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An Exploration of the Best Tropes in Books

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

what are book tropes?

Tropes are loose scenarios that occur across fiction. There are so many tropes out there. They range from things like enemies to lovers, to absent parents, to lover triangles. More tropes are popular than others, and certain tropes tend to go in and out of style.

Love triangles used to be super popular. Think of books like Twilight, people loved picking team Edward or Jacob. Currently, enemies to lovers is one of the most popular tropes. Tropes make picking new reads easier because if there is an aspect of the book that I know I love, I am immediately more intrigued.

enemies to lovers

This is one of the most popular tropes at the moment and for good reason. I love this trope with my whole heart. There is something about watching two characters go from hating one another to hating that they like one another to loving one another.

Enemies to lovers is at its prime when it is done slowly and meticulously and when they genuinely hate one another. I do not want any “we hate each other, but actually, he just annoys me”. I want actual hatred between the characters. This makes the development into lovers that much more intriguing.

One of my favorite books with the enemies to lovers trope is The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. This is a trilogy and it follows Jude Duarte, a mortal girl living in the faerie world. Cardan Greenbriar, a fey prince, seems to have it out for Duarte for no apparent reason. The series follows Durate and Greenbriar navigating the politics of the faerie world and also going from hating one another to loving one another. I am obsessed with the romance and the characters. It is a must-read.

Academic rivals (to lovers)

This coincides with enemies to lovers and is one of my favorite tropes of all time.

Seeing the competitive energy between the characters with an underlying layer of romantic tension is such an intriguing plotline. I love watching them constantly try to one-up each other, but wondering why they are trying so hard to beat the other. It is always guaranteed to have me on the edge of my seat and wanting more.

The best book with this trope is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. It is a classic and set the blueprint for this trope. This story takes place in the early 1870s on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Anne, the main character, is adopted by the Cuthberts and attends school with the other children in the area. Gilbert Blythe and Anne are the two smartest in the class and constantly are trying to one-up the other. They grow up as academic rivals and it eventually turns into something more.

secret identities

This is my favorite trope of all time and is one of the most underrated tropes.

I love watching characters fall in love with each other through secret identities and not being aware when they see one another in person. It gets even better when the characters are crushing on each other in real life and through their secret identities. It creates so much good romantic tension. I am so obsessed with this trope.

One of my favorite books with this trope is Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum. This book follows Jessie, who transfers to a new school. After her first week at school, she receives an email from an anonymous person calling themself Somebody Nobody (SN) and telling Jessie that they will help guide her through her new high school. A friendship blooms between the two and then something more.

Chosen one

This trope is a classic and definitely makes my favorites list. I love the idea that there is a chosen one who is capable of saving everyone. I especially love when there is a prophecy about the chosen one.

Although this trope tends to be really cliche, I like that about it. I love watching the character stumble upon a fantastical world they were unaware of and then slowly they become the center of the conflict in that world. They are the only one that can solve it.

Before I give my book recommendation for this trope, the show She-Ra and the Princesses of Power executes this trope so beautifully. It also has one of my favorite enemies to lovers plotlines in TV shows.

A series that executes the chosen one trope beautifully is Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. This is a pretty basic recommendation and the series is really popular, but for good reason. This book follows Percy, a twelve-year-old, who finds out he is a demigod. Percy ends up at the center of a prophecy that will destroy or save Mt. Olympus.

forbidden romance

Forbidden romance just hits different. There is something about watching characters that want to be together so badly, but they cannot. This trope is iconic, mostly due to Romeo and Juliet being such a famous story.

Forbidden romance creates so much tension over the course of the relationship. There is the element of whether they will get caught, whether they should even be together in the first place or if their relationship is going to work out. I love forbidden romances because the characters usually love so much that they would do anything for the other. They have the ‘I would burn the world down just to save you’ energy.

One of my favorite series with forbidden romance is The Dark Artifices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. This follows Emma and Julian, who grew up with one another. This fantasy series has a bond called parabatai, which binds two people to be closer than humanly possible, which allows for them to be extremely coordinated in battle. Emma and Julian became parabatai at the age of twelve, and the story follows them when they are seventeen and are falling in love with each other. But parabatai are not allowed to fall in love. It is so good and filled with so much tension and pining. I highly recommend it.

Also a big thank you to @abookishwasp on Instagram for letting me use their photo!

fake dating

I am a sucker for fake dating in books.

I love when they are pretending to be in a relationship and then real feelings get involved, but they are scared to admit them. I love watching them overanalyze whether or not a kiss involved real feelings. The scenes where they confess having true feelings for one another are always so good.

One of my favorite books involving fake dating is Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan. If you were on Book TikTok this summer, you have probably heard of this book. It is 100% worth the hype. This book follows Karina, who has strict parents. Karina’s parents take a trip to Bangladesh for a month, and Karina ends up tutoring Ace, the school’s bad boy. In order to cover up that Ace is being tutored, they start fake dating. In exchange, Ace agrees to buy Karina a dozen books a week. Of course, real feelings end up getting involved. This book is so addicting and so good.

Why tropes are great

I love tropes in books. Once I knew what tropes I liked, it made looking for book recommendations so much easier. Although some tropes are more enjoyable than others, the concept of tropes is extremely beneficial to determining if you want to spend time reading a book. Tropes may get repetitive for some people, but I love seeing authors interpret the same trope differently. Although the same scenario is depicted, the details of the scenario are altered to fit the author’s style and overall vibe.

I highly recommend finding book recommendations based on the tropes you enjoy. Tropes occur across media, so identifying that your favorite TV show has the enemies to lovers trope can help you to find a book you may really enjoy.

Talking about tropes is so interesting to me, I hope you learned more about tropes you like or dislike (and maybe got a good book recommendation out of it).

Allison Conkey

Kent State '23

Hello! I’m Allison and I’m a junior at Kent State majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in psychology. I am a cat mom (and a cat aunt!) and most of my free time is spent reading. I enjoy hiking, spending time with friends, and taking life in at my own pace.
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