5 Popular Character Descriptions in YA Literature


So basically this post came inspired from Cait at Paper Fury’s post Do You Even Like Character Descriptions? I seriously connect to that post on a spiritual level. Anyway, while listing the cons of character descriptions, Cait mentions unrealistic descriptions. Which is why I’m bringing in these common looks that we find in YA literature. Because I’m pretty sure I’ve read about 12,345 books with characters that unnaturally look like this.

1. The mysterious, blue-eyed, dark-haired stranger that you just can’t help but want to know more about.

The other day, I read about a boy with “blue, blue eyes.” What color were his eyes? OH I DUNNO, MAYBE BLUE? Seriously, what kind of description is that? He may be the prince to a lost kingdom! He may be the star quarterback of the football team! He may be the cute drama nerd that is so much than he seems! Either way, no one can deny his chiseled looks, or five-o-clock shadow.

Even though he ranges from fifteen to nineteen. I mean, most of the sixteen/seventeen-year-olds in my classes have pimples and all, but that’s a no-can-do for a love interest. They must have perfect skin and a body that reminds you of a statue. Maybe even cheekbones that can cut diamonds or something. The messy hair that we see in adolescent boys are “tousled” and you just want to “push [your] hands in them.” Make sure you know he shampoos, though. (How else would he have such naturally wavy hair?)

2. The boy-next-door with blonde hair and the cutest dimples! All the girls want him, but since you’re the main character he only has eyes for you.

How does he get those raging 6-packs despite being only seventeen? WHO KNOWS. Protein powder seems to be popular these days. No one can deny him anything. With one look at his either baby-blue or flecked green eyes, all else in the world disappears. Maybe he’s a British foreign exchange student! Or he may possibly be a Southern transfer that has a sweet drawl, with those “dahlin’s” getting you EVERY time. Or he may also be the sociopathic brother that ends up in juvie after going down the dark path of becoming an arsonist. Who cares though? He still looks gorgeous.

3. She has deep, blue eyes the color of the Cerulean sea. Her natural flaxen hair and lithe body makes all the guys want her. I present to you, your main character.

Why is it always the Cerulean sea? I mean, I know it’s a pretty color. But I’m not even sure WHERE it is! What about the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean? Does the Cerulean sea even exist? (Update: I looked it up, and Cerulean sea bath salts exist. I can only assume the body of water is real.) Anyway, she may appear as the best friend. She may be the jealous rival of the main character. Orrr, she may turn out to have superpowers that make her stand out, especially when she enters a whole program of superheroes that fight to save the world. Who knows.

4. Her numerous freckles and glossy NATURAL red hair makes her stand out from the rest. 

Did you know 2-6% of the population in the US has red hair? Okay so because of that, she’s already special. And THEN she finds out that the destiny of an alternate universe is in her hands to save. Or that she’s the next princess-in-line from a family of royalty. Or the drama lead at school who’s sooo great at singing and performing onstage. Oh, her hair/freckles could also symbolize how “fiery” her character is! Because that’s totally how it works.

5. She’s not pretty at all – or so that’s what she thinks. Within three pages of a makeover, this main character (who still says she’s not pretty) becomes a drop-dead supermodel.

Why is brown hair sometimes described as “mousy”? AREN’T MICE USUALLY GRAY. This girl is usually overlooked in the beginning. No one knows about her – except for the guy! – until she discovers it’s her destiny to save the world and get rid of the monsters that plague it through her special powers. BUT FIRST – WE GOTTA GET A MAKEOVER. Because those are every girl’s dreams, aren’t they? I admit, the cliche is sometimes cute to read about (albeit uber cheesy), but it’s like a 180-degree change!

Real *claps* life *claps* isn’t *claps* like *claps* that. How many characters are “unrecognizable” in the mirror after getting their makeover? Also why does everyone in YA books have to be a supermodel? Like seriously, this girl will be crossing the desert or traveling across the country while running from an assassin while still attracting all the guys. I like reading about nice-looking characters, for sure, but sometimes it’s cool to see ones that are unique and different – flawful.

