Is there a lack of romance tropes with marginalized protagonists? // We need more diverse books!!

Romance tropes, to the say the least, are slightly* very overdone.

(I mean… That’s why they’re called tropes??)

There’s the love triangle (cringe), forbidden romance, hate-to-love, friends-to-lovers… all the good stuff that you swoon over in books!

And as entertaining as those are, I feel like there’s also the issue of people being tired of these tropes? That, as much as there are books where we really enjoy these tropes, people don’t always want them as much. *cough* Love triangles *cough*

We might say it’s because they’re all the same, they’re overdone, and unoriginal or unrealistic and sure, I get that! I’ve even said it myself.

Yet as easy it is to write off love triangles or forbidden romance as being “dead” or “overdone”, SO MANY YA books containing those tropes feature the same kind of characters; allo cishet, able-bodied, white protagonists, and THAT’s my issue, more than how much tropes appear in books.

Which is what this post is all about!! I’m focusing on the appearance of queer POC protagonists in particular, but this absolutely applies to any marginalized population as well.

*VERY, in case you couldn’t detect the sarcasm ahaha

FIRST – THE TROPES.


In case you needed a little reminder of your favouritetropes!!

  • Love triangles: Usually featuring one girl and two guys who are in love with her! Extra Stereotypical Points if one guy is super sweet and caring and the other is the broody bad-boy (If you haven’t read one of these YOU ARE LYING)
  • Friends-to-lovers: Um what else do I say here… but often very cute! Though what I often dislike is when it’s like “they’ve been friends for years” and so when the book start the character is like already in love with their love interest even though we’ve hardly seen any reason WHY or any development?? like off I understand how people who’ve been friends forever can fall in love, that’s super cute but in a book it so often feels like lazy writing??
  • Insta-love: STAY AWAY STAY AWAY STAY AWAY
  • Hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers: The angst! The tension! The best!
  • Forbidden romance: Similar to the star-crossed lovers, but not necessarily the same? But you know the drill, there’s always something that’s preventing this couple from getting together! But it can be sooooo good
  • Star-crossed lovers: (too much) angst!! Passionate kissing scenes and Romeo & Juliet number 3546 😅
  • Best friend’s brother (lmao): hm ok 🤔😅 Haven’t read as many of these? Not super interested in it either tbh
  • The ‘innocent’ girl and the ‘bad’ boy: welp what a classic am I right??
  • The nerdy boy and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: I just find Manic Pixie Dream Girls (super weird/quirky/super exotic or unfamiliar to the nerdy boy) very bland? I think in attempting to BE ‘different’ from other girls they all become the same oops
  • Soulmates: Usually becomes the same as insta-love but hey, maybe that’s the cynic in me?? (Says me, while being a huge romantic)
  • Fake boyfriend/girlfriend: THE CUTEST I LOVE

*Subjective

Because although when we think of these tropes there are tons of books that come to mind, there is still a LARGE lack of marginalized people being represented in those same tropes we claim as being dead or unoriginal. Let me ask you: how many books have you come across with a love triangle featuring a POC, or a disabled, or marginalized character versus one with your typical white, allocishet Katniss-Gale-Peeta? I’m not saying they don’t exist, but the gap in numbers is quite large, I bet.

I’m not trying to attack books or anyone who reads and enjoys books with your “typical” types of characters (there are tons I love to death myself!), but as an advocate for diverse books and as a POC myself, this is something I’ve noticed and I wanted to speak about, from my own experience!

To be frank, it’s not that hard to answer this question in my mind. It’s a big fat YES. Now, I’m not in any way trying to diminish all the books out there who DO feature tropes with marginalized protagonists!! But I’m trying to say there should be MORE.

All my life, I’ve grown up seeing straight and white as the default. When I used to imagine writing my own books, I imagined the main characters as white because it never occurred to me that there could ever be books with characters who looked like me? And that reality is incredibly depressing.

