YA Literary Tropes: The Old Clunker I Drive

“Trope” is defined as “a common or overused theme or device.” (Merriam-Webster). There are definitely over-used themes in the YA world; I know many of you have had enough love triangles and dystopian worlds.  On the flip side, tropes have always been used in literature, and they play an important part in driving a story.   Shakespeare himself successfully used literary tropes (mistaken identity anyone?)  I have found many times over that if a book has the goods, it doesn’t really matter how many common themes the author utilizes.

That said, I would like to invite you to join me each Wednesday for a hump day roundup of books that follow a familiar literary trope I have noticed and fully embrace.  Full credit and many thanks to my fellow Hub bloggers: Hannah Gomez, Jancee Wright, Carly Pansulla,  Robin Brenner, Anna Tschetter, Sharon Rawlins, Molly Wetta, and Kimberli Buckley for their awesome suggestions and input.

Literary Tropes -The Old Clunker I Drive

Literary Trope for Week 1: The Old Clunker I Drive

To say that cars are important to teens is putting it lightly.  A license to drive plus a set of keys equal freedom in a most tangible way.  Of course, most teens in life and literature have financial limitations and many drive rusty, second-hand, and always breaking-down cars.  But, those unexpected stops are usually what makes the journey so fantastic.  So, thank you clunker car literary trope, we love you.

  • Papertowns (2009 Best Book For Young Adults) by John Green: RHAPAW.  Q is without a car for a great deal of this story.  Getting away (specifically away from Orlando, Florida)  is an important theme in this story, and Q truly requires wheels to get him where he needs to go.  Q ends up having to borrow his buddy Ben’s old clunker fairly often, a hand-me-down not treated gently but a truly worthy car.  Bragging right for whomever knows what the acronym RHAPAW stands for.
  • Twilight Saga (Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: 2006, 2007, Teen’s Top Ten: 2007, 2008, & 2009) by Stephenie Meyer: Bella’s Red Pickup.  Right after Bella arrives in Forks at the beginning of Twilight, Charlie gifts her an old beat up truck he bought off his friend Billy Black (aka Jacob’s father.)  Bella loves the truck at first sight.  Though Edward often pokes fun at the clunker, Bella likes her truck much more than any of the Cullens’ fancy rides.  It was a little sad when in Breaking Dawn Bella started driving a limited edition Mercedes; she missed the red pickup, and so did I.
  • Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: Tana’s Gray 1995 Ford Crown Victoria.  Oh, this car. The Crown Vic helps Tana escape from the bloodiest party ever.  Tana and company travel in the Crown Vic to Coldtown; Aiden, ex boyfriend and newly infected, sometimes riding shotgun, Gavriel ancient and dangerous, sometimes riding in the trunk.  Along the way, they pick up some important hitchhikers…  really, what could be a more appropriate vessel for this journey?
  • The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Steifvater: “the Pig.”  In many ways, rich boy Gansey’s orange Camaro (aka “the pig”) plays a vital part in driving this story.  The broken down car (and Gansey’s inability to fix it) propelled his meeting poor scholarship student Adam whose mechanical skills helped keep the pig running and sealed their unlikely friendship.  Automobiles continue to play an important part through this saga, Ronan is definitely a car enthusiast.  But the entire gang, even Blue, consistently acknowledges the importance of “the Pig”.
  • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2007 Best Books for Young Adults, 2007 Top Ten Quick Picks, 2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: Nick’s Yugo.  Nick and Norah meet on a lark, fall in like/love to a great soundtrack, and tour all over New York city in the course of one long night.  And what gets them around?  Nick’s Yugo.  Transportation and a sound system.  What more could these two romantics need for the best date ever?

What say you readers?  What other literary clunkers are out there?  Do you think cars are important devices to “drive” a story?  Bad pun. Intended.

Join us next hump day for a roundup of books that utilize the “I already know you introduction” trope.

— Tara Kehoe, currently reading Breakaway by Kat Spears

top photo CC image Amber Gowens Hirschbergy and bottom photos by Maggie Stiefvater used with permission

5 thoughts on “YA Literary Tropes: The Old Clunker I Drive”

  1. I just submitted The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti. I probably should have added that it was on the 2009 Best Books for Young Adults list.

    In the beginning of the novel she drives her mom’s old Datson. It’s painted in a yellow that they don’t make anymore. The windshield has acne (pot-marks), a tape deck, no cup holders, and lingering bad odor from when the cat peed in the back seat. She embarrassed to drive the “Car o’ Shame” through her friend Melanie’s neighborhood (51).

  2. I love the Dodge-Nasty (a Dodge Dynasty with the Dy removed) in Seeing off the Johns by Rene Perez.

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