Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling



Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling
By: Monica Valentinelli & Jaym Gates (please click title to see full list of contributors on Goodreads)
Publisher: Smashwords Edition
Format: EBook
ISBN13: 9781370692279
Pages: 366
Genre: Anthology/Fantasy


Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is an anthology of short stories, poetry, and essays edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates. Over two dozen authors, ranging from NYT-bestsellers and award winners to debut writers, chose a tired trope or cliche to challenge and surprise readers through their work.

Read stories inspired by tropes such as the Chainmaille Bikini, Love at First Sight, Damsels in Distress, Yellow Peril, The Black Man Dies First, The Villain Had a Crappy Childhood, The Singularity Will Cause the Apocalypse, and many more…then discover what these tropes mean to each author to find out what inspired them.

Join Maurice Broaddus, Adam Troy-Castro, Delilah S. Dawson, Shanna Germain, Sara M. Harvey, John Hornor Jacobs, Rahul Kanakia, Alethea Kontis, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Haralmbi Markov, Sunil Patel, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Ferrett Steinmetz, Anton Strout, Michael Underwood, Alyssa Wong and many other authors as they take well-worn tropes and cliches and flip them upside down.


Relationships with anthologies and short story compilations can be a seriously complicated matter. It seems that regardless of who is contributing, there will be highs and lows. From my experience, this is unavoidable, and I approach each collection with this knowledge in advance. Such was the case with Upside Down.

This varying collection of work ranges from short stories to poetry and offers multiple approaches to addressing all too familiar tropes. It attempts to place a new or unexpected spin on them, providing the reader with an unanticipated read.

Perhaps to better understand what the overall goal is within Upside Down, we should exam tropes momentarily. So what is a trope? As a reader, many of you are painfully familiar with them. Some we come to love, others we avoid at all costs. Tropes can perhaps best be explained as overused and recurring themes or plots that we find within stories. A few common examples include:

  • The love triangle.
  • The tortured protagonist who must rise above.
  • The chosen one.
  • Damsel in distress.
  • Insta love
  • Gendercide

I think you see where this is going, and I am sure you have encountered them all at some point. This is a very small list. Feel free to elaborate and share your own favorite or least favorite tropes. I often see dystopia listed among tropes, but I will adamantly disagree. In my opinion dystopia is a sub genre/genre. I stand by that statement.

I have discovered that YA titles often feel like a never-ending stream of tropes. Perhaps this is why YA is a love or hate relationship. As many of you know, I am struggling significantly with it of late. I attribute this to my disdain for the “love triangle” and certain common tropes and themes.

Upside Down has endeavored to evolve the trope. We are presented with a collection of shorts that begin with your typical and expected themes, but manage to end in a less that typical way. A new spin on the old classic if you will. Unfortunately for myself, each scenario still resonated too heavily with predictable. I did not feel that the authors fully accomplished the common goal here. There was still a solid presence of the cliché and foreseen. I was not caught off guard and the “twist” really did little to inspire a feeling of change or the new.

I am not going spend time dissecting each story, poem or essay. If I am being honest, which I always am, most were engaging or satisfying to an extent but not of the caliber that will leave a lasting impression. There was only particular story that was the highlight of my experience with Upside Down and that was Can You Tell Me How to Get to Paprika Place. The writer takes what is comparable to the world of Sesame Street and turned into a dystopian tale of death and sorrow. This short was the most successful in accomplishing the general goal of the anthology for me.

“1,2,3. I am angry that’s okay. 4,5,6. Count to ten and breathe today. 7,8,9 and 10. Now I’, fine and I can play.”

I became hopeful at this point as I picked up a Black Mirror sort of vibe. For those of you who are not familiar (and I do recommend you remedy that) Black Mirror is a spectacular British television series that features standalone episodes that are satirical tales addressing technophobia or paranoia. It is dark and very clever. It also happens to be available on Netflix currently. You can thank me later. Back on track, I was hoping this vibe continued moving forward but it was lost and so was I.

The quality of writing varied as each story felt it was written for an entirely different audience. Ranging from captivating to mediocre, this anthology was at times an uphill read. It was transparent that the choice of writers ranged for debut to more experienced. But there was one redeeming asset in the end, the index of tropes. I actually enjoyed reading through this small section more than I did the rest of the collection. Here within the index, each writer provides a detailed explanation of the trope contained in their contribution.

This is an anthology that I might struggle to recommend to most, but it has seemed to have found an audience among many others. I did however, manage to muster up a certain amount of appreciate for a few of the more solid attempts and how well the collection was actually compiled. It was a promising concept that just did not fully hit the mark for me.

