Actually, this is more of a question, a call to the universe if you will. What truly are the clichés that are specific to young adult fiction, and not those taken from other sources?
1. trite: stereotyped expression, sentence or phrase, usually expressing popular or common thought or idea that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse; sadder but wiser, strong as an ox
2. trite or hackneyed plot, character development, use of color, musical expression, etc.
3. anything that has become trite or commonplace through overuse.
I think there are many clichés that appear all over the literary landscape, that the use of color or a musical reference isn’t purely a young adult thing, but I’m hard pressed to come up with anything truly YA.
Rebellion against authority?
Bully Boys and Queen Bees?
The nerdy kid who saves the day/wins the prize/is accepted by the crowd?
I know that for middle grade novels I have grown weary of the boy-girl friendship where the girl is a sidekick who is smarter than the boy but lets him think he’s figured things out for himself. This is generally coupled with the equally annoying mystery story where some plucky kids manage to solve some mystery no adult could.
This whole idea has been rolling around in my head since I saw the interview with Maurice Sendak by Stephen Colbert where the faux conservative attempted to reduce the basic idea behind picture books to a simple formula:
Sendak: You know the formula
Colbert: You just need an animal… and something they’ve lost
Sendak: Well, yes, most books for children are very bad
Colbert: A squirrel lost their mittens.
Sendak: There you go.
Colbert: The buffalo lost its gun
Sendak: You’ve just written two children’s books
Kidding aside, is the lost-and-found story in picture books fits the “trite or commonplace through overuse” definition of cliché, yet it seems to elemental at the same time. So, with YA, in the end when the boy gets the girl (or girl gets the boy, or boy-boy, girl-girl, &c.) are we looking at a cliché? When our heroic main character saves the day or conquers their fear or achieves their goal, cliché?
Is writing for children simply a question of cliché management?
No, really, I’m asking. What sort of clichés do you see? What are the things a YA story can’t seem to be successful without these days? All comments and answers appreciated.