topic: parents in YA

16 June 2012

My god, I just have it going with these topic posts, eh? Sorry sorry! Actual reviews to come up soon :)

I'd like to discuss parents in YA, or rather, the absence of them.


   Most frequently, I've seen, is the car crash method. Most of the family dies in a tragic car crash. But it's an effective method, really.
Another would be the too-rich-to-care parents who are so rich, that they leave their child alone a lot. Or maybe the parents are divorced, and the one with custody of the MC goes on vacation or something. The possibilities of getting rid of these troublesome characters are endless.


   Once again, an writer has several reasons for doing so.

  • Not wanting to take the trouble to write them in
  • They're a hinderance 
  • Not important
  • Very important (them being dead or absent may be the centre plot of the story, revolving around the MC)
  • "lazy writing"
   There are some stories where the parents die, and it's all about the main character coping with the loss and trekking on a journey of self-discovery. Or maybe the death and/or absence of the parents in a negative way impacts the personality of the character or why he or she acts the way he or she does (gosh, proper grammar is a mouthful)
my favourite comic :)

Is It Good Or Bad?

   Parents are important. They shape children to become who they are, and are key in the early stages of a child's life, and most importantly during the teenage years, where these "children" are going through so much. Teens need their parents (though they don't admit it) until the absolute moment of independence. I think it'd bad that readers don't get to see this development--relationship--between parent and child.

  However, I understand why they're not present. Adventure and independence are near synonymous in YA Lit, and in order to have that adventure, one has to have independence without parents. Many great stories, like James and The Giant Peach and Harry Potter, have been written without parents and adventure ensues. 

 So I guess I'll have to say that I'm in the balance on this point. What do you all think?

5 thoughts:

  1. The absence of parents has been a continuous issue for me and I reason YA is not a favourite. I always mention in my reviews if the parents were in the story and how I think it added to the genuine feel of the story.

  2. Well, in some cases, (like Harry Potter as you mentioned) the book is still great without them. In fact, it might be better without them. But in a lot of cases, parents help the realistic feel of the book. Without parents, there is a missing layer of character development. But it's not the case with every YA book, so I guess
    m on that balance point, as well.

  3. Yes! This definitely seems to be an issue in a lot of YA books. I've actually started becoming surprised when the parents actually have a big part in the story and don't just "disappear."

  4. In my experience, I think parents are often left out not only for the reasons you've mentioned, but as a reflection of the generation that is writing these books. Often when we write, we take from what we know, and sometimes those experiences are divorces, parents dying at a young age, and a huge amount of mishap that eventually result in no parents.

    Another reason I believe there may be a lack of parents in YA is because of the fact while parents can give development to their characters, so can the absence. The lack of parents, whether physically or mentally takes a huge toll on who a person is, just as much as having the parent there does. Therefore, in some cases, yes, it is lazy to just cut out the idea of parents, however for some stories it is essential to the character, and ever further for some, such as Harry Potter is a well thought-out and meticulous plan rather than a simple act of laziness.

    However, I must take in to consideration the deteriorating state of quality YA literature (and all other types of literature), and say that what you have pointed out is often, often the case, and a sad thing it is.

  5. I usually don't notice missing parents as much, but one author that I think does a good job of having parents be involved & still having adventure is Sara Zarr. She writes some great contemporary YA, and parents play a huge role in each of her books. She's definitely the exception, though.


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