Young Adult and Middle Grade
How to handle parent characters in YA
On the Book Country blog today, we're talking about how to handle parent characters in YA fiction--something I was thinking about after reading this thread about the stereotype of the oblivious parent.
Check out the post and let us know how YOU are keeping the parent characters in your YA fiction out of the way so that the YA protagonists can have a good story?
--edited by Lucy Silag on 8/28/2013, 12:35 PM--
Great blog post, Lucy!
Okay, so I think that in contemporary YA books, which are quieter and more introverted, a writer can successfully write parents that are a little distracted and burdened by everyday problems.
But in paranormal or sci-fi/dystopian books, I prefer if parents are just killed off. I don't want to sound cruel, but since in such books the YA protagonist encounters a lot of danger, the distracted parent somehow seems too irresponsible and oblivious to be believable. In UNRAVELING, a ya sci-fi book, the mother is clinically depressed, and doesn't take care of her children, and that is just... depressing. I guess YA books need to incorporate important issues that young adults deal with in real life every day: depression, addiction, anorexia, etc. But I can't help but cringe when I encounter parents are too depressed to care.
Remember Katniss's mom?
--edited by Nevena Georgieva on 8/29/2013, 4:26 PM--
Lucy & Nevena,
I didn't like how Katniss's mother was so out of it either, but if she was 'with it' then Katniss wouldn't have needed to learn to hunt and provide for the family. At the end of Mockingjay, Collins missed out on a great way to tie it all together when Katniss fell into the same stupor her mother was in. If I was writing the ending, the mother would go back to District 12 with Katniss and nurse her out of it, leading to them having a new bond of forgiveness and leaning on each other.
On the original topic...
When I write Y/A I do try to include the parents, but try to include how I remember my own parents when I was sixteen or so. My mother was working multiple jobs and she was always distracted by the constant trouble my younger sister was in so as long as the school and/or police weren't calling her, she didn't worry. Parents are like anyone, they get busy and the squeaky wheel gets the attention. You do get the helicopter parents who continue through the teen years and that could be a plot point in itself.
This is a really good topic. I read somewhere that people are often sick of reading about teenage characters struggling to connect with their parents and being rebellious, or going to live with an estranged parent.
I actually opened this thread to talk about the project I'm posting on this site, about a girl with a mental health disorder and a series of murders which she may or not be responsible for.
This was a challenge in that her parents are naturally concerned about her, and want to keep her close. Being seventeen (is this too old for YA by the way?) she wants her space and can rightly take control of her life in most cases, but spends a lot of time sneaking out and ignoring her mobile phone, purely because her illness doesn't give her much space in her own mind, so she seeks space in open spaces, alone. It's been really difficult to form a good relationship for her and her parents at the same time as having her behave selfishly enough to get her out of the house alone. I tackled some parts of this by using her parents' willingness to let her try for a normal teen life, they love her after all, but once the murders began, no amount of sympathy from any normal parents would have let their daughter out alone. That's when it got really tough.
But this thread also helped me to think about a fantasy I've just started to look at again after ignoring it for years. It was a huge struggle and at first, the parent-child relationship was just ridiculous. The mother left my main character (a sixteen year old) for weeks at a time while she went to work away (the mother is a controversial archaeologist and very career driven, the father is dead) I'm currently fixing this problem by having my main character have her Grandfather living with her, and although he's a responsible adult, he is getting old, tired, and quite frankly, a little oblivious in nature. That's how I'm overcoming hiding all of the bizarre things that happen to my protag from her parents. Does it work? Absolutely no idea, time will tell, I suppose.