Hello bookworms and welcome back! It’s Thursday, which means it is well and truly time for a Thursday Ramblings post! If you are new to this blog, hello there and let me tell you a little bit more about what is original weekly feature is about…
THURSDAY RAMBLINGS IS A CASUAL FEATURE/MEME HERE ON JOSIE’S BOOK CORNER WHERE I PICK A TOPIC AND DISCUSS IT WITH YOU. THIS IS A CASUAL POST, FILLED WITH RAMBLING AND CHATTING! SO BASICALLY, WE ARE SIMPLY HAVING A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE TOPIC AT HAND.
This week, my fellow bookworms, I want to discuss the notion of parents in Young Adult novels. Or should I say, the absence of parents or parental figures in YA. Seriously, what is up with that? Why do nearly all of our YA books have a lack of parental figures within them? Or at least, from what I’ve read, I haven’t found any novels that portray this.
And what I mean by the inclusion of parental figures or parents in YA, is not just having them there, lingering as silent statues behind the entire story, but including them as large influences in the lives of the protagonist, who, in most YA novels, are under the age of eighteen. So often we see sixteen-year-old protagonists going off on crazy adventures away from home, and whether you’re reading a contemporary or a fantasy, the situations vary. But in either case, there’s a lack of it.
Of course, there then comes the claim that we read books to escape our reality. And gosh darn, yes, I agree with this 110%! It’s the reason I adore reading fantasy so much. Because I can dive into it and forget everything about the world I live in. But in the back of my mind, there’s a little voice saying; why are these kids running a muck like they’re free? Where are their parents?
This is an innocent discussion. I don’t even know whether I want more realistic portrayals of teenage life in YA or if I want to keep it the way it is. To try and figure out my opinion, I am going to discuss a few points and compare, possibly ask a few questions. So let’s get this started, shall we?
Why do we need parental figures in YA?
In our lives, we are surrounded by people who are our superiors. People we must learn to treat with respect, and one of the first people we learn this with is our parents. They teach us to “respect our elders” and not to talk back, and all that jazz which I am sure you have all heard before.
I feel that, in the same way our own parents and people around us, teach us to respect authority, the same can be done in novels by creating influential and important parent figures that young protagonists rely on. After all, we’re all reliant on our parents until we turn 18. Even then, we might still be dependant on our parents and what they say.
Parents are such an influential part of a young adult’s life. We grow up by the way they teach us, the things they show us, we look to them for guidance and for help. And yet, we don’t see this in YA novels. Why not?
But hey, I’m all for independence!
Personally, I crave for independence. I am only 17, and I have quite a few months to wait until I am 18, and yet, I desperately want to move out, get a job that can allow me to sustain myself on my own. I love the feeling of taking care of myself and relying only on myself.
It’s probably why I enjoy reading YA so much and hardly ever question why there are hardly any prominent parental figures within the stories. But then this raises another question:
Don’t we read books to ESCAPE our reality?
With books, we walk this strange line between reading them for the purpose of escape, but also wishing for more realism or authenticity with storylines and situations within our fiction. I hear it all the time in reviews, and yet when I see discussion posts about “why we read books” it’s all about escapism.
So if we are reading for the purpose of escapism, then I suppose it’s alright for us not to include proper parental figures in our YA books… right? However, maybe it depends on the genre we are referring to. Young Adult in itself is such a large scoping genre. Within it there’s a million different sub-genres. The two main genres I think of however, is contemporary and fantasy/sci-fi.
Parental figures in YA Contemporary
With contemporaries, I feel as though it would be much more necessary to include parental figures that play a significant role in the protagonist’s life. When I think of contemporaries with good parental figures within them, I can think of maybe three: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, and The Shock of the Fall (maybe). And this is out of the many, many books I read this year.
Contemporary YA novels are the novels that speak stories and messages that are closest to that of real life. Mainly we see themes such as coming-of-age, or deeper themes such as dealing with loss or love, and I feel that these would be in need of some parental figures. A teenager doesn’t typically deal with everyday situations without their parents. Sure, there are cases out there where young adults do not have the opportunity to even rely on their parents, but it doesn’t mean that we should focus on this and forget about everyone else who have perfectly capable parents, right?
Parental figures in YA Fantasy
Fantasy is different ground though. Fantasy is all about moving away from the ordinary. Magic, dragons, witches, elves… you name it. So with all of this craziness that isn’t part of real life, there’s probably less of a need to include significant parental figures in the story…
But, I still feel as though there should be some sort of inclusion. The closest thing that comes to mind when thinking of a fantasy that has significant parental figures that influence the life of the protagonist, is The Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini. However, from that, it only lasts in the beginning before the protagonist goes running off into the world riding dragons and whatnot.
Personally though, if there is no inclusion of parents in fantasy, I am not very bothered. However, I like to see that parents have an influence on the children within YA fantasy novels. Because no matter what time period or fantastical world a book is located in, children and young adults are still very much influenced by their parents, am I right?
Alright, I think I have done enough talking for one day. Now, I am throwing the discussion out to all of you, my beloved bookworms! Discuss with me!
What do you think about the way parental figures are portrayed and written in YA novels?