Where Are Parents In YA? Discussion

Something I’ve noticed by reading hundreds of YA books: teenagers are very independent. They have their own cars and don’t have to run much by their parents; they shoot them a quick text before going on a road trip with friends where they then scoff at how clueless their parents are.

 

Something I’ve noticed by being a teenager: teenagers are not quite as independent as we would like to believe. Many don’t have our own cars and rely on our parents for transportation. Our parents have the final say on what we can and can’t do, and often offer much valuable advice about life in this confusing stage.

Image result for parent helping teen

It seems that there’s a difference between the two.

Through reading so much YA, I’ve noticed that parents seem to be, for the large part, absent. Sometimes they’re dead. More often, they exist but the main character’s pretty much ignore them, and they pretty much are only referenced a couple of times through the book.

Exhibit A: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: the parents are rarely mentioned, and don’t really mind their kids flying off to Europe and going out by themselves.

Image result for the fault in our stars

Exhibit B: Paper Towns by John Green: several teens, boys and girls, take a spontaneous road trip right before graduation with pretty much zero planning.

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Exhibit C: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon: two teens fly off to Hawaii with no sign of complaint by one of their parents.

Image result for everything everything

Exhibit D: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith: parents let two teens take a trip from Chicago to California by themselves.

Image result for windfall

Exhibit F: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia: The parents are there, but they’re painted as completely clueless and useless, to the point of being villains that lead to suicidal thoughts.

Image result for eliza and her monsters book

In my opinion, this is completely unrealistic. The fact of the matter is that teenagers do not have their lives together. We study 6 hours, get an F, and somehow try to bring it to an A. We try to juggle 6 academic classes at once, on top of sports, arts, other extracurriculars, and having a social life. We’re stressed about college, and trying to figure out what on Earth we want to major in and where we want to spend the next four years. We have hormones and insane mood swings, laughing and being completely happy with friends, and then bursting into tears five minutes later. We often make stupid decisions, only to regret them ten minutes later.

 

In this crazy time of growth and maturing, parents play a huge role. They went through it before us, and they’re there to help us and guide us. Sometimes we think that they’re stupid and too old to understand anything, we hate how they expect us to act like mature adults at one moment and then treat us like elementary schoolers the next, but at the end of the day, they’re still our guides. They still offer us advice on studying, help us with math, and take us to visit colleges.

 

Parents also still have a huge influence over the teenage life. I have a friend who wants to go to prom with her boyfriend, but her parents won’t let her. I had another friend who had to ask a parent’s approval before she could ask a boy to Sadie’s. One friend went out with friends for an hour after school, without telling her parents, before coming home, and her parents were furious. I know many 16+ year olds who don’t have their driver’s licence (side note: I just got my licence this week so excited!!!), much less their own car, and rely on parents for rides (especially since it’s illegal to drive another teen around until at least 17!). I’ve had numerous friends bail on plans because their parents can’t take them, or want them to study instead of hanging out. One time a 5 person sleepover that had been planned for weeks was canceled the day before because parents got mad.

 

At the end of the day, teenagers are still kids. High school kids, but still kids, and still dependents on their parents. Parents play a huge role in the lives of kids, and I feel like this is usually not represented in YA fiction. As a result, a lot of the fiction ends up feeling really unrealistic. It ends up making me wonder if I’m missing out on some kid of teenage life because my parents are overprotective and I’m sheltered–but that can’t be it, because all my friends are in the same boat! (unless my entire community is sheltered…)

I get that the teenage years are a time of independence, of maturing and rebelling against parents. I feel that all the time. And maybe reading about parents is boring compared to friends and boyfriends. It’s exciting to have a story about jetting off to Hawaii with your high school boyfriend! But at the same time, I feel like these stories can be rather unrealistic, and I could probably relate to stories with parents more in them.

