What has happened to parents in children’s literature, specifically the YA genre? As Scott Rhoades pointed out in our last writer’s group meeting, the main character in a YA novel has to solve his or her own problem, it can’t be solved by an outsider—like an adult. So, the difficulty starts with the fact that parents need to be moved out of the way. But have they been moved too far?
In the good old days, the parents were just gone; absent or dead, so the heroic orphan can begin their triumphal rise. The parents are magically missing or looked back on with fond regret.
In today’s YA novels, more often than not, the parents are reduced to blathering idiots. They are portrayed as too depressed to function, too busy to care or notice the dire situations of their children, drug or alcohol addicts, or inept beyond ridiculous.
But wait, you say. Some parents really do have depression and drug problems. And you’re right, many do. But wouldn’t that make them more able to notice the same problems in their children rather than less? Does it make them so comatose they couldn’t recognize their teenage daughter is pregnant?
In a study that compared women in teen fiction to real-life women, based on information from the Census Bureau and the Department of Labor, they found that 3% of the depictions were realistic.
In fact, I don’t allow my kids to watch most of the teen television shows simply because of the disrespect given to, and the stupidity portrayed by the adults.
Despite the problems with society and the decline of the family, there are still many wonderful parents and adults willing to love and care about teens.
If edgy YA novels are meant to help teens deal with tough situations, then wouldn’t it be wise to teach them there are adults they can turn to for help? A parent? A teacher? A neighbor? Instead, so many books teach them to turn to each other, or to vampires, or werewolves, or fairies, or sex, or drugs, or suicide, or …
Can there be a middle ground? If only 3% of the moms are depicted accurately, where are all the troubled teens coming from? Obviously, a teen can have good parents (or parent) and still have real issues. Isn’t there a way to write poignant novels about teens dealing with tough situations, but who eventually find help through a realistic-type parent or adult?
*Disclaimer: Before you say, well, you don’t know what it’s like to have a parent on drugs or to have been abused, or neglected… I’ve had experiences too.