Changes coming to MOBIUS soon! Find out more.

The Midtown Carnegie Branch Library elevator from the basement to the 2nd floor is not operational. Please ask a staff member if you need assistance. The branch will close for renovations May 6. Find out more.

Search Options


Season 4, Episode 2

Book Cliches We Can't Get Enough of

January 20, 2022

Tropes, no matter how bad, cheesy, or tired, we're here for it. Tune in for this humorous conversation! Book recommendations for young adult and middle grade readers.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

h Find title on Hoopla


Charity 0:01 This is Charity and Jen of Planet Book brought to you by the Springfield-Greene County Library District. On each episode we discuss our favorite YA and middle grade books, and anything else having to do with reading. Got a book or topic you'd like to hear us talk about, email us at Thanks for joining us. Hey, Jen.

Jen 0:17 Hey, how you doing today?

Charity 0:19 Good. I am looking forward to this conversation. Really, I look forward to all of them. But today we're talking about book cliches and tropes that we love.

Jen 0:29 Do you want to start? Or would you like me to start?

Charity 0:33 I am happy to start. I kind of had a hard time with this because I like the things that I like, and I guess I don't think of them as cliches. But I did a lot of YA reading this past year. And looking at some of my favorite YA titles that I've read, a common theme ran through. I love a book where the protagonist has a dark secret that has to be revealed, and you're just waiting through that book to find out like, what's their dark secret? What's the twist? And usually those books are kind of dark, they're kind of sinister. I'm thinking-oh what's one-There's Someone Inside Your House was one by Stephanie Perkins. Oh, I just read one called Never Saw Me Coming. That's actually adult fiction. But that was a really good one.

Jen 1:23 It's adult fiction, because I'm going to include some adult fiction in mine that I feel is accessible. And some of the adult fiction I'm including has actually won YA awards. So in our library it's categorized as adult.

Charity 1:36 Yes, it's hard on here to talk about books, because there's so much overlap between genres. But that's one of mine. If there's a dark secret, I'm immediately intrigued, and I'm probably going to pick that book up and read it because I want to know the dark secret.

Jen 1:51 Well, this, this will piggyback really well upon yours. And it's called good for her. Have you seen the meme? And it's the mom from Arrested Development, and in the series Arrested Development, like they'll say a woman did something super horrible, and instead of responding like, oh, no, she's like, good for her. So a person on Twitter shared a screenshot of movies where the women have kind of either been underestimated and then just cause mass chaos by the end of the book. And it actually, in my opinion, an old classic that is-I read it in my teens was Carrie by Stephen King, 1974. She's pretty much picked on and has a horrible home life. And then at the end, everybody is in trouble. So and then we spoke to Rory Power and then in some ways, both of the books we talked about Wilder Girls and Burn Our Bodies Down kind of end with a good for her scenario, because they're stories about young women that are either being- in one situation they're quarantined, and then they kind of escape and mass havoc, or the mom wouldn't tell her anything and that's kind of a dark secret.

Charity 3:16 Oh yeah, yeah.

Jen 3:17 Like yours, like what's this dark secret we're going to find out.

Charity 3:19 Yeah, that's a really good example.

Jen 3:20 And then mass chaos. Again, dark as well.

Charity 3:25 Well, that kind of, you know, we'll just keep piggybacking off of each other, because I was gonna say revenge stories. And so that kind of, to me, goes along with, like, good for her. And I read a couple recently that the protagonist, they exact their revenge, and really, that's the whole book. It's just them getting their revenge. And it's like, yes. Iit's something so cathartic about it, like living out your own revenge fantasies through these book characters.

Jen 3:54 Oh, I know. I love it. We're not supposed to love revenge because nothing good comes with revenge. But you gotta love a good revenge story. Right?

Charity 4:01 You do. You do.

Jen 4:03 I can't help it. I can't help it. I can't help it. I just love a good revenge as well.

Charity 4:08 I read a book recently where the character is, you know, not the most likable character, but she's exacting her revenge. And when you finally see that moment, come, it's like, you're like good for her. Like, you're cheering for her. Like, yes, she did it. And you know, the guy deserved it, he, you know, what was coming to him. But, you know, it's like, I think there's something I don't know, like, cathartic and like a relief, to see that happen,

Jen 4:37 Especially since like, they seem powerless for a good portion of the story because of the way everyone's treating them. And by the time they reclaim their power, it's enjoyable.

Charity 4:50 Maybe that's really what it's about, though, because those stories do feature women reclaiming their power, and owning their space and standing up for themselves. And I like to read about characters like that.

Jen 5:06 Yeah, and I wanted to add two more titles. These were the adult adult titles that I was talking about that would fall under my good for her category and one is Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare. It's about a city girl that moves to the country, like a small town around here. I think it's set in Illinois, but it could have been Missouri. And these small town people there's like clowns everywhere because of a factory that was prevalent in the time. So it's like scary clowns and farm parties in the cornfield and everything goes crazy. And then by the end again, mass chaos.