 

Let’s talk in the comments below! Do you agree that the representation of (or lack of) parents in YA is unrealistic? Would you like to see more of them? I love to hear your thoughts ❤

 

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63 thoughts on “Where Are Parents In YA? Discussion

  1. Cindy says:

    I really agree with that. First off, I find familial relationships lacking in YA and when it is there, like you said, it isn’t represented very well. Ahh on another note, I just turned 16 and need to look into getting my drivers licence!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. BriennaiJ says:

    I agree! I wish that in YA the kids were more realistic and the relationships as well. For example, these kids always want to sneak out and go to parties and things. In real life, none of my friends actually enjoy parties so why would they sneak Out? Also, the girls can’t be without a boyfriend for like ten minutes in YA. I know girls who have been single throughout high school and who are perfectly fine. Some are more interested in moving along in their dream careers than dating! I think the issue is that YA is being written all by adults, and either parents in the past WERE like that sometimes, or they just don’t remember how to be a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thisisoneforthebooks says:

    You’re so right!! There is no way my parent’s would let me take a vacation by myself, let alone me actually getting up one day and deciding to head off without giving any word to anyone. There would be a police search the next day for sure lol. Side note: congrats on your license! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alicia says:

    I don’t mind fictional books with unrealistic elements, specially middle grade and YA, as long as they belong to the fantasy genre. This is something that has happened in literature for many years so that adventures, struggles and other extraordinary events can happen. Even fairy tales and Disney heavily rely on leaving parents aside (or dead), otherwise stories would end the moment they get home and their parents say “no”. Bookaxe made an interesting post and YT video about this, called “Why does Disney kill the parents?”. Outside fantasy, I would also love to see more family dynamics in YA books and less clichéd teenagers that just want to be wild and free. I can recommend Love & Gelato for a story that focuses on family. The MC has cool adventures like any other YA book but in a very realistic, believable way. His father is always present and you have scenes of them having meal together or he getting angry after she arrived after curfew. I loved that book, it has romance but family is the strongest theme ❤ Congrats on your license, drive safe! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Wisteria says:

      Good point about fantasy relying on leaving parents aside! I have to say I agree with you there 🙂 I’m definitely going to go check out that video right now, it sounds really interesting 🙂 Glad you agree on family being more important in contemporary! And thanks, Alicia 🙂

      Like

  5. Norrie says:

    I don’t read many YA, but so far it seemed there were quite a few instances where the parents were like unicorns basically. Nobody has seen them.
    Even in the TV series Stranger things, those kids were always out, alone, and they were like 12…

    I was always at war with my mother, up until i turned 19 and promptly moved out 😀 She became more lenient when i was 16, but when i wanted to go on a 1 week holiday with my friends, when i was 17, i had to ask for permission. I couldn’t just pack up and disappear.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jenn @ Bound to Writing says:

    I completely agree that it’s unrealistic for parents to not be represented in YA. Parents play an important role in a teenagers life and for them to be nonexistent in what teens read is crazy. My favorite book that has parents that are active in the story is Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. It’s pretty much the only one that I know of that shows a relationship between a parent and their child. Also, congrats on getting your license! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. karathehuman says:

    Okay, this post is amazing. I’ve never really thought about it before, but you’re absolutely right! Even if YA books would throw in a LITTLE about the character fighting with the parents about the trip they want to take, it would be more realistic. Though I also grew up in a very sheltered household, I do know that there are parents out there who would be okay with their teenager going off on some trip like that… as long as they discussed it with them first and got the okay from their parents.

    It also sucks about the lack of parental scenes in YA because so many teens already feel out of touch and hindered by their parents. Those types of YA books are really just fueling that. Sure, it’s great for books to connect with the readers, but it’d also be nice to throw in some good parent/child moments to show the readers that parents aren’t just evil monsters trying to stomp on all of their good times. Most of the time, teens don’t realize how great their parents are until they’re grown adults. That’s how it was for me, but I wonder if it would have been different if I read books that have a stronger focus on positive parental relationships.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kay Wisteria says:

      I’m glad you agree 🙂 That’s a great point on YA books having parents fighting with teens about a trip; books could totally keep the amazing fun road trip scenes we love to read about while still seeming more realistic that way!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. emmareadstoomuch says:

    this is so true!! it seems like most YA authors just relegate the parents/families out of the picture so it’s easier to have their characters do crazy things. but really it’s much more realistic if they’re involved – and it also creates a much richer story! it makes the protagonists seem fuller, and it populates the story with more characters. some of my favorite YA has been stuff that subverts this trope – like I’ll Give You the Sun. i think it forms a much more loving and fascinating narrative to include a full family. hopefully this trope dies soon!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Moira says:

