No, the YA Ballroom Trope Isn’t Bad

Twitter can be a magical place, full of people who expand my horizons and teach me new things about the world and my craft.

THE JEWEL by Amy Ewing - Coming this September! - See more @HarperTeen cover reveals on!
The cover of The Jewel, by Amy Ewing

It is also full of what some people might call hot takes. Personally, I think most of them are lukewarm at best.

Examples of hot takes gone wrong abound on twitter, but what got me thinking about tropes and their value was a take on the ballroom Scene that can be found in numerous YAs. I’m not going to link to the debate, but some people seem to think that the YA ballroom scene is Over.

The cover of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

People smarter than me were quick to jump in, first and foremost to say that for many marginalized identities, the ballroom scene hasn’t happened yet – or maybe it’s happened once, and is that really too much? Declaring it over ignores what some people need in terms of representation. But, like I said, smarter people than me have weighed in on that. I want to weigh in on the value of a trope, and what it can do for us.

Some tropes are damaging, like Bury Your Gays. Some tropes are irritating, like romantic problems that can be solved by simple explanation, but Plot dictates that the romantic characters fail to have a real conversation. And it’s fine to be irritated by a trope. You don’t even need a reason not to like a specific trope. But I argue that the Ballroom Scene is a good trope, objectively.


The Ballroom Scene is versatile. It can take place in any setting – historical, dystopian, high fantasy, space opera. But it’s versatile in what it can do, too. The ballroom scene fits at almost any part of a book. Your assassin can have a high stakes pursuit of her target at a ball. Your lovers can meet at a ball. You can have mistaken identity, court intrigue, an attempt on someone’s life – or all of those, all at once. People can get together or break up at a ball. And maybe that’s why the trope is used so much. There are so many ways that writers can use it.

So is the trope really over? Is it fair to declare a trope over for no other reason than you’ve read it more than you’d like? I think the Ballroom Scene has a place in YA literature – and beyond – for a long while yet.

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