Charity 5:49 Yes.

Jen 5:50 You're gonna get some blood and guts, a lot of blood and guts in this one. That might be why SGCL categorized it as adult but it actually won the horror award for teen. So then there was also My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones.

Charity 6:05 Oh yes. That's been on my list. I haven't read it yet.

Jen 6:07 And the main character Lila is obsessed with horror movies. I think she references at least 171 horror movies. But she's kind of like the outsider, not popular not, you know, she's definitely down on herself. And so by the end, she's really the star of the show, kind of a Final Girl. But I think even with the good for her trope, they go beyond Final Girls because then they've basically kind of stepped it up a notch from Final Girl.

Charity 6:37 Well, listening to you made me realize that I like those stories where there is mass chaos. I enjoy those moments. And I'm one of those people who I always just like to lay my cards on the table. Let's have the hard conversation. And so, again, it feels like, I guess a relief to me to see characters in a story they're just putting it all out there. And you know, if the whole world crumbles, then it crumbles. But it's all out there. And I like that those-I mean, that's very entertaining, even in movies like that could be a whole other episode where we talk about movie tropes that we love.

Jen 7:16 That brings me to well, it's your turn. What's your next?

Charity 7:22 Okay, well, one of my other ones is I love an odd couple in a book. So a story where there's like someone- one character who's really funny and then kind of there another character, usually it's a friend, but who plays it deadpan and serious. And those are just like-when I want something light hearted and funny the books that I enjoy usually have that character dynamic in them. And gosh, those are just hilarious to me. Again, this is an adult fiction title, but YA could read it too, The Guncle. Did you read that one?

Jen 7:59 No, I haven't read The Guncle.

Charity 8:01 It is hilarious. And the protagonist, the guy who plays the Guncle, gay uncle, is the funny guy. And he is raising his niece and nephew. And they play kind of the serious characters. And but the juxtaposition of some of the character who's really humorous versus one who's not. It's just so enjoyable for me. So I like the odd couple.

Jen 8:31 I love a good odd couple as well. And I mean, we grew up in the 80s so that was pretty much most of the comedies.

Charity 8:37 That's true. Like every sitcom, every comedy.

Jen 8:42 Every cop buddy movie. You got the great guy, you got the slacker.

Charity 8:46 Yes, yes.

Jen 8:47 I even enjoy the odd couple in terms of like romance because if anything really all you have to do is find someone that gets your sense of humor and a lot of times that's not on the face. Like it's good to have the extrovert kind of humor then undercut with the introvert like deadpan humor. Because two extroverts is almost too much.

Charity 9:13 Yeah, you do kind of need the foil of one more outgoing character with an introverted character.

Jen 9:21 Well, I'm gonna bring us back to the dark. Because I should have just said this when we were talking about it. But I love a good battle royale. And my son's been obsessed with Squid Games on Netflix. So Battle Royale is like you've got a group of people and only one will come out alive. And there's actually a Japanese novel Battle Royale that kind of is the epitome, like the top of the game in terms of that and that's middle schoolers on an island, but it is very much adult horror so you would have to be a mature reader to get that one.

Charity 9:59 Would you describe-would you put Hunger Games in that category?

Jen 10:02 Hunger Games is definitely a battle royale. And I can take this again back to Stephen King, the Long Walk or the Running Man. Like both of those I read in seventh or eighth grade. I had this English teacher Priscilla Arns. And some of our listeners might know her because I think she ended up teaching in Springfield and probably won like Teacher of the Year or something. She was an amazing teacher, but she had just a bookshelf that you could take and go. You didn't have to actually sign things out. And I remember getting a Richard Bachman because that's who Stephen King was writing under and reading the Bachman anthology she had and it was The Long Walk. The Long Walk is about a group of boys in the future who are in this competition, basically, the last one standing, you can't go below a certain pace. And once you do, they start shooting you. So it's like, who can survive this horrific thing? And then usually the survivor kind of takes down the horrible people that arranged this, like, why are we arranging this?

Charity 11:11 Okay, well, I hadn't thought of that. But I too, I would say I too, like the battle royale. Because that feeds into so many of the-kind of the dystopian genre you see that a lot in dystopian. So like Hunger Games, and I'm thinking like Maze Runner, some of those. And I think because that is so far removed from me personally, like I would not survive in the Hunger Games like I probably would've been the first one killed. So I enjoy reading those.

Jen 11:40 Right.

Charity 11:41 It's like, okay, who's gonna make it? What are they gonna do? And they're scheming and yeah, those-

Jen 11:46 I think it's a really cool way for these writers to kind of take a few jabs at the capitalist nature. Like it's dog eat dog rat race.

Charity 11:55 Yes, yes.

