Friday, July 05, 2013

Book Girls Don't Cry: Where Are All the Parents?

Inspired by Book Buzzers, Book Girls Don't Cry is a weekly feature where we each discuss/vent/advise on the chosen weekly bookish topic. Don't miss Jenni on Mondays, and Amy on Saturdays:

So Many Orphans!

Seriously? Where are the parents in YA novels? I have noticed a common theme where the characters are either orphans, live away from home (like in a private school dorm or with an uncle), have parents who are always at work or otherwise clueless/uninvolved in the book at all, or gone on vacation for the duration of the story. I know that these "excuses" are things that can happen. A lot of parents are uninvolved, too busy with their careers or otherwise to be very... parenty, but it seems to be such a common occurrence in YA that I wonder, is the author not wanting to deal with writing/creating familial bonds and dynamics? Are they trying to make it feel more mature by keeping out strict parents who may point to the fact that these are teenage kids? I'm not sure, and to be honest if done well it doesn't bother me too much, but a lot of the time the missing parents syndrome gives the book sort of an unrealistic feel.

I'm not saying I need for both parents who are perfectly devoted and clued in to everything their kid is doing. Great parent/child dynamics can be so very unique for every family and every book. Which is why it's unfortunate that it's become so rare in YA - there are so many directions to take. Even though it can be cliché, I don't mind one missing parent. Cliché or not, having been raised by only one parent for most of my life, I do relate to those kids. I have read and enjoyed many books involving a one-parent family dynamic and it can offer just as much.

Having so much familial absence does make those books with actual involved parents and a realistic family dynamic stand out. I've noticed that books with great family dynamics become really enjoyable reads to me as of late. It seems to be a missing elements that can give the book just that extra profoundness. Here are a few examples of books with great parental relationships:

However, there is a way you can take book parents a bit too far, as well. I have found myself annoyed by parent in YA so much at times that it affects my enjoyment of the book overall. Sometimes it's because they are present, but are cold or so uncaring I want to slap them silly for procreating at all. Other times it's by how annoying strict they are, to the point of getting on my nerves as a parent myself. I wasn't raised in a strict home. I was left to make my own mistakes and choices when I was a teenager. Moreover, my mother's way was if you can't stop it from happening - and you likely can't - control it the only way you can. For instance, she was smart enough to know that teenagers (at least where I come from) were bound to drink as some point, so she would tell me she'd rather buy me booze herself than not knowing what and where I would get it. Having no reason to rebel from rules fixed on my head, I never "snuck out", I had no interest in drugs, and never even smoked a cigarette in my life. Being a believer that if you tell someone not to do something, they will do just that, I guess it plays a hand in my not having patience for parents who are clueless to this in books and try to control every aspect of a teen's life. It doesn't mesh with my own parental beliefs and upbringing. I like a balance of openness, while still being the parent figure the child needs them to be.

What do you think about missing parents in YA?
Do you have any recs for books with good family dynamics?

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Xoxo, Book Girl!