When I was a kid, there were certain tropes that appeared over and over again in my literature. Here is a list of some of the ones I detested.
1. When the book made statements about the way that “grown-ups” are silly.
Example: “Grown-up people find it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they have what they call proof.” (From Five Children and It by E. Nesbit)
I guess this is intended to make children feel like the author is on their side or something, but I found it terribly annoying and condescending. Like, duh. Obviously you, the writer, are a grown-up, so why are you putting grown-ups down?
2. When, in the midst of some particularly interesting happening or another, a character would blurt out, “this is just like a book!”
Again, duh. I always felt like the author was insulting my intelligence. Of course it’s just like a book, because it is a book.
Both of the two annoying phrases mentioned above appeared with astonishing frequency in older books, but I don’t see them much nowadays. Maybe it was just a weird fad for a while, and then all the kids who had to grow up reading those phrases became writers and editors and quickly abolished the practice?
3. When a character tried to give themselves a make-over, or change themselves in some way, but by the end of the book they decided to just “be themselves” and go back to being the way they were.
I found this SO frustrating. Why weren’t these characters ever allowed to become beautiful and interesting and cool at the end?
And not gonna lie, of all the messages that the media hammered into me, I found “be yourself” to be the stupidest one. It was everywhere, and it made no sense. Like, how could you NOT be yourself? And how on earth could getting a make-over and wearing cuter clothes mean you’re suddenly not yourself? And if you have a chance to change yourself to make yourself awesomer, how could that possibly be a bad thing?
I get the concept now, and I do think a lot of young people struggle with just being their authentic selves, even if I didn’t, but I still think the concept is WAY overdone.
(Wow, maybe I shouldn’t have put the “as a kid” qualifier in the title. Even now as I write this, I want to put every other word in ALL CAPS to EXPLAIN the INTENSITY of my emotion about it, haha.)
4. People getting a chance for a grand spectacular life change and then not taking it.
Maybe this only happened in Caddie Woodlawn. Caddie and her family got a chance to be like, fancy rich people in England or something, right at the end of the book. And they decided to keep on being pioneers instead.
As far as I know, I am the only one that was upset by that ending. I just really thought it would be cool to be a fancy person in England, I guess.
5. Wishes that go wrong
In most books that involve wishes, the wishes don’t turn out very well. Like King Midas, wishing for everything he touched to turn to gold, and then accidentally turning his daughter to gold.
A version of this shows up in most children’s books where wishes come true. It frustrated me to no end. Couldn’t the wish just be amazing and fun for once?
In fact, these last three things I’ve mentioned have had a similar theme. It was almost as if the books I read were telling me, “be content with the normal and ordinary. The spectacular isn’t that great.”
But if I wanted normal and ordinary, I wouldn’t be reading a book, now would I?
And, finally, I got super creeped out and annoyed every time I encountered…
6. Younger girls who marry way older guys
This is something that came up when I wrote about the shady stuff in old books. A few people mentioned the way that Dean Priest had pursued Emily in L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series.
Oooooooh, suddenly I remembered how angry that pairing had made me, even though it all (thankfully) came to nothing, and Emily ended up where she belonged, with Teddy. I still remember being sick, on the couch, reading a paperback version of Emily’s Quest, and just, oh, the horrible misery of that book as it took her forever to get un-engaged to Dean, and even longer to finally, FINALLY end up with Teddy.
I hated the older-guy younger-girl thing every time I encountered it. Robin McKinley was particularly bad at this. And back to L.M. Montgomery, I remember starting to read A Tangled Web, because Mom loved it and really wanted me to read it, and starting to feel uneasy about Gay’s relationships.
“She’s not gonna end up with Roger, is she?” I asked Mom.
“Um, well, he’s really nice!” said Mom.
I hastily closed the book and refused to finish it.
I’m not exactly sure why this bothered me so badly. I think the older-guy younger-girl thing felt super manipulative to me. And also, I couldn’t imagine being attracted to someone who was that much older than me.
So, there’s my list. What did you hate reading about when you were a kid?