Interesting how they all are caucasian, aren’t they? Those are some very, very popular descriptions that are featured in literature and at this point I roll my eyes when I read about the same looks over and over and OVER again. Let’s see some diversity! Who else is done with blue, blue eyes and chiseled abs? I want a book that has REALISTIC expectations of characters. One where the character embraces their body image, all those flaws and idiosyncrasies that make them who they are. Or if not, they actually DO things to become the best that they can be. Because as fun as it is, being mysterious, dark, and alluring ain’t gonna make those six-packs, hun.

Images Source: Pinterest

What are some popular descriptions that you encounter? What are some character-types that you’d LIKE to see in your books? How many books can you name with characters with blue, blue eyes? Don’t you agree we need some better descriptions for these things?


41 thoughts on “5 Popular Character Descriptions in YA Literature

  1. I hadn’t really thought about that, Aila, but it’s true that the hero always has chiseled cheek bones and looks like a god… That being said, guys who are very sporty can have a six-pack long before they’re 17, without any protein powder (says the mom of two sons, one who is almost 14, and already has close to an 8-pack).
    I really don’t understand why almost all main characters are caucasian, though, that’s not realistic at all. And it becomes a little boring to always read about those ‘perfect’ looking people.

    1. Ooh that’s good to know! I know a bunch of sporty guys in my school who have nice abs too, but sometimes we just need to see the characters doing those sort of things to really believe their, ah, chiseled muscles. 😉
      I LOVE reading about characters with flaws. It’s the idiosyncrasies that make us who we are, and if a character doesn’t have any, then they could just be among the thousands of characters who exist in literature that have no definable characteristic. Which is why I’m so glad about the amount of diverse books coming out nowadays!

  2. Hahaha omg Aila this post is so hilarious! Tbh these days I gloss over character descriptions because they’re so ridiculously perfect! I mean even the girl with flaws is still perfect! It’s so annoying and unrelatable. And I always laugh at the chiselled abs, 5 o clock shadow and everything because come on people! Are we still talking about teenage guys?

    1. For real though Jeann. IF I EVER HEAR ABOUT ANOTHER SET OF BLUE, BLUE EYES, I WILL RIP SOMETHING APART. Like my eyes. (lol)
      And seriously, the teenage guys I know are AWKWARD. Even the handsome ones that are popular! They can have their awkward moments too; not everything is like a fairy-tale about them. Which is why these books are FICTION, I guess… although I wouldn’t mind a bit of realism in regards to characters once in a while to really RELATE to them. 😛

  3. Great discussion, Aila! I totally relate to this – I find myself rolling my eyes whenever I see one of these stereotypes come up in books! I love how there’s more diversity in books nowadays though – I think in more recent books, there have been less of these kinds of characters, which is AWESOME! But yeah, I remember being younger and just being mad that none of the characters were even REMOTELY like me

    1. Yup Geraldine, I totally get you. Even now, we still see these perfect stereotypes of characters that look like the ones in the above post.
      Yay for recent diversity, though! I LOVE seeing these flawed, multi-cultural characters dominating the YA genre. Holla at actually relatable characters!

  4. Bahah, this was so so true. XD And OMG DON’T FORGET … the nerdy girl/ boy takes off their glasses to reveal gorgeous eyes that reflect the galaxies beyond. *rolls eyes* Hmph. But yes, I think descriptions are often REALLY unrealistic. I wonder if it’s allowed because it’s fiction? But I think the world is kind of growing out of wanting unrealistically perfect characters and we want imperfections and relatability *nods*
    I’m also SO TIRED of the red-haired-green-eyed-with-fiesty-temper cliche. I think it’s nearly offensive?!? Not all red people are going to be snarky!
    Anyway, I’m glad you liked my original post too. 😛 I loved reading this!

    1. Ahaha thank you for writing such a genius post in the first place! 🙂
      For real though, can that glasses stereotype happen to me?? I feel like I get uglier when I take off my glasses… LOL. But you’re right, these idealistic features WOULD be popular because they’re in fiction, and most of the time it’s okay to have fictional characters to look like perfect supermodels with flawless skin. I LOVE how recently people are focusing more on the imperfections that define each individual character rather than making them among the millions of homogeneous characters out there with no personality.

