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Everything You Need To Know About the "Who Did This To You?" Trope

Who did this to you
“Who did this to you?” cue the swooning.BookTok loves to spot tropes, which are plots, and themes that repeat in our favorite stories. The “Who did this to you?” trope has captivated the hearts of thousands of readers. You can watch tons of social media videos mentioning the trope or hashtag. That being said, I thought it would be fun to dive a bit deeper into this trope and find out all we can about it.

What is the “Who did this to you?” trope?

The trope usually refers to when the love interest shows protectiveness towards the main character by asking, “Who did this to you?” The question is asked after the following types of events:
  • The MC wakes up from a nightmare sobbing. The nightmare is typically a memory from their traumatic past. This often leads to the love interest comforting the MC, and they open up about their feelings for each other.
  • The love interests see the MC’s scars for the first time and show powerful emotions - protectiveness, anger, regret, etc..
  • The MC comes running to the love interest for help or comfort.
Of course, other scenarios exist where the “Who did this to you” trope comes into play, but the three above are some of the most popular among the bookish community.While this is a trope found in both Fantasy and Contemporary Romance, most readers will prefer it when it is in Fantasy. The likes and dislikes of readers will vary from person to person; however, many can agree that the “Who did this to you” trope is far more intense and, in a way, realistic when it happens in a fantasy novel. Yet, that does not stop the fact that many readers find themselves “laughing and giggling” when they come across this trope - regardless of the genre.

Why do readers love the "Who Did This To You?" trope?

I asked my followers on Instagram why they loved this trope so much and what made them want to read it. Here are some of the most recurring answers I was given:
  • In the case of an enemies-to-lovers story, a “Who did this to you” moment shows that this character is starting to care about the other character.
  • When the “Who did this to you” moment happens, it’s a sign that things are going to change/get moving, and it’s exciting because, more often than not, there’s some sort of swoon moment afterward.
  • It keeps the story intense and a bit more suspenseful.
  • It gives readers butterflies - “I want a man that would be soooo protective of me.”
  • It gives them hope.
  • It shows that a character that would usually be distant and cold can genuinely care for the person they love.
  • It gives insight into the love interest’s way of thinking (especially if the book isn’t dual POV!).
  • It gives readers the feeling of being understood because being protective of those we love is something we all know and can relate to, to a certain degree.

Associated Tropes

The “Who did this to you” trope can be attached to various other tropes - brother’s best friend, friends to lovers, strangers to lovers, etc. - however, there is one trope that, when it’s combined with the “Who did this to you” trope, readers seem to devour absolutely; that is none other than the enemies/rivals to lovers trope.What better way for two enemies to finally start getting closer than after the MC gets hurt or shows a part of their past to the love interest, and the latter begins to simmer in silent rage? There’s a reason why so many people post about these types of books and why so many of them go viral on social media.That being said, it’s rare now to see one without the other. Enemies/rivals to lovers will (almost) always have a “Who did this to you” moment. Not only does it build up the tension and anticipation of “Will they finally kiss?” or “Will the love interest finally confess that they’ve been in love with the MC all this time even if they’ve been acting as though they hate their guts?” (looking at you, Fourth Wing). Nevertheless, the two tropes have become inevitably intertwined, and readers cannot get enough of them.Here are a few books with the “Who did this to you?” trope.
  1. "The Love Hypothesis" by Ali Hazelwood
  2. "Shatter Me" by Tahereh Mafi
  3. "Dance of Thieves" by Mary E. Pearson
  4. "All Rhodes Lead Here" by Mariana Zapata
  5. "Twisted Love" by Ana Huang
Read, purchase, and explore these "Who did this to you?" books on my Fable list!

What makes this trope so popular?

Readers can’t seem to get enough of this trope - that’s made obvious by the number of people who post about it and the number of people who respond to them. That being said, it shouldn’t be surprising that readers are making book clubs specifically for this trope. Moderator “toribetweenpages” recently launched a new club on Fable called the “Who Did This to You Bookclub.” It’s a club “for fantasy romance addicts who love a “Who did this to you” burn-the-world moment.” Over 200 readers have joined thus far, all sharing a love for the tension-filled moments that come with this popular trope.
Join the Who Did This to You Bookclub on Fable!

Find book clubs & book recommendations on Fable

Fable community members enjoy the many benefits of reading while making deeper human connections with other readers. Start by exploring our exceptional book recommendations from some of the world’s great tastemakers. Each Folio covers an important theme, and some of our Folio curators include LeVar Burton, Paulo Coelho, Wolfgang Puck, and Jasmine Guillory. Discover great book recommendations!Fable also makes it easy for readers to share their thoughts and connect with others through book clubs. With our platform, you can host every aspect of an online discussion at a single destination, to reach readers and build safe online communities regardless of location or time zone.Start your own book club today!Every week, we update our Fable blog with new features, interviews, and reader resources. Explore any of these articles to become a better reader and discover book recommendations in every genre.

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