*My appreciation to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this copy. This review is my own, unbiased opinion and thoughts.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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45 thoughts on “Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling

  1. Sounds like an interesting read though I’m not normally a fan of anthologies. I do like Deliah S Dawson’s work though, she writes fantasy as Lila Bowen and both A Conspiracy of Ravens and Wake of Vultures are top quality diverse western cum fantasy reads well worth checking out.😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This anthology’s theme sounds ambitious, though I can understand how things could end too predictably across the board. The entire concept hinges upon “inverting tropes,” so your awareness of that probably skewed the experience. Am I off the mark?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. YA has been annoying me quite a lot lately, too. Granted, I don’t read that much of it, but it seems like whenever I start a YA book, I just can’t stick with it. Like you, I think it comes from the endless tropes that keep popping up- the Chosen One, the Love Triangle, the Tortured Protagonist, the Love Interest the Hero Can’t Stand and Then Can’t Help Falling In Love With, the Snarky Boy All the Girls Are Interested In (but if you knew him in real life you’d think he was a total jerk). So many tropes!

    Also, Dystopia is definitely a genre or sub-genre.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha thank you Kim! All of the tropes you have mentioned seem to be on repeat as of late with YA. It feels so muddled for me. I am not trying to discredit YA and I know the genre is loved by many, including me at one point. But I am not big on the tropes you have mentioned 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It doesn’t help that every time there’s a hit book or trilogy or whatever, a flood of the same kind of book follows. Like after The Hunger Games finished up, it felt like dystopian fiction with All the Tropes was all that was coming out for YA. I suppose it’s the same with regular adult fiction, but the publishers seem to go overboard trying to find the next dystopian/magical world/vampire/magical-dystopian-vampire series.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. They do tend to glom to dystopian and supernatural both. It is the same with retellings. I adore them, but they seem to be trending in YA of late, so they are popping up everywhere, which leaves room for a lot of less than stellar reads unfortunately 😟


    2. I hate love triangles and teen drama stuff so I am extremely picky with YA books (I read mostly epic fantasy and grimdark.)
      I went on a quest to find YA books without those horrid tropes and made a 7 post series featuring YA fantasy without love triangles and minimal or no romance. I have discovered quite a few that don’t have these stupid tropes and planning to read them all. I can recommend The Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie (finished series) and Ancestor Trilogy by Mark Lawrence (first book coming out in April) these are nothing like the popular YA in the market full of teen romance-love triangle tropes 🙂 I also heard Grisha series is decent, and Fablehaven, haven’t read those yet though.


  4. What a pity it didn’t really work since it’s an intriguing idea! May I please add drunken detectives to the list of overdone tropes? Plus, amnesia, murdered children, serial killers and first-person present-tense misery monologues… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sesame Street turned upside down? Gosh, that’s definitely not something I’d watch. Just the thought of it freaks me out. I do like the introduction to tropes though. I haven’t come across many of them, but I think its mostly due to some unconscious mechanism having me avoid books that are most likely to have them! 😛 I haven’t heard someone all dystopia a trope yet, but that does sound funny. It must be because of how OFTEN we see dystopian YA novels turn into movies and make it feel like its always the same thing. Who knows? 😀 Fantastic review, by the way! 🙂

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that everything with YA lately seems to be trendy. The patterns and themes are so consistent. And you are right, dystopian YA turned film is trending so that probably has a lot to do with it. I was disappointed with this one. I don’t enjoy tropes, so I was excited to explore that alternative, but it failed to fully execute. Oh well.. on to the next. There is certainly no shortage of books 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I find anthologies hit-or-miss. I usually only like a few of the stories and some of the authors sometimes seem to ahve rushed something together just to contribute. But this one looks pretty interesting. And the cover is so beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A refreshing idea, too bad it didn’t really work out like you hoped. That one time that a story is progressing differently than usual, is the best chance at having a bestseller. People are always looking for something new and different. I guess this one won’t be it though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anthologies are so hard to review sometimes lol. Like oooooooo I like this story but not this one so hmmmmm??? Ugh! And I can see how this one in particular can be even a little more difficult because of the tropes. Although it’s trying to be the opposite of trope, wouldn’t it still be sort of kind of predictable? Maybe that’s just me cause I over analyze everything lol. Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Not a big fan of anthologies but the cover is stunning (I know I’m shallow!) and the whole cliche-upending theme sounds great. I’m a big fan of Joe Abercrombie cause he is a master of subverting and overturning tropes, >I’d like to read more books upending the common tropes.


  10. I’m not really into anthologies… but I am just about willing to try anything! I may check this one out, if it’s still on NetGalley. Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh no! This is so disheartening. This anthology has been on my TBR for a while; I have a soft spot in my heart for anthologies which bring together numerous authors with some thin parameters tying them all together. I can understand how this might misfire, however. The reason they are tropes is not just because they are recurring themes/ideas, but also because we can predict where they will go. I can understand how it might be easy to flip a trope and just do the same thing only in reverse.

    I’m glad you had a positive experience with at least one story! That gives me hope. (I’m totally still reading this)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right.. in the process of trying to invert these, they just presented another trope or predictable scenario. The writing is not bad. My disappointment stems mainly from the fact that it just was not what I wanted when I began. Maybe you can pull something more out of it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Very cautiously.. if you are okay with tropes then maybe. I did not enjoy it. I only connected with one story. It felt as though each author tried so hard to avoid the trope that they actually managed to fall into another. But it is a collection, so you never know. It is highly possible you could find more enjoyment 🙂


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