  5. Great post! I also noticed that there are too many redheads female characters in literature. I mean, it is fiction and all that, but unless you live in UK or Ireland, there is no realistic chance of having so many red hair people as YA/NA literature makes us believe…

  6. OMG!! XD This was soo funny! I mean, it’s seriously true, there’s so much blue blue and blue! Ohmygod, it rhymed! XD Nonetheless, I agree with your list! Those are really unrealistic, atleast I haven’t come across any people like those in my life yet!
    Loved this post Aila! 🙂

  7. This post is hilarious! XD But yeah I don’t get why characters have to be so perfect, since we read the, not seeing them! I mean, maybe so it’s easier for us to imagine the characters, but most of the time I don’t even remember what a character looks like… Unless the author says “he’s so hot” or “his (insert eye color here) eyes” repeatedly. And yes, I’ve never seen any 17 year old that is that perfect and gorgeous. At least not in my school and any school nearby, so I wonder where the authors get this idea that those teenagers are god-like… Love this post!<3

    1. I feel like every major character in a book has to be model-worthy or something. WHAT HAPPENED TO CHARACTERS THAT ARE BASED ON REAL-LIFE? :’D This is why I need more relatable characters, tehee.

      For real though! Sometimes I scour through my books and go “uhm, all I remember is how ‘hot’ this dude is.” THEY’RE JUST TOO FORGETTABLE.

  8. This was absolutely hilarious and totally on point. The only reason I don’t complain much about the six pack is because I had guy friends in high school who had six packs because they did sports and worked out. You have to explain why those are there not just say it. And brown hair is not mousy! Just because it’s the most common doesn’t mean it’s generic and I’m pretty sure the authors that write that are brunette a

  9. Haha I love this!

    Remember as well the only way that a YA girl can be beautiful is if she doesn’t know she is. *epic eye roll*

    I’m rereading Fangirl right now and I really like the non-traditional hot guy descriptions of Levi. Like, it’s almost jarring sometimes the weird things Cath thinks about him. She’s really obsessed with his chin and widow’s peak.

  10. ERMAHGERD,GUUURRRRL… You are so incredibly spot on. It’s unfortunate that it’s true (but I LOVE the way you delivered this post with your humor.)
    Also this is sadly the case with the majority of adult books as well.
    I know I’ve read a very few books where not all the MCs or MC love interests aren’t supermodelesque, one in YA & one in adult but of course, I can’t remember the names of them off the top of my head (dagnabbit!!)
    I totally agree that we need more diverse MCs, not only in race/ethnicity and sexuality/gender identity but also in appearance. It totally *does get old when the majority of female MCs are basically Barbie&friends lookalikes. Hopefully we’ll see a change in this long-time trend soon.
    Great post Aila! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Sarah ❤

      Gosh, it sucks that it's the same case in adult books! I wonder if the We Need Diverse Books campaign has been spreading to books in that genre as well… (I certainly hope so!)

      Recently, the influx of diverse characters have been absolutely astounding! There are millionsss of different ways to express characters, and you HAVE to go with the WASP? (White and straight person). 😛 THINK AGAIN.

  11. I totally relate to what you said! Now, each time I read about a red-headed character, I like: “Oh no… I’m so done”. I think the Weasley are plotting to take over the world, it’s the only explanation. 😉 I actually have blue eyes and in real life, no one ever told me “oh it’s like the ocean” and everything else so I find it so unrealistic. Also, I don’t watch eyes like a maniac, 80% of the time I have no idea what eye color people have, but maybe that’s just me? Also, at some point, going along with this red-headed trope, every guy had the same hair color, like Edward Cullen or Finnick Odair, it was so frustrating! And there is the problem of acne, of course… I would relate so much more to a character suffering from it, tbh, but of course it doesn’t suit perfection… *sigh* Nevertheless, I think characters’ descriptions have been improving lately, I’m really happy about that and I hope it will continue this way! Great post 🙂

    1. You’re SO right Lucie 😀 I’m so glad recent books have been adding tons of diversity in their characters! I love all these additions.

      Hey girl… your eyes remind me of when the sun shines on the Mediterranean sea in the middle of the day. *wink-smirks*

      I wouldn’t mind if the Weasleys take over the world, HAH, but you’re right. Redheads are certainly rare in real life, but oddly common in the fictional world.

