Think of the Parents

A good reminder that parents should occasionally make an appearance in YA novels:

“I’m always a little bugged when I read YA books where the parents are absent, either by killing them off for no reason, or by sending the teen away to boarding school. Now I have to admit, some of my favorite books are set in boarding school and many of them require the setting, but in a lot of cases, it’s just a way to get rid of the parents so that the kids can run wild and have their own adventures.  There aren’t many kids who have either had their parents die or are sent to live at boarding school (okay, my husband has had both of those things happen – and he says that Hogwarts aside, life in a co-ed boarding school in England was as awesome as it sounds) but there are lots and lots of kids out there who have to deal with their parents every day.”

I know that it’s easy to think that less parental interaction means more adventure/freedom for your main character, and in part that’s true. You don’t necessarily want your main character to have to sit at home every night because their parents are watching them constantly. (Although that might be a good excuse for a character to rebel.) But as CJ mentions, most readers can relate to dealing with parents on a day-to-day basis. That’s not to say they need to be present on every page, but they should at least be a part of your character’s life.

A recent example of parents handled well in a novel would be John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Although they’re not uber-present they’re still a big part of Hazel’s life and feel like real people. (I won’t give away details, but one quote from Hazel’s mom was heartbreaking.)

How do you handle parents in your YA/children’s novels?

(image: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

3 thoughts on “Think of the Parents

  1. Sadly, the YA book that I’m re-drafting revolves around a character who is dropped off at an orphanage as a baby. Indeed, I set out to write a parentless story, but parent figures keep creeping in. As I wrote the story, it became more and more clear to me that it was about the need for family rather than the need for freedom.

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