Now, having found mainstream books that feature characters like me, or of other non-white identities, is so empowering and wonderful and I just don’t want it to stop where it is. When it comes to romance tropes, there is just SO MUCH POTENTIAL for all that could be done for diverse books! Yes, these tropes are common. Yes, we’ve seen them many times before. But not with everyone. And I want this so badly, you have no idea!! Love triangle featuring Asian characters? SIGN ME UP. A queer hate-to-love romance? MINE. Disabled characters becoming friends-to-lovers? YES PLEASE.

Literally take any trope and I will be overjoyed because marginalized identities are so often removed from the narrative concerning tropes. When we say they’re overdone, it almost never applies to minorities and almost solely refers to the “typical” YA character. And that’s an issue!

Take love triangles, for example. Hugely overdone, super common, yada yada yada. Off the top of your head can probably list a ton (Hunger Games, TMI, TID, The Selection, Red Queen…) but how many feature marginalized characters?

………..

Exactly.

I want to step into a bookstore and see more books like When Dimple Met Rishi or My So-Called Bollywood Life. I want to see books like The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali. Books like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Books like Let’s Talk About Love. Books like Starfish and Summer Bird Blue. I want to see love triangles, forbidden romances, fake dating, hate-to love with brown characters, black characters, disabled characters, Asian characters, queer & POC characters! I want to see stories with intersectional representation.

The world is just made of so many more different, amazing people other than straight white kids, and it’s doing everyone such a huge disservice not to represent that in our selection of books.

(And I limited this post to simply romance tropes because of Valentine’s Day, but this applies to every trope out there! I want to see brown girls or boys as the Chosen One, queer protagonists the secret heir to the kingdom, see disabled characters part of a prophecy to save the world.)

I WANT IT ALL. And I’m not sorry for that.

Are tropes over?? What are your thoughts? What are some of your favourite romances featuring marginalized characters?! Let’s spread some diverse books love! 💕

(also hi here’s your belated reminder for Valentine’s Day that being single is OKAY and you don’t have to be in love or in a relationship to be happy because you only need books you are an amazing individual who will reach success and great things with or without being in love!! okay bye I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day!!)

30 thoughts on “Is there a lack of romance tropes with marginalized protagonists? // We need more diverse books!!

  1. Tropes are absolutely not done, they’re tropes for a reason and also I can’t agree enough with you, we need more diversity within them! Everyone deserves to see themselves represented, and while there is a bit of progress, it’s not enough 🙂 So yes, more of these tropes with diverse characters thank you very much !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All of this. I want trope-y diverse books just like I want the ones that feel completely new and original, both have value, and a tropey book following marginalized characters isn’t the same as a trope-y book following white allocishet abled people – I thought I hated love triangles until I started reading diverse ones.
    Also, tropes exist for a reason, which means that they work, and I don’t think that “being full of tropes” is a flaw as long as the book is well-written (if it’s not… it’s a problem, I’d read all the tropey f/f books but I don’t want any badly-written ones). Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh exactly!! Omg. Both new and tropey books are so important to have, and the market has been oversaturated with books following white allocishet and abled people for sure, SIGH.
      I totally agree with you! Well-written books with tropes are absolutely a pleasure to read, regardless of how common the trope is. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aahhh I LOVE THIS POST (and you) SO MUCH, ALINE!! 👏🏼💖 This is very well-written; you’ve echoed my thoughts perfectly. We’ve all grown up seeing allo cishet and white characters as the default in tropes, so it’s definitely amazing when we see marginalized characters involved in tropes. Tropes are not overused; they’re just overused with straight and white characters.

    I loveee all the examples you provided – love triangle featuring Asian characters, queer hate-to-love romance, disabled characters becoming friends-to-lovers – YES YES YES. I NEED those books 😍 And I’m so glad that books are becoming more and more diverse, because representation is SO important and it’s extremely empowering to see yourself reflected in a book. 😊

    “You only need books” LMAO what a mood 😂💀 But YES I completely agree with your note at the end – same to you!! You’re an absolutely wonderful person and deserve the world, Aline 💓 Hope you had a great Valentine’s Day as well!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • THANK YOUUU I LOVE U TOO!! ❤
      EXACTLY. It would have meant so much to me to see characters who reflected diverse backgrounds in books growing up, and means so much to me to have that in books now as well!

