Parents. They play a part in most stories, and a huge role in most young adult fiction. I’ve noticed a trend, though. Parents in young adult fiction are clueless. They are childish and neglectful. The teens don’t feel comfortable sharing anything about their lives with their parents.
Why is this a trend? Shouldn’t we teach our teens to share and trust their parents? Shouldn’t we show parents as strong, capable role models?
This was first brought to my attention in elementary school. Every night before bed, my mom would read aloud to me. We would then discuss the book, watch the movie (if it had a movie tie-in), and do research (if applicable). I loved the Ruth Chew books, and into our second or third fantasy adventure, my mom set the book aside with a frown.
“Why aren’t the parents ever involved?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I would take you with me on my adventures.”
Maybe my mom and I just have a unique relationship. I still take her with me on my adventures.
Maybe my childhood was one in a million. My parents both worked, but we still played games at night. They still made dinner. Sometimes I helped. It wasn’t me cleaning the house and cooking all the meals because my parents were too immature to know how to turn on a stove. I shared stories about my life with my parents. They shared stories with me.
I know there are neglectful parents out there, but why do they have to always be in young adult books?
The next time this was brought to my attention was when I hired a freelance editor for COGLING. In COGLING, Edna’s father works on the railroad. He supports his family as best he can; such a job, however, keeps him away from home. The mother also works. In fact, the family is so poor, Edna and Harrison have to work too. The editor told me I had to make the mother clueless. According to her, teens like reading about other teens being independent. Teens don’t want to read about doting parents. They don’t feel their parents can connect with them. Having Mrs. Mather be preoccupied in her own affairs added “tension” to the story. So, that’s how I wrote it, but I made sure Edna goes to her mother for help. I didn’t want Edna to ignore her only parental figure available (much to the editor’s chagrin).
With ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, Honoria has lost her parents, but I show her memories of how much she loved them, how close they were. I also made certain to write a close-knit, healthy relationship for her with her aunt and uncle.
In the Treasure Chronicles, I wanted Garth and Georgette Treasure to be hands-on. I wanted them to be solid role-models. They work hard, but still have time for family. They know what’s really important in life. In many ways, I modeled them after my own parents.
In RUNNERS AND RIDERS, Juliet is steered away from her family by the bad influence of a friend. As time goes on for her, she realizes how much she loves her mother and they grow closer.
I’m not saying books with distant parents are bad. I’m just saying there are a lot out there, and sometimes it’s refreshing to read a young adult novel with strong family bonds. If you’re like me and looking for one of those books, check out:
§ THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green.
§ OUT OF REACH by Carrie Arcos. (Not as strong as I would like to see, but you can tell the family is trying)
§ EXIT PURSUED BY A BEAR by E.K. Johnston
§ SUPERNATURAL PET SITTER by Diane Moat
§ BLOOD BETWEEN US by Zac Brewer (Not supportive parents; rather, supportive uncles)
§ RED JACKET by Mark Bondurant
§ THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
§ EVERY LAST WORD by Jennifer Niven
§ THE BODY INSTITUTE by Carol Riggs