    I agree with you on the complete lack of parents in YA. I think I kind of get why it’s done, but it just isn’t realistic. If you haven’t read it already, The Hate U Give features some great parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    hehe oh gosh that’s so apt about not having transportation and requiring lifts as a teen- great observation. And yeah it’s random how often parents don’t seem to care when their kids jet off wherever… And yeah I do agree that for the most part this is unrealistic- at least in these sorts of situations the parents are likely to be involved (discounting genuinely neglectful/abusive parents- but those stories are unlikely to have kids jetting halfway round the world again). Anyway, I think you make great points, brilliant discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sophia Ismaa Writes says:

    Completely agree. I would love to see better representation of parents in books but I think authors have this belief that the parents will be an obstacle to the love story and the love story is what’s important to them. I know if I was a teen I would be thinking why on Earth aren’t my parents looking out for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. bookgraphy says:

    I agree with everything you said, when I was younger and I read YA I always wished I could be like those kids and just do whatever I wanted and travel wherever I wanted, I found out it doesn’t really work like that haha not even now that I’m considered an “adult” by society. Parents will always have a say in our lives and we don’t see that in YA literature. Awesome post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. PaperbackCassie says:

    This is so spot on! It was always frustrating to read about teenagers who owned cars, did whatever they wanted without permission, and went on trips alone. That didn’t reflect my life as a teenager at all!! I love when I find a YA book that have present and strict parents. I think the best father/daughter relationship I’ve ever read was in Alex, Approximately.
    The Fault in Out Stars is the worst.. 🙄 (What mom let’s two teenagers walk around alone in a foreign country?!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. anatomyofabookthief says:

    Yes, yes, yes, all of this!! This is one of my biggest pet peeves with ya, parents are either completely absent or they are just completly incompetent! It’s actually become a bit of a theme with some of my recent favourite ya’s that they actually have good parents like in Simon vs the homo sapiens agenda and/or actually deal with the complex relationships between parents and kids like in letters to the lost, fab post!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. bookbeachbunnyGemma says:

    I was so annoyed with the way the parents were presented in Eliza and Her Monsters! You’re so right about this though. There’s also the trope I’ve noticed about the parent being kidnapped or missing and hence that’s why the kids are off doing what they’re doing. I appreciate the books that make the effort to include the family relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Consu says:

    I really like the angle you took for this post. The point isn’t that we want to read more about parents, the point is that teenagers can’t relate as much to the lack of a parental figure. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Carrie says:

    At sixteen I was working a job and paid for my own car and came and went from work/school without really checking in so to speak. Now would I have gone across country… um no. But my parents knew my friends and knew where I was most of the time without “permission” but I’m from another generation completely and know things have changed these days. Perhaps it’s the age of the authors to think many 16-18 year old in YA are a bit more free than is realistic today.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Andie @ Andrea's Nirvana says:

    I definitely agree! It’s one of the things that makes YA a bit less relatable to me, which is really fucked up. I agree that we should have a few books with a screwed up family order, but not EVERY book should be like that. Not every families is horrible and dysfunctional… Y’know? Great discussion post!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Never Not Reading says:

    My teenage years were more similar to a YA book. My mom was never home, I had a car and drove myself pretty much anywhere I wanted, and my parents allowed me to do just about anything I wanted. Senior year my (male) best friend and I went on a road trip together, and shared a hotel room and even a bed. They didn’t even bat an eye. Maybe because he was gay, but I still gather this isn’t the normal behavior.

    I wonder if the kind of people who become writers are the kind of people who had teenage experiences like mine. Maybe only these “Oh, do whatever you want sweetie!” parents are the only kind who support as risky a career as being an author. But I think more likely they just haven’t imagined a kid’s life complexly enough. I think a lot of them are older and just don’t remember what it was like and how involved parents are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Wisteria says:

      Thanks for commenting! For the sake of credibility, I’m glad to see that these familial relationships really do exist and it’s not just the authors bsing us all haha. I think both of those reasons probably play into why all YA books seem to be like this 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Wre says:

    I feel that they’re wishful fantasies more than anything else. We feel trapped in our lives and therefore need to hide in a fantasy world where the people controlling us are insignificant.

    Like

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