      RIGHT?! I NEED THESE BOOKS OMG. They would be the absolute freaking BEST okay. Yes, for sure!! It makes me so happy to see more diverse books, the difference from even 5 years ago is just amazing to see. 😭❤️

      AHAHA honestly 😩😂 Aw, thank you so much, you're the sweetest!! I LOVE YOU 💞

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This discussion is sooooo important, Aline!*#*(#!
    I completely agree with everything you said! Actually, it made me reflect a lot on my experience watching Love Simon on theatres. I didn’t like the book that much, so I was not expecting to love the movie a ton. However, I went with a bunch of friends and the experience was fantastic! When we sat to discuss the movie afterwards, some of my friends were a bit disappointed because it was way too cliché. Like, obviously, the story is not that original. It’s about a guy in high school, with a crush, house parties and football games, so yeah, it is full of tropes. But it is gay! And that’s why it’s so important!
    After watching Love Simon, I saw so many people online talking about how that was the first rom-com they were ever able to identify themselves with. As someone who loves rom-com and grew up with them, it really hit me that even though these tropes have been used countless times, they’ve never been used with queer characters before – and that kinda changes everything! People need to be able to read something, and maybe cringe because it’s too corny or roll their eyes because it’s basic, but STILL identify with it because for the first time it’s someone like *them* going through all these cliché scenerios.
    Okay, I’ve rambled enough, but I loved your discussion a lot! Amazing post! 💛

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ahhh thank you I’m so glad you think so!!
      Oh my gosh, yes to everything you said!! I absolutely ADORED Love, Simon and it is SO important to see gay characters in fiction, on screen and on the page. 😭❤️ Of course certain things are going to be repetitive, but that’s nothing compared to the validation and representation it gives for so many people out there! Ahhh yes, for sure! Rom-coms have been so basic but Love Simon was such a game changer, it really does make people (hopefully) reflect on how important tropes are to people who’ve never seen themselves in tropes before! YES, EXACTLY. ❤
      Thank you so much, I loved reading your thoughts!! 💞

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I mean, I avoid all books, no matter if they are diverse or not, that features a love triangle, I just can’t do it! But I 100% agree with you. Tropes may be viewed as “overdone” but not for diverse books, bring on the tropes is what I say!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally agree – like Six of crows is such a good example of effortless diversity (because I hate when books have FORCED diversity) and the slow burn of Kaz and Inej!! 😱

    Also, saw you’re reading strange the dreamer – same! How are you finding it? I’m about halfway through…

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES oh my gosh, Six of Crows is so amazing and does such a great job of including diversity without seeming like it’s trying to reach a certain quota. 😩 KANEJ IS SO POWERFUL 🔥😍

      I haven’t actually read much more since I first started it (really have to do that!!) but I’m little over a quarter through I think! It’s very dense so I’ve been kind of slow to pick it up but the writing is very beautiful! The plot is kind of slow at the moment though. What are your thoughts on it so far? 🙈

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that the writing is so beautiful! I love all the words in it – they all just flow, it’s kinda poetic!
        I can’t say much due to spoilers but I think it gets more interesting further on in!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. If I could like this post more than once,,,,, I WOULD! For the past two years, I’ve been reading romance exclusively by POC and I’m thriving and us finally getting all the tropes! That being said, there’s still a looooong way to go. Loved reading this post ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such a great post! There has definitely been a rise in diverse contemporary romance in recent years and I am all here for it! Still, there definitely need to be more! Most of the time in these types of novels the minorities are relegated to the role of the best friend or something in a way that feels like forced diversity. I love all those cheesy romance tropes and I want so badly to see diverse people go from enemies to lovers, or have forbidden romances! Again, wonderful post! I just found your blog and I’m already a fan! I am looking forward to your future posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 🙂 Ahh yes absolutely! Oh my gosh yes, I’m so tired of seeing the marginalized character being on the sidelines or there without substance… Ahah right?! THEY WOULD BE SO GOOD! Thank you so much, that made my day! 😊❤️

      Like

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