Friday, July 15, 2016

Do Parents Need to be More Visible in YA Books?

This is a question I, and I'm sure a lot of other YA writers and readers, wonder about a lot. Do parent characters need to be more visible in YA books? It seems that most of the time parents get pushed to the sidelines or are perpetually working in YA novels. 

Maybe that's how the teens end up in the situations they do in YA novels; they crave attention, love, and friendship so they befriend the aliens next door (The Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout), fall in love with a vampire (Twilight & more), or end up imprisoned in the faerie lands (ACOTAR series), begging the question: Where are the parents when all this stuff is going on?

I mean really, if you were a diligent parent wouldn't you notice that the kids next door are a little odd or that you've never, ever seen their parents?

I think a lot of the time writers think that parents are unimportant in YA novels and that the whole focus should be on the teens and the romance or action (whatever the plot may be).  Instead, they're setting a sometimes unrealistic storyline. I can see in the Lux series that Katy's mom was a nurse, they do work a lot of hours, but you'd think in her downtime Katy's mom would hang out and - I don't know - ask what's new in her daughter's life instead of dating a creepy doctor and just being kind of indifferent to finding Daemon in her daughter's bed. 

The book that really surprised me was If I Stay with Mia's hippie parents. I don't know about you, but my grandmother would have never allowed any teenaged boyfriend of mine to spend the night, yet Mia's parents were completely cool with it - welcomed him with open arms even.

It's kind of like what one of the characters in The Jane Austen Book Club (the movie version) says while they're discussing Sense & Sensibility: "Austen doesn't think anything interesting happens to a woman over thirty-five."

Is that true? Do we YA authors think parent characters are incapable of having interesting lives that could contribute to the story? I know with The Haunting Love, and even with Finding Elizabeth to a degree, my character's parents got shoved into the background. At the time I didn't really think they had much to contribute to the storyline. Sure, there were a few exceptions to the rule: Cecilia's mom in The Haunting Love gave an insight into what made her the way she was, Nate's first set of parents in Finding Elizabeth showed the political climate of the French Revolution then later Nate and Elizabeth's parents, as well as Anton's previous incarnation's mother, had a bigger role in the story. 

When I was writing Out of Darkness and the other books in the Eternals Trilogy I wanted Lizette's parents and the other older Eternals to be more involved in the story. Their choices and mistakes shaped the way Lizette and her friends were and I enjoyed that Mr. and Mrs. Weatherly, Henry, Luna, Claudette and the others' stories, feelings, and desires intertwined with the storyline of Lizette and her friends. 

I also think that sometimes teens forget that their parents were once teenagers too; their parents had wishes, dreams, and desires the same way they do and just because they've grown up and become parents doesn't mean that they're irrelevant. 

Parents are human beings too; they screw their kids up, they form them into what kind of person they will become, and above all, they make mistakes just like everyone else. 

I think both the absence of parents in certain YA novels and the presence of parents in other YA novels lends a hand as to how the story will go and what challenges the characters will face. Does that make any sense?

What do you prefer? Do you like it better when parents are more involved with their kids in YA novels and add to the storyline or do you like it better when the parents are seen as little as possible? 

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