Image used under Creative Commons - Original belongs to SaladySo I’ve been really thinking about doing this weekly meme/discussion about topics that make people think. I've come up with Think About It Thursday. This may or may not be weekly, but I'll try to do it every once in a while.
For the first Think About It Thursday, I want to discuss parents/parental figures in YA and MG books.
Absentee parents seem to be a recurring theme in many YA and MG books. I don’t know if it’s just more convenient to have parents that aren’t around or if kids and teens are just more interesting without their parents. Obviously, a lot of things that happen in YA/MG books could not happen if parents were always around, but it would still be nice if they were there a bit. Maybe I’d like to see more relationships within the family because I’m a very family-oriented person, but the serious lack of parental figures in so many YA books bothers me. I’m not saying that some book opened my eyes to the lack of parental figures in YA/MG books, but I have noticed it.
In some instances, it seems perfectly plausible that parental figures aren’t around. Beautiful Creatures and The Secret Year, as well as many others I’m sure, present situations where it makes sense that parents aren’t around. In Beautiful Creatures, Lena doesn’t live with her parents, but she has Macon, who is a great parental figure. Ethan’s dad was never able to cope with his wife’s death, so it makes sense not to really have him around, but then Amma fills that parental role. BC is a perfect example of strong parental figures working their way into a YA novel. Macon and Amma fit perfectly in the BC world, but there are so very few parental figures that do in YA and MG novels. In The Secret Year, Colt’s parents are there, but his mom works all the time to pay the bills and his dad drinks a lot. They are there for him, but they’re not close and that makes sense.
Then there are books like Hush, Hush, Deadly Little Secret/Deadly Little Lies, Need & Captivate, Shiver, etc that have nearly no parental interaction. Sure, some of the character’s parents are around and there are a few scenes with them, but for the most part, they don’t factor into the story at all. Each of these books works just fine without parents/parental figures (though Need & Captivate does have Grandma Betty, so including it here might be a stretch) but I find it almost annoying to see parents that care/pay attention so little.
In Hush, Hush, Nora’s mom loves here and they are said to have a strong, close relationship, but she’s never around. In Deadly Little Secret & Deadly Little Lies, Camelia’s parents barely pay attention to her. She nearly dies and they’re only around for the aftermath. She goes out to eat with her dad, but it’s brief and they never talk about important things. In Shiver, Grace’s parents are only around, or even seem to care, when she is harmed. Her mother would be more than happy to never even pay attention to her. She’s happiest in her art studio, away from her daughter. I could even go into Twilight’s severe lack of parental figures (i.e. Charlie and Renee), but I won’t today. All of these parents/parental figures are doing a terrible job of caring for their children.
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed nearly all of these books and if I didn't, it certainly wasn't because of a lack of parental interaction. Now, I know this may all come off as harsh and I know the storylines may not work so well with parents actually being involved in their children’s lives, but I’d like to see a little more interaction. It appears to me that it’s easier in YA and MG books to just make parents completely oblivious to what their children are going through. That, or the parents just don’t seem to want to even care about what their children are doing.
So what are your opinions on the subject? Are absentee parents just an easier way to make the story flow or should they be a little more involved in their children’s lives? Do you think it’s even possible in most YA/MG novels to incorporate strong, parental characters while maintaining the integrity of the storyline?
Sound off on it because I’d love to see everyone’s opinions.