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These YA Romance Book Tropes Are Why My Standards Are Too High

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UGA chapter.

I’m a dedicated book lover for many reasons.

For one, I love escaping into new worlds. Especially this past year during the pandemic, I’ve found that escaping from reality by immersing into a book was one of the best ways to entertain myself. 

I also love getting to know new characters. Whether I relate to them, hate them, or crush on them (see: the body of this article), it’s always fun to shift away from your own perspective for a little while and experience the world as a character sees it. 

But, granted, not all of my reasons are so profound. Sometimes, I just want to read so that I can crush on a fictional man who I know won’t disappoint me, unlike every man I know IRL. 

Hot take: Male love interests in books are worlds better than male love interests in real life. 

Don’t believe me? Here are some of my favorite traits in my book boyfriends that I will always hope to find in a real-life man, but know that I never will. Rest in peace, my love life.

When he has undying love.

“I can offer you my life, but it is a short life; I can offer you my heart, though I have no idea how many more beats it shall sustain. But I love you enough to hope that you will not care that I am being selfish in trying to make the rest of my life—whatever length—happy, by spending it with you.” — Jem Carstairs, Clockwork Prince

I know what you’re thinking: “Plenty of people would love their SO forever!” Would they, though? Would they? 

Let’s talk about Jem Carstairs, one of the love interests in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy. These books take place in Victorian London, which is the time period in which Jem falls in love with the main character, Tessa Gray. There’s a turn of events and (spoiler alert), Jem becomes an immortal Silent Brother and can no longer be with Tessa.

So Jem goes on with his life, and Tessa goes on with hers as an immortal herself, and for almost 130 years, they spend their lives apart. That is until (spoiler alert) Jem becomes a mortal again in 2007. 

And even though Tessa spent over a century without Jem by her side, even though Jem’s feelings were heavily diluted when he was a Silent Brother, they still find their way back to each other and are as in love as they were when they were teenagers. 

Name one man who would wait 130 years for the love of his life. I’ll wait.

When he hates everyone but would tear the world apart for her.

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together—knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.” — Kaz Brekker, Crooked Kingdom

Toxic? Maybe. Endearing? Absolutely. 

Just imagine the power you’d feel if someone who, quite literally, hates absolutely everyone he comes into contact with, would go to the ends of the Earth for you.

No character fills this trope better than Kaz Brekker from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. In the fantastical Grishaverse, Kaz is the leader of a gang called The Dregs.

So you can gather what Kaz’s character is like: morally grey, a bit arrogant and snarky, self-serving and just a general rough-around-the-edges type of guy.

But not with his love interest, Inej Ghafa. He will—and has come close to—tearing the entire world apart for her. If she’s in danger, he will not rest nor allow anyone around him to rest until she is safe and sound. Being loved by a man like Kaz Brekker would be the most epic kind of love, the kind that legends and folktales are all about. I will never be upset that men like him aren’t real.

When he has foreign charm.

“Welcome to Paris, Anna. I’m glad you’ve come.” — Étienne St. Clair, Anna & the French Kiss

Seemingly less epic than many of the other tropes on this list, but not any less endearing or heartwarming. This might be just my opinion, but I genuinely think one of the most attractive things a man can do is speak a foreign language. Like, fluently? Swoon.

Étienne St. Clair from Stephanie Perkins’ novel Anna & the French Kiss is the absolute epitome of foreign charm. Though he’s technically half-British, half-American, he goes to a boarding school in Paris—which is where Anna, the main character, meets him. 

I mean, he has a British accent. He speaks French fluently. He teaches Anna about French culture. 

It’s just attractive, okay? Who doesn’t want to be swept off their feet in a foreign nation?

When he’s mysterious and enigmatic.

“He wanted to make her laugh. He wanted to sit and listen to her talk about books until his ears fell off. But all these were things he could not want, because they were things he could not have, and wanting what you could not have led to misery and madness.” — Will Herondale, Clockwork Prince

Why do you think everyone’s attracted to Scorpios? It’s not because they’re nice or sweet—it’s literally just because they’re mysterious, and for whatever reason, the general population (myself included) think that’s really hot. 

Mysterious male love interests are everywhere in young adult novels, but here I will only mention one: Will Herondale. He’s the blueprint from which all other mysterious, enigmatic male characters are derived.

Will is Tessa’s other love interest in The Infernal Devices and he’s, frankly, a jerk in the first book. He pushes everyone away, deflects with humor and snide remarks, and no one quite understands why he is the way he is.

Of course, he has a tragic backstory and feels like he’s done terrible things, so he does what any man would do: repress and take everything out on the people he cares about! Woohoo!

But—that’s why it’s exciting to unravel him, right? To peel those layers back piece by piece and reveal what’s underneath, finding that diamond in the rough. 

I never said these tropes wouldn’t be cheesy. This is incredibly cheesy. But readers come back to this trope again and again for a reason. Because learning about the softness that lies beneath a rough exterior never gets old. 

Mystery’s great, but learning what’s under the mystery is greater, and we get to do that a lot more often in books than we do in real life, if ever.

When he’s witty and sarcastic.

“It all fell into place. Aunty Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium—the lair of Medusa. She’d talked with that same accent, at least until Percy had cut off her head. 

‘Medusa is your mom?’ he asked. ‘Dude, that sucks for you.’” — Percy Jackson, The Mark of Athena

If I can’t have A+ banter with a man, I don’t want him. Done and done. 

Especially after the wit and humor I’ve read in Rick Riordan’s books, I really expect nothing else from an SO. Like, it’s Percy Jackson level humor or nothing. 

But there really isn’t anything more fun than banter, quick-witted back and forth conversation, and you’re just sitting there, taking it all in, screaming, “Just kiss already!” 

As mentioned before, Percy Jackson is one of the prime examples of wit and sarcasm. Honestly, all of Rick Riordan’s characters are witty and sarcastic, but Percy’s special because he’s the OG. He’s hilarious and we love him for it. Why can’t all men be Percy?

Well, there you have it: all of the YA book tropes that explain why my standards are too high. Maybe I’ll find someone who meets them someday, but until then, I’ll be on Goodreads.

Nimra studies International Affairs and Journalism at the University of Georgia. She's a first-generation Pakistani-American who loves reading, astrology, Taylor Swift, and daydreaming.