Every reader is different, and has a specific type of taste, no matter how similar it may be to another/other readers.
We all have things in books that we love. Those words/tropes/elements that we actively seek out in books, or that we find we just love. You know, those books that you hear about that have a/those specific elements that you love in books to the point where you break the world record in hitting the “Want to Read” button as soon as you see it.
Or is that just me? Probably.
So a few months back, I saw Lala over at Books and Lala on YouTube make a video called ‘Things I Love In Books‘. I found it really interesting and thought it might be fun to write up a post talking about things that I just absolutely adore in books. I’ve seen a bunch of posts talking about their bookish buzzwords (which essentially has the same core idea of Lala’s video) as well, so I figured it’s high time I write my own.
On to the post!
Boarding School Setting
This is probably one of my favourite tropes of ALL time. While I haven’t found any new favourites from the books that I have read in boarding schools, I have really enjoyed the boarding school aspect of them! I truly have no idea why I love this trope as much as I do, but I guess I … just really want to go to boarding school? This started from a pretty young age (with lil Taasia just plowing through Enid Blyton’s boarding school books) and just subsequently being drawn to books with boarding school settings. I just love it so much.
Flawed/Complex/Extremely Developed Characters
I know this is pretty obvious, and that most people also love this, but there is truly nothing more that I love more than highly well-developed, flawed and complex characters (especially if the main character). I do need plot in books but I can (and have) enjoyed character-centric books, and vice versa. I am incredibly drawn to and am fascinated with these kinds of characters. The majority of my favourite books of all time are books with incredibly nuanced and flawed main characters. Even if I really loved the plot of a book, it would not get a high rating without these types of character work, because they’re the ones that stick and the ones that I can wonder about for years.
I know this is a trope/an element in books that many people love, and that’s for a great reason. Some of my all-time favourite books have a focus on/a highly prominent theme of friendship throughout it, and if friendship is done well in a book, I will naturally take a better liking to it. It makes me love characters even more, and then I become even more Trash for them.
I mean I’m already trash but still.
Fictional Famous People Telling Their Stories
While I love the plot device of someone older telling their life to someone younger, I love it even more when fictional famous people do this. This is something that is linked to my genuine interest of understanding human behavior and the actions of humans as a whole, but there is something just so compelling about having fictional famous people do that. Maybe it’s because that books with this aspect tend to destroy the social construct of perfection that society builds around celebrities (by humanizing them), but I love it even more when these characters are designed to be flawed and complex and nuanced. It’s the main reason why I love The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as much as I do (and why I enjoyed Taylor Jenkins Reid’s works as a whole so much).
(Please recommend me more books like this that isn’t by Taylor Jenkins Reid. And yes, The Thirteenth Tale is on my radar).
Realistic depiction of high school/teens
So some major pet peeves (and I mean major) of mine in YA books (and books as a whole, honestly) is when authors write high school and teens in a stereotypical, highly unrealistic manner,
because, yes, homework and exams exist, ya know, or when authors are trying too hard to have their characters sound hip/trendy/sound like modern teens (because it really ain’t it, sis), so it only makes sense that I LOVE when authors incorporate the opposite of these pet peeves into their books. I will often hold a soft spot and/or will be more lenient on my rating of the book if this comes up, and especially so if school is a major part of the book. This is honestly shockingly rare to find, especially in YA, so when I do so it’s like hitting jackpot.
Books That I’ve Read That Have This: You Asked For Perfect by Laura Silverman (granted, it is a book about academic pressure but STILL), Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Solomon
This is a trope that I’ve known that I’ve loved ever since I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as a smol child. There’s something so entertaining and fascinating about tournaments, and I love seeing the inner workings of said tournaments/games, the competitors and how it will all turn out. They’re mostly just so entertaining, and they make fantastic pageturners.
Theatre Kids Portrayal (especially High School Theatre)
Here’s the weird thing: I was never a theatre kid (but not gonna lie, I lowkey want to be), but I absolutely love musicals, plays, theatres, performances. You know, the whole spiel. So, in the end, it’s not incredibly surprising that I love reading about books with theatre in it, especially high school theatre. I just love seeing the process and the behind-the-scenes of it all, and there’s normally some really great character development and the development of a variety of different relationships (both platonic and romantic) which I’m just Trash for. Seriously, it just makes me so happy.
