Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Killing off the Parents

Like I’ve mentioned before, I love reading reviews and comments on movies/books that I’ve recently read and enjoyed.  Okay, even the ones that I don’t enjoy.  But it’s something that I do to see other people’s point of view.  I know what I liked about it, but I want to see both sides of it.  What didn’t work for other people?  Maybe it’s my way of leaning more about the audience, since usually I read books similar to what I write.

But there’s one comment I’ve been noticing more and more that almost makes me laugh.  There’s the complaint that in YA, there are too many stories where parents are ‘killed off,’ and that it gives children and teens the wrong idea that their lives would be infinitely better without their parents.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the complaints out there.  Harry Potter was orphaned as a baby, Tarzan was left in the forest when his parents died, Luke Skywalker was raised by his uncle and aunt… there are hundreds and hundreds of stories where the parents are dead or nonexistent.

And there’s a very good reason for that.  YA (Young Adult) writing is focusing on a teen (or young adult) as they mature and find themselves.  It’s about ‘coming of age.’  That’s usually the main premise of these stories.  The problem is, it’s very difficult to ‘come of age,’ or become independent and find oneself when they’re still treated like a child, or in the situation where someone does all the hard stuff for them.  Parents are the providers.  They’re going to protect and shield their children from the hard stuff as long as they’re there.  And that’s going to kill the story.

I’m not saying that the parents have to die, though that is the most convenient because it adds the emotional baggage of dealing with their death.  (And yes, I know how terribly morbid that last sentence sounds.)  There are other ways to do it.  Parents who are so involved in their careers that the young adult is practically independent already.  Or parents who have to travel so much that they’re never home.  There’s parents who are used as bait for the children to save (as in the Red Pyramid.)

So though it's not beneficial in real life, in many YA stories, the parents need to be nonexistent so that the main characters can grow and develop.

Don’t worry, I’ll come back to this thought later.