Celebrating Clichés is a new feature which Kaja and I had decided to introduce. The entire concept of these posts is for us to discuss commonly used themes/tropes/clichés and what we like (and sometimes dislike) about them. I’m even going to suggest my favourites for each theme, because what’s the point about talking about clichés if you can’t justify liking them?
This feature replaced Author Addiction for us because it turns out whilst Kaja and I have quite similar tastes in books it’s hard to line up with having the same favourite authors. Unfortunately, Kaja hasn't been able to get her post up for various life reasons (why does life spoil all the fun?) so I will be all on my lonesome posting this. We'll wait and see if we can do this again next month, but, for now, please see what I've got to say.
Friends to Lovers
This month’s cliché is friends to lovers, a frequently used trope in romance novels and YA alike. It’s a great theme for any book because it’s a topic a lot of people can understand and relate to. We’ve all either had a crush on a friend (don’t worry… you can admit it… I won’t tell anyone), or we’ve had a friend who has liked us (this way around can dredge up a few uncomfortable responses, we don’t always appreciate your love people, sometimes we just like being friends). Regardless of which way around it happened, it is a situation we’ve all experienced. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, but we’ve all been there and I think that’s why it appears in books over and over again.
Not only is it relatable, though, it is also an easy way to get a romance going. That makes it sound like I think it’s an easy throwaway idea authors simply for the convenience of their story (and they do that, some authors can be lazy in their storytelling) but I actually mean it in a good way. Too often you find yourself suspending disbelief as the main character falls in love with that bad boy she has absolutely nothing in common with and barely knows. I like a person falling in love with a bad boy as much as the next girl, but it feels so much more genuine when you have a slow drawn out fall as someone realises the person they love has been right there the entire time.
Let’s Look At The Negatives
I, obviously, like this cliché, as shown by a couple of positive above, but we should probably look at the reasons why people write off the friends to lovers theme as another bookish cliché. And there are a few reasons I can think of for it, based on the books I’ve read which feature it and which I didn’t enjoy.
My main one tends to be when I can’t see the chemistry between the characters and when it doesn’t feel like a good fit. Now, that is all down to personal opinion, true, but I have read books where I felt like a couple were put together due to their shared history but it feels more like the characters are clinging to their past than actually moving forward and growing.
The main time I’ve experienced that is in the Grisha trilogy, this is a trilogy I didn’t enjoy anyway, so I am a little biased, but the relationship between Alina and Mal never really clicked for me. It was one of my biggest annoyances with the book because there was no chemistry and it felt as if Alina was clinging to her connection to the past. Now, to be fair, I haven’t read the third book so should reserve judgement, but those were my thoughts in the first two books. In that context, my complaint, beyond lazy storytelling, is that it can feel forced. Now sometimes authors are smart and start with characters getting into a relationship that really aren’t meant to be together… then you have friends to lovers and then hopefully friends again. Those are fun to read because it’s interesting seeing the character growth, what’s not fun to read is characters forced into situations that don’t feel natural.
But, even when the characters chemistry is amazing I can still end up disliking a friends to lovers read if it’s too much will they won’t they. Look, we all like the build up of tension and the will they won’t they is fun… until it’s just not. There is a careful balance to be had people, you build up with the one-sided crush that is not so one sided and then they get together. Leave it too long with the one-sided crush and I stop believing the whole thing is going to happen and start thinking one-half of this couple has put their other half on a pedestal and that isn’t going to end well for anyone. If it gets dragged out too much I also get bored. I am easily distracted, I am of the generation that requires my attention to be gripped quite firmly by something otherwise my mind will wonder and half an hour later you’ll find me Googling strange things that sprang to mind with about 20 tabs open (stranger things have happened).
And, a lot of the time in these friends to lovers scenario someone ends up getting hurt, which sucks. Be it that it’s unrequited and goes horribly wrong, or that they figure out they love each other, but one of them is in a relationship. Too often there is a lot of collateral damage occurring in the relationship, don’t get me wrong, it’s always better to be honest if you’re relationship isn’t working out, but it sucks when people get hurt, and it bothers me when too easily the other people involved, whose feelings get hurt, are brushed off to focus on the epic love story happening. I feel for everyone else involved, you know?
Let’s Stop Hating And Look At Why We All Keep Coming Back To This Cliché
It turns out I have read a lot of friends to lovers books, a ridiculous number actually. And I had to start questioning why I had read so many, there had to be a reason for it. What about this trope makes me keep coming back? I can complain all I want about it, but I keep reading these books, and there are reasons why they keep getting published.
As I said, one of the main reasons this theme crops up time and time again is partially to do with the fact we find this idea so easy and relatable. We enjoy reading about a concept we have all experienced and writers find it a fun concept to write about because it is believable. There is nothing more enjoyable than reading a romance you can believe happening, too often there is a far-fetched romance plot with a billionaire and a virgin that continually leaves you rolling your eyes, this concept is way more fun to read about.
As I read in a post by Brittany, there is another reason it’s so fun to read, it’s because it’s so obvious how great that relationship would be to you, the reader, and it’s fun seeing the misunderstandings and near misses that happen as your characters finally get together. I know I complained about the long drawn-out ‘will they, won’t they’ moments, but when done right this cliché is just perfect. It makes you happy and hug the book close to your chest in your happiness. It is perfect because both characters know each other so well, they know your flaws and love you anyway, and so there is none of that awkward hide all your most embarrassing habits problem. Also, when they finally get it together and get together, well, let’s just say the wait is normally worth it.
Look, this cliché just works, okay. It doesn’t matter how they get together (because it turns out this cliché has a lot of overlap with many others) be it a fake relationship to one true love, or friends with benefits to something more, or simply a case of finally getting that the perfect person is right in front of them, all that matters is that they end up together and it’s beautiful. It is a wonderful kind of cliché that I adore, it is a tale as old as time (seriously, have you read Jane Austen’s Emma?) and it will keep on going because we keep asking for more.
And What Are My Highlights In This Cliché?
Just click on the cover to go to their Goodreads page, and this is just a sample of the books I’ve read and enjoyed, I had about 50 more books I could have suggested.
And there is my post, I have read over it again and again and a lot of Googling has gone into this to get other people’s thoughts on the concept (not stealing, but I want to see what others have to say on this) my main source of inspiration has been Goodreads books under this genre and Brittany’s post at The Book Addict Guide plus all the links on that post to other stuff she has said. She unwittingly helped to fuel some of the negative thoughts I have on the trope (in a good way she fueled this) and she helped remind me of the reasons we all love this genre, also, she reminded me all about TV series I seriously need to rewatch (New Girl, I miss you in my life and why did I never watch all of Gossip Girl).
Now, for all of you who read this post on Monday (when it was published) you will notice that Kaja has no post up and it's just me doing this, but it's okay I'll update if we do get another post and see how it goes.
And there you go, do you agree with me? Or have I missed one of your most favourite elements of the friends to lovers trope? What are your favourite books which are part of this cliché and I am honestly intrigued to hear if you have one from a totally different genre?