On Green Eyes and Crooked Smiles

Today I’d like to talk about tropes in YA fiction (hence my title). Have you noticed that lots of people in YA books have green eyes and/or crooked smiles? I mean, even Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars has one of these smiles. How does it even work?

ImageOf the many many people in our world, I’m pretty sure 99.9435% of the green-eyed ones live in YA books. What’s up with that? There’s probably a point to be made about diversity here, but I’m not going to go into that. I want to talk about originality.

I’ve got this weird thing about one-word titles. To me, they all sound the same. They sound like the same genre, the same tone, the same style of writing, the same overused cliches like green eyes and crooked smiles. Of course, this isn’t the case: I’ve just had bad experiences with those kinds of titles in the past. But one-word titles provide a nice metaphor: the fact that YA books, recently, tend to fall into nice neat boxes, usually with some romantic love tossed into the mix.

There are more cliches, of course: the Bitchy Cheerleader, the Douchebag Jock, the Ordinary Main Character Who Turns Out To Be Extraordinary, the Love Triangle…there are so many.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a reason they’re tropes – it’s because, if they’re used right, they work well. I’m fully prepared to read about a love triangle if it’s done well.

Then other times I kind of…

Dr Cox banging head gifSince when do teenagers fit into such neat boxes? If most teens are like the ones I know then they are WAY TOO COMPLICATED for my tiny little brain to comprehend. We fight over stupid things. We get stressed over stupid things. We feel amazingly happy over stupid things, and that’s great! It’s all part of the experience.

Following on from my post the other day, I want to read all different kinds of YA books. I don’t want to read about girls captivated by boys with green hair and crooked smiles. In some books, I don’t want to read about love at all.

I want to read about love, hate, anger, sadness, loneliness, jubilance, friendship, sacrifice, adventure, cowardice, bravery; blue eyes, brown eyes, black eyes, yellow eyes, purple eyes for all I care; crooked smiles and straight smiles and friendly smiles and sad smiles and smiles that are really only a cover for anger.

There is SO MUCH to write about when you write for teens – so much that we are all experiencing. Why stick to tropes? Make your own story. I assure you, us teens won’t begrudge the lack of green eyes and crooked smiles.

Yours loonily,

Emily M.


14 thoughts on “On Green Eyes and Crooked Smiles

  1. Yes! I’m not the only one whose sick of boys with crooked smiles. Apparently, it is *the most attracive quality in teen boys–at least according to contemporary YA.

    That being said, some of my favorite books feature boys with crooked smiles. Oh, well.

    Another pet peeve is outrageously large vocab words tossed into a first person narration. The writer gets away with it by saying “they were studying for the SAT.” Why not just stick to the character’s usual vocab, or write characters who routinely use multisyllablic words?

    • Same with me! They just HAD to put it in The Fault in Our Stars 😛

      I know what you mean about the large vocab as well – kind of the other end of the scale. Most of the time it doesn’t sound natural at all.

  2. I’ve always wondered what a crooked smile looks like. Is it like a smirk, but not snarky? Or is there a literal bend in his mouth? If that’s the case, they might want to consult a doctor. All jokes aside, you’re spot on with the whole “Teens don’t fit into boxes” thing. Everyone’s different! One word titles also get on my nerves a lot, especially when they start with “un-.” I like titles with more words because I feel like they convey more meaning. The Fault in Our Stars is the perfect example (and I’ll forgive his crooked smile this time.) Great post!

    • I don’t know how it works! If I’m describing someone in my head, it’s like, “oh, that dude has pimples in a really cool shape,” or “woah, there is an awesome flip going on with that girl’s hair.” I don’t even know the eye colour of most of my family members.

      Hopefully I’ll overcome my fear of one-word titles some day, but I feel like they just encourage stereotypes. But yeah, I’ll give Augustus his crooked smile, even if I am a LITTLE biased.

      Glad you liked my post, and thanks for commenting! 🙂

      • Speaking of hair! When you wrote about girls being captivated by green hair and crooked smiles, I laughed. I know you probably meant to say green eyes, but now I really want to read a book where the love interest has green hair.

  3. I SO HEAR YOU. This bugs me so much…it seems YA writers get stuck on something that “was” good and then they forget to expand. I’m REALLY tired of a lot of the YA stereotypes. One that really bugs me is “I’m deep, but my best friend is shallow.” GOSH. STOP. Is anyone really truly shallow? Doesn’t that just mean you don’t know them very well yet?
    And I don’t like a lot of the one-word titles either. One’s like Resilience and Teardrop and Fallen….um. So generic. >_< (Though I do like Divergent, and may just have a soft spot for all the ones in the Lunar Chronicles. XD)

    • Oh yeah, the shallow friend! And why are they always described as an excitable puppy? I like Divergent too, because it tells you something about the book. Things like “Resilience” could describe almost any book out there. But other people love them, so I’ll try not to be too harsh 🙂

  4. Haha that picture is perfect. That is what I’m going to think of every time I read “crooked smile” now haha.

    Seriously though why is it eyes that always have to be the focus of any description? Also eyes with gold flecks. I have seen way too much of those. Who looks at eyes close enough to see gold flecks? Most of the people I know don’t even know other people’s eye colour.

    And there are way too many one word titles in YA. I know it’s like a marketing technique or something but expanded titles can say so much more and can have so much more of an impact than a title like “Gone” which have like, 400 other books named the same thing anyway.

    • It’s also what I’m going to think every time I read about crooked smiles – I won’t be able to get it out of my head! I don’t think about eye colours, either. As I mentioned 😛

      But yeah, it seems like the bookish market is being flooded by one-word titles at the moment. It makes it hard for books to stand out – you’d think that would be a bad choice, not a good one, but who knows.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment! 🙂

  5. AGREED. I feel so bad for writing such a simple response, but you don’t give me much to challenge. I mean, I donno if the title issue is affecting me as much – I hadn’t even realised it was a trend now – but in terms of all that you want to read and more… well… yeah. That’s it. I agree.

    • Much as I like arguing, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this! Don’t worry about leaving a simple reply – every comment on one of my posts gets me smiling 🙂

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