but I already know the answer to that. The answer is yes. And I know that because there are repetitive themes in the books I read. That coupled with the fact that there is nothing new under the sun. So I guess the real question is what are the repetitive themes that you’ve noticed lately, and are you getting tired of them? Or do you think these themes are necessary?
(*NOTE: The statistics listed below are completely made up and probably exaggerated, but I think you get my point. Except for the ones where I link to an actual article.)
Ok...so Young Adult and New Adult books have a LOT of repetitive themes. I could spend days talking about each one, I'm sure.
Love triangles for one. People usually love them or hate them. I don't outright hate love triangles. As a matter of fact, some of them I really enjoy. I've noticed in the majority of the books I've read with love triangles there are two hot guys going after one girl. And the majority of those have ended with the girl still being in love with the first guy introduced to the story. The love triangles that work for me are the ones that include out growing one relationship which leads into moving toward a more mature relationship. As I said in my Top Ten Things I Dislike About Fictional Romance post, I think you can love two people at one time, but not in the same way. So love triangles that don't work for me have the main character head over heels in love with one character, but when in a situation with the other member of the triangle all thoughts of the other guy are out the window. (Love triangles that don't work for me: the Cambion series by Shannon Dermott and Unravel Me (Shatter Me, # 2) by Tahereh Mafi. *Note, I've not read the last book in either of these series, so the final book could sway my opinion on these triangles.) I actually did an entire post on Love Triangles That Worked For Me and Ones That Didn't.
How about bullying? Bullying has been such a hot button topic in the world of late. Bullying is a big problem, but I wonder if part of the problem is that we're not teaching our kids how to handle being bullied. But that's a different subject for a different kind of post. Bullying was present in 9 out of 10 YA books published through the years of 2012-2013 and 8 out of 10 published in 2014. The majority of the bullying I read during these years were gay kids being bullied. (Ex: Speechless by Hannah Harrington & Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend (Confessions, # 2) by Louise Rozett) Which leads into the next repetitive them...
Homosexuality is present in maybe not the majority of YA books that I've read over the past three years, but it is definitely present in a large portion of those books. The book might not be about a main character that is gay, but there is some character, somewhere within the book that is gay. With statistics showing that only 1.8% of the population of the United States reporting to be gay, the frequency of gay characters in YA & NA literature is potentially--dare I say—unrealistic. (Ex: Just One Day (Just One Day, # 1) by Gayle Forman, Hopeless (Hopeless, # 1) by Colleen Hoover, and Riot (Mayhem, # 2) by Jamie Shaw )
Within the paranormal subgenre, there always seems to be a self-sacrificing female lead character. She's put into a situation where the evil bad guy knows that they way to get what he wants is to threaten the people she loves. And inevitably the female lead will throw herself into the clutches of the evil being with no plan and no thought other than "I must save PERSONxyz." (Ex: Switched (Trylle, # 3) by Amanda Hocking & Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices, # 3) by Cassandra Clare)
This last theme has even trickled over into contemporary literature where both male and female characters will break up with their significant other “for the other’s good.” This has become such a predominant plot device used in place of real conflict that I can only roll my eyes at this point. (Ex: Blindness by Ginger Scott, Jane's Harmony (Jane's Melody, # 2) by Ryan Winfield, & Out of Breath (Breathing, # 3) by Rebecca Donovan )
While we're on the subject of protagonists or the main character, I can't tell you how many YA books I've read recently where the MC makes a blatant statement that they don't believe in God. I can understand why an author wouldn't want to include anything religious or spiritual within their work. But what I don't understand is why even bring it up at all only to say the character doesn't believe? Can we have a MC that does believe without that dominating the entire story? That is possible right? (Ex: Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes, Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover, & Invincible by Amy Reed--I feel like there are better examples than these, but this is what I found when searching my kindle. )
Let's jump to more New Adult for a second. There’s quite a debate about the new adult genre. Is it even necessary? New adult books seem very similar to YA, and often include some of the repetitive themes mentioned above, but with the addition of descriptive--though not as descriptive as straight Adult books--scenes. I can't get what Anna from Anna Reads said about the new adult genre. She said she thinks this genre should be about the process of moving from high school to college, growing away from your high school friends, finding new friends, finding yourself, learning about what you want to do with your life, moving past the high school boyfriend to finding a new/different/possibly more mature college boyfriend.
Instead, the new adult genre features play boys in 9.9 out of 10 books. These boys will sleep with any woman who will allow them access, and often statements are made that they can’t even count the number of women they’ve slept with. Yet in 100% of these 9.9 books these bad boys find the one woman in the world who they want to be faithful to. I'm not even going to give you any examples because this is like every new adult book ever.
For sure the majority of new adult books include major conflict that is truly only a misunderstanding between characters. This conflict could be easily solved by the slightest bit of communication between characters who are often willing to share their bodies but not their hearts. (Ex: Riot (Mayhem, # 2) by Jamie Shaw, Jane's Melody (Jane's Melody, # 1) by Ryan Winfield, & Lick (Stage Dive, # 1) by Kylie Scott )
I’ve recently discovered that perhaps half of the new adult books I've read recently include the main couple having a physical encounter as their first real experience with each other. Relationships are built on sex and not anything of substance. (Ex: Beautiful Redemption (The Maddox Brothers, # 1) by Jamie McGuire, Riot (Mayhem, # 2) by Jamie Shaw, & Just for Now (Sea Breeze, # 4) by Abbi Glines )
And while this isn’t the last repetitive theme out there, but this is the last one I’m going to mention today. So frequently new adult characters turn to alcohol when conflict arises and things get tough. Most of these characters take their alcohol public—usually to a club or bar—and the other portion drinks in solitude. Seeking out alcohol in order to avoid dealing with life is just not a healthy way to cope with life. I wish this wasn't such a prevalent theme in new adult books. (Ex: Believe (True Believers, # 3) by Erin McCarthy, Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, # 1) by Jamie McGuire, & Riot (Mayhem, # 2) by Jamie Shaw )
What about you guys? What are the repetitive themes that you see that get on your nerves? Have you noticed any of these themes before? Are there any major themes that I missed that you’ve noticed? Do these things not bother you? Do you ever feel like you’re reading the same book over and over again? Or does it not bother you to see a few things like this on repeat since the characters names and experiences are different?
Like I said, there really is nothing new under the sun. I think often times these themes are on repeat because they’re real. I think we all know the guy who would sleep with anyone. I think we all know the bully. We all know someone who turns to alcohol when life gets rough. And I have lived a love triangle myself. So this is one of the reasons why we see these themes so frequently. I don’t dispute that they’re often real (even if exaggerated), and thus people relate to them. But sometimes I feel like I’m reading the same book over and over again. I try to vary my reads by genre as that does often help break up repeating patterns, but sometimes the patterns travel across many genres.
What do you guys think? Have you noticed anything similar in your reading like? Let me know!