  12. BAHAHA yes. Yes. So many yeses. LITERALLY EVERY ROMANTIC INTEREST HAS THE BLACK HAIR BLUE EYES. Is it just me or is that a fairly rare combination in our world? Just sayin. I mean, I love it, but it gets annoying after the 839219 book with that combination.
    This was hilarious. You are hilarious. Hilarity abounds.

    1. I’M SO GLAD. Hilarity is my middle name. I just gush hilarity from my pores.

      Okay for real though, I personally do not know many people with black hair and blue eyes. Wait, I’m pretty sure I don’t know any! Hahh. I guess it’s just a really swoon-worthy feature that actors want to give their characters?

  13. Ailaaaaa you never to fail to make us laugh. LOL. I love all this satirical stuff and I agree to them in bits. I have to admit I fall for blue-eyed humans *ehem* Will Herondale *ehem* but it seems to be the trend lately! If we line all the male protagonists in a row, I bet we can’t tell them apart and no one standa out as the most handsome. LOL

    1. THAT’S HILARIOUS TRISHA XD And definitely a possibility.

      Okay blue eyes are absolutely gorgeous, but I think I’ve read about enough of those to last me for a couple of years (or centuries). At this point, the only thing that could make up for a common character description is if they have a distinct and unique personality.

  14. lol omg #1 had me dying. “how blue were they?” “blue blue” truly phenomenal writing on the author’s part. haha. I was reading a book a while back, and one of the MCs was all: “ew brown eyes are so ugly” and I got legit offended. no they not???

    I love how guys with accents. always the girl has no problem with his pronunciation of things or can understand EVERYTHING.

    OMG YES I HATE WHEN BROWN HAIR IS DESCRIBED AS “MOUSY” mice ARE gray. let the girl with her hipster glasses live. jeez. oh, and the QB probably falls for her bookworm-ish ways. because that’s realistic. and hahaha @ the freckly girl. no offense to redheads, but I would hate to be one. they receive so much hate.

    omg this comment was long. sorry bout that, hehe. such TRUTH, Aila! ❤


      Okay for real though – WHY MOUSY???? This makes me so offended! Like girlllll you might think my brown hair is mousy but I LOVE IT so shove off. 😛

      I'm soooo tired of the hot sports guy who falls in love with the nerd. TALK ABOUT UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. And also cliche to the maaaax. *snoozes*

  15. This had me laughing so much because you are so RIGHT! I’ve come across so many characters like this. The dark mysterious one… wayyy too many characters that have blue eyes which make them unique or just red hair which does it too! lol. xD I just subscribed to your channel as well ❤ You should post more!

    1. Awh thanks so much Olivia! You are absolutely too sweet ❤ I HAVE SO MANY IDEAS but alas, so little time. :') I'm hoping that in the summer I can catch up with all the videos!

      OKAY LITERALLY THOUGH these descriptions are e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e in YA literature, which is why I appreciate diverse books sosoososo much.

  16. I LOVE this. Because it is way too true. #5 makes me twitch. There is NO reason for this person to think they’re unattractive, but they do. Until one of those above boys starts chasing them. And YES I do not know brown mice. I mean, sure there are probably some, but I do not equate the two. Maybe they mean hamsters. Her hair was a “hamster brown color”.

    You know what I want to see in books? NONE of these characters ever again. But alas, I suppose we will, sadly. I just want some regular, everyday people. Because I don’t know anyone in real life who is a thing like any of those characters! Fabulous post!

    1. Thanks so much Shannon ❤ FOR REAL THOUGH I JUST WANT TO TAKE THE GIRLS' CHEEKS AND SAY YOU. ARE. FINE. And the girls who think that way are 95% actually good looking. What is the point of this? It doesn't endear me to the character at all.

      LMAO the day I read about "hamster brown hair" will be a tremendous day indeed.

      I totally agree! Isn't it ridiculous that we have to BEG for authors to write about normal, everyday looking characters? And while I enjoy characters who are model status (believe me, for fiction it is GREAT to have that), I would LOVE to see unique characters with the idiosyncrasies that make us who we are.

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