When I discover that one or both parents are dead in a YA novel, I don’t feel sad. I think, oh no, here we go again. As 10 Worn-out Cliches in YA states, “The death toll of parents in YA is staggering. If the heroine’s parents are lucky enough to be alive, they’re often negligent or clueless.”
Opinions vary widely as to what role parents should play in young adult fiction. Some folks want less, others more. Some think there are not enough good parents in YA. Some want more bad ones. And then there is the ambivalence of teens themselves. They want their parents out of the picture, until they want them here, right now. They think Mom and Dad suck at everything, until they are god-like. No wonder it’s so hard to know how to write parents in teen fiction.
I believe writers should depict parents in the way that best serves the story, irrespective of the constantly changing conventions of the genre. But the demands of the market are hard to ignore, and I struggled mightily with the depiction of the parents in my YA novel. Here are some thoughts from other folks on this topic.
- The Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit bemoans the “distracted, failing parents” that are all too common in today’s young adult fiction. But not everyone agrees that this is The REAL Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit. Maybe “the real parent problem in YA lit is not that parents in contemporary YA stories are ineffective, mopey, and bad. It’s that some parents (and other adults) in real life continue to stereotype and generalize YA as ghetto sub-genre that doesn’t teach the ‘right’ lessons.”
- While many parents in YA are dead, missing, or in rehab, in this piece for the Boston Globe, Meredith Goldstein suggests that authors like John Green and A.S.King are helping grownups to make a comeback in young adult books.
- It was only a matter of time before helicopter parents began helicoptering in YA novels as well. This writer worries that in the shift from “parents who are too conveniently absent” some “authors may be overcompensating by making parents who are TOO overbearing.”
- If grownups are in fact more present in YA today, it’s reassuring that there are some parents who are as embarrassing in fiction as they are in real life. Here are The 8 Most Embarrassing Parents in YA.
- If you’re worried that good parents are the most underrepresented group in YA, read about 10 Heroes Whose Parents Were Somehow Not Dead or Evil.
What do you think about parents in YA?