Books with a Shakespearian Element
Carrying off my love of reading about theatre in books, it’s not incredibly surprising that I love books with a Shakespearian element to them, no matter how big or small. I went through a MASSIVE Shakespeare phase when I was around 10 (I didn’t actually read the texts though). I have always been that person in English that genuinely doesn’t mind reading Shakespeare and can actually somewhat translate it. Point is, I love Shakespeare. I generally rate books that have this very high (i.e they make some of my favourites-of-the-year lists) and I’m glad they’re pretty common.
Books dealing with academia/academic pressure
Like many other readers, a major part of why I read is because I want to be able to connect. And being both in high school right now and being a high-achieving student, books about high school academic pressure and the standards of perfection that education expects nowadays are incredibly relatable. This is especially since (like I discussed earlier) YA contemporary in particular, the majority of what I read, often have unrealistic depictions of high school, and this is an issue that many people struggle with. It is a shame that I haven’t found many yet, because I have generally really enjoyed how it has been written when I’ve come across it.
I know this sounds kind of weird but let me give myself a chance to explain: when I say fake royalty, I mean people who are fictionally royalty in a contemporary setting, if that makes sense. I just love seeing behind the curtain in terms of royalty (especially since they are always SO fun and fluffy), and I love contemporary settings, so the combination of the two is obviously gonna be a huge success in my book.
Contemporary Settings Outside the USA
This is becoming a more common trend now, which makes me so happy! My favourite genre is contemporary (especially YA contemporary), and much of the contemporaries I do pick up are set in the USA. While I am not familiar with the USA myself, seeing countless contemporaries being set in the same country gets boring. So I absolutely LOVE it when I find a contemporary set outside the USA (especially in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australasia). I hope this trend continues to grow, because it’s absolutely awesome.
*Love from A to Z is set in Doha, Qatar, the majority of Darius the Great Is Not Okay is set in Iran, Somewhere Only We Know is set in Hong Kong, The Weight of Our Sky is set in Malaysia, the Crazy Rich Asians series is set in Singapore (!!!)
Even though I haven’t read or loved many books with this trope, it is a trope that I am able to really love in the right circumstances. I have always been interested in stories with a heavy character focus (with the development of awesome character personalities!) and find it really fascinating to see developed characters in a generational story, if that makes any sense? I especially love generational books following the women of the family and/or family curses. However, convoluted generational books is something that can turn me away from liking books with this element.
If you know me at all, you know that I am extremely passionate about social issues, one of them being feminism. And while I love feminism as a whole, I especially love intersectional feminism, because champions of feminism (and even feminism itself) tends to be very white, hetero, cis, and able-bodied centric. So it’s especially awesome when we have lots of intersectionality, especially since so many people have a variety of marginalized identities.
Here’s a little fact about me: I went through a massive Tudor phase at the age of ten. I know that is truly weird, but it’s true. I’ve always been a history buff and a complete nerd, especially for English history. So if there is any sorting of Tudor elements, especially in YA genres I love reading, you best bet that I will run to get my hands on it.
Vivid Food Descriptions (I.e of Non-Western Cultures)
While I wouldn’t consider myself a foodie, I do really love food (I get that this sounds stupid, since we need food to survive). And I really love seeing lots of descriptions of food in books, especially when it comes to non-Western cuisine! Food is a really great way to incorporate lots of cultural diversity and to spotlight countries and places that don’t get much representation in mainstream (i.e traditionally published by the Big Five) literature. And since I love seeing different cultures (as well as cultures I personally identify with) being represented, this makes a lot of sense. It’s why I can’t wait to read the recently released Hungry Hearts anthology edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond.
Listen. I know everyone and their mother loves this trope, but they have good reason. This trope really is too good and is gonna be my favourite, forever and always. This is probably my favourite romance trope, and it’s normally done oh so well. This one has definitely grown in popularity in mainstream media, and is something I will continuously fall for. Bonus points if it includes enemies to lovers or friends to lovers. Truly, too good.
What are some elements that you adore in books? Are there any favourite elements of yours that are included in this post? Or (perhaps more interestingly) are there any elements in this post that you hate? I would love to know.