Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday Tropes: The Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday

Allison has never been so excited about her birthday. She's turning sixteen. The party is almost ready. Her guests never arrive. Instead, she is greeted by strangers who claim that she is the key to saving the world. Couldn't saving the world wait until after some cake?

The Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday - a reveal trope that manifests itself on a character's sixteenth birthday. This doesn't exactly mean that the character is suddenly thrust into danger, but because of new powers or a secret that could not be told until then tends to shatter the character's world as they know it.

Take Disney's version of Sleeping Beauty, for example. Technically, her sixteenth birthday is the last day she can be cursed - maybe they should've waited until the day after.

If you've read Beautiful Creatures, you will know that "Casters" are deemed to be either Light or Dark upon their sixteenth birthday ...

 "No ... we do not use Sorting Hats ..."

This trope is in the Percy Jackson series as well, with a prophecy that could have an effect on one of three kids when they turn sixteen.

"Funny ... we already look sixteen, don't we?"

In a most curious retelling of Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets are completely wiped out by the Moniques, except for Juliet, who is raised in secret and told about her family's fate on her sweet sixteenth.

And it's a rainy sixteenth birthday - what a downer ...

One of the draws to using this trope is because turning sixteen is a magical moment in a teen's life, especially for girls - a rite of passage, if you will, and amping the occasion with adventure or an unfortunate circumstance has a way of making the occasion even more important. Be honest. You wanted to discover being part of some conspiracy or wanted special powers when you turned sixteen, right ... right? ...

Where else have you seen The Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday? Have you used this in your YA adventures? How did your 16th go?

I'm David, and I wish I was 16 again ... then again, maybe not ...


  1. Not a chance I'd want to be sixteen again! Too much drama and angst.

  2. The Sweet Sixteen thing is only important in some countries. In Mexico it's the fifteenth birthday that's important. And in Judaism it's the thirteenth birthday.

    1. Exactly - I should've mentioned this. In those cases, apply the same principle to whatever birthday age is of more value, given the country or culture. :)

  3. This is amazing. ALso, you actualy won on my blog. HAHA.

  4. I've used the "turning 17 is special" in one of my books, since 17 seems to be my inner age and every MC I write seems to end up being 17. lol

  5. It's definitely cultural too, for instance as an American I've always felt something special about 16, but in Latin America 15 is the special age. Either way, it's the idea of changing from child to adult. I'm actually thinking of making my next protagonist 16:)