Why are YA Parents So Bad? The Five D's of YA Parents
In a 2013 book review, I mentioned a YA book with "parents who fall into what I'm now officially calling the Five D's of YA Parents: Dead, Divorced, Distant, Drunk, or Distracted."
And several of you said, "You should do a post on that!" Here it is!
The Types of Parents in YA Books
First off, parents in young adult books have changed between 2013 and 2023, which I'll address in this post.
But here's the thing about parents in YA books: they are generally in the way.
How is a young adult character in a book supposed to fall in love with a vampire, save the world, solve a murder, and generally live a main character kind of life with a parent around who is telling them they have a curfew and homework. Rude!
So YA authors need ways to get parents out of the way. In the 1990s and early 2000s, distant, divorced and dead parents were the rule.
NOTE: I am NOT talking about YA issue books that deal mainly with the issue of divorce or grief or alcoholic parents. These are important books that kids need. I'm talking about books that give the parents these issues just to get them out of the way...
By the 2020s, some parents in YA books got more a lot more doting and devoted .. maybe a little too much?
What is the reason for this? It could be that in the 1990s and early 2000s, more YA books were being written by Gen X and older Millennial writers, whose parents were a little more hands off.
YA books have diversified a lot in the last 10 years, and now it's more common for books to feature main characters from cultural backgrounds where parents ARE more present in their kids' lives.
Plus, Kids born into Gen Z tend to have helicopter parents. (I'm guilty of that..) So the D's have to expand in the other direction to Doting, Devoted, maybe even ... Domineering? (uh oh...)
The Worst and Best Parents in YA Books:
YA Parents Who Are Deranged...
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
I don't think there are a lot of flat-out deranged parents in YA, but I'd say that Warner's father definitely qualifies!
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Well, this father is an actual serial killer, so I think "deranged" fits the bill.
YA Parents Who Are Double Dads
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Lola has two dads, which means double the overprotectiveness. I loved them!
YA Parents Who Are Definitely Doting
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Nobody likes to admit they're a helicopter parent, but most of us do hover. Andi's best friend Vijay's mom, Mrs. Gupta, wants the best for her son. No one can say she's not around. Loved her! Am I like that? Maybe...
YA Parents Who are Deeply Distracted
The Headmasters List by Melissa de la Cruz
The parents in this book were literally at work every minute of the day. Which helped give the main character time to solve a murder.
YA Parents Who are Distant
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Auden's dad is kind of a terrible person. He says he wants to spend time with her, but instead ditches Auden, her stepmother and her new baby sister to work all the time.
YA Parents Who Are Devoted Dads
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
I was so happy that parent Ken Dietz gets a POV in this book. And he makes flow charts. Vera's mom left and he's doing the best he can to be a single parent to his teenage daughter.
On the Fence by Kasie West
I loved the father daughter relationship in this one. Though it relies on the cliche of the dead mom (ouch!) Charlie's dad is a stand-up guy who is always there for her.
YA Books Featuring Parents Who Are Distant, Dead, Drunk AND Distracted
Trinkets by Kirsten Smith
This book, which got made into a Netflix series in 2019, has characters with all the D's: dead, divorced and distracted. So of course their kids can get in all kinds of trouble. Like shoplifting.
YA Parents Who Are Downright Dangerous
Back in the mid-2020s, there were a bunch of YA books about kids of spies and secret agents.
Also Known As by Robin Benway
This fun, fast-paced book is about the child of spies who is trying to be just a normal girl. Of course that will never work!
Yes, there are a lot of terrible parents in YA. But there are LOTS of other amazing parents (or even surrogate parents, like aunts, older siblings, etc.)
Tell me in comments about your favorites!