Jen 11:57 That kind of thing. So it takes that to an extreme and, and by taking it to such an extreme, it is a fun critique. Like, I don't know if fun is the right word, watching all these young people kill each other, but-

Charity 12:09 It's an engrossing critique maybe. Well, and often in those stories, it's the underdog who ends up coming out on top. And, like, who doesn't like an underdog? So-

Jen 12:22 Right? And then usually they're like, this wasn't what I wanted. Like when they do come out on top. They're like, ew.

Charity 12:31 I love the battle royale, seeing the underdog come out on top. But then I want them to own that. It's like, you won. Own that. Enjoy your win, you know.

Jen 12:44 Yeah, that's why the Hunger Games was so much fun because they like won and then like, tried to get rid of the system. Totally. So that's fun. What about any other tropes that you're fond of?

Charity 12:55 Well, I do have one more. And this one you see more in middle grade. But, and this might sound weird coming from like a children's librarian, but I love stories with absentee parents. So I'm thinking of like the Willoughby's by Lois Lowry. Obviously, Series of Unfortunate Events is a great example.

Jen 13:14 Harry Potter.

Charity 13:16 Harry Potter. The parents aren't there or they are really ineffective in their job of parenting. And so the kids are kind of on their own. I enjoy those stories. Usually the kids -well, often they are in dangerous situations. And I don't want to say I enjoy it, because it sounds weird. But I want to read those stories to see, like, how clever those kids are. How do they get out of those situations? How do they make it? So give me a book with an absentee parent and I will read it.

Jen 13:49 That's one of when I was kind of looking at the tropes that was one of them. Where are these kids' parents? You know, like, these, usually they are dead, is the thing. Like the parents have died. Kids are on their own. That does make for a good way for an author to just like really center this in a child's world without having to worry about the adults. So, I can definitely see the appeal, especially as a writer.

Charity 14:21 Oh, yeah. And usually those stories so like the Willoughby's and Series of Unfortunate Events, in both cases, I mean, there's a dark element because like those kids are in really dangerous situations. But there's some tongue in cheek to it. There's, you know, they're a little sarcastic. They're witty, they're fun.

Jen 14:39 And have you ever been to a party with a mixed age group of people? And it is amazing. If you're listening to the kids in the room, how they're the ones saying the smartest things. They're the ones that kind of have the clearest perspective. And so I love to see them get the you know, see somebody show that, because I think in reality, kids are really observant in a way that adults just aren't anymore because we're thinking about so many other things.

Charity 15:08 Yes, resilient, and I think they are much more capable than we give them credit for, and so you see that in those stories, too.

Jen 15:17 Definitely. Well, okay, so you have dead parents.

Charity 15:21 Dead parents.

Jen 15:22 I'm gonna go with tragic love, and go back to Miss Arn's seventh and eighth grade class. We had to read Romeo and Juliet and it was paired with West Side Story. So that was my first taste of tragic love. But it's recently morphed into like Fault in Our Stars, you know, terminal illness.

Charity 15:46 Do you like Fault in Our Stars?

Jen 15:48 I did like Fault in Our Stars.

Charity 15:50 Well, here's another book we're gonna disagree on. But this is you. Go ahead, Jen.

Jen 15:59 Did you just not like John Green's writing style or-

Charity 16:02 Well, yes, I am not a huge fan of his writing style. But I think I don't like the tragic love angle. But this is your trope that you love. So go-

Jen 16:14 And that brings me to one of the-it's a 2017 title, but I've read it just in the past month, and it's They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera. And basically, I think anything he does is adjacent to this trope in some way.

Charity 16:22 I have got to put that one on my list because it sounds so good.

Jen 16:28 But I've never wanted it. It was so explicit it was going to be tragic. But then like, by the end, you're like, oh, please don't be tragic. Please don't be tragic. But even if it is, you get to see these people. And that is, I think, why I like it. Because usually, the people in these tragic romances know there's an expiration date on their romance. And so they're able to be upfront, show who they really are. There's no reason for pretense. There's no reason for deception. They are who they are, because they've only got a short amount of time. And that's probably the true appeal is that you don't have to worry about characters being super deceptive to each other. And it's better to have something really great for a small amount of time. You know, quality over quantity.

Charity 17:20 That's an interesting take on that trope. Okay, well, that's all the tropes I have for today.

Jen 17:28 Me too.

Charity 17:29 This has been fun. Listeners share with us your own favorite, bad, cheesy, whatever tropes that you love at Jen, thanks for joining me again for another fun episode.

Jen 17:40 Bye bye.

Charity 17:41 Thanks for joining us for another episode. Send us your book and show suggestions or comments to We'd love to hear from you. Check out the library's website at for these and other great book recommendations, and follow us on Facebook for the latest news and events. This has been a production of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Thanks for listening.

Let us help you find your next read! Click for details.

Contact Us

Feedback, thoughts, ideas for episodes? Let us know!