Wednesday, May 29

Parents in Adolescent Literature

"Mommy, where do fictitious children come from?"

I am an avid reader of literature aimed at children. Whether the target age is two, five, eight, twelve, or sixteen, if it is well-written, it should hold my attention.

It comes as no surprise that more often than not the primary protagonists of these stories - particularly the ones for teens and preteens - are in the age range of the target reader. Kids reading about kids, shall we say. A trusty foundation for a relatable character.

Like all kids, these characters have to first, some from somewhere, and second, be raised in some manner. The character in question - let's call him Brian - has to have come from somewhere. Coitus, a test tube, cloning, the stork (how does its beak sustain the weight?!) or a nuclear explosion of a babies laugh, like how the fairies began. There are many ways in which Brian could have come to be. Nah, it was coitus.

The second factor is trickier. How was Brian raised and by whom? There are biological parents, guardians, a talking fish. He could have been raised by wolves or a community (it takes a village!) or maybe he has always been alo0ne, ever since his clone-maker abandoned him at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park.

"Talking fish, where do fictitious parents go?"

It is curious to me but it seems like in a lot of the middle grade and young adult novels I read, "parents" as you might generalise them are usually one - if not more - of the following:

1) Young. We're talking 30s and 40s, for thost of you whippersnappers who think 25 is ancient. I guess older people just aren't groovy enough to read about on a regular basis. Which brings us to...

2) Scarce. Brian's parents are immature and self-absorbed. Remember, they're young...ish. They are probably out at a business party or...eurgh, having coitus.

3) Dead. Brian tragically has no parents. This means that he has more emotional depth and a longing within him. He can also go off on adventures without a care because Uncle Jon is busy with work/coitus/being secretly evil. Brian can also idealise his parents as young people who never made him clean his bedroom, like those other clone-makers.

Is it just me or are young, la-dee-da and dead parents prevalent in books for kids? Maybe I'm scrutinising it too much. I'm starting to sound like one of my cynic posts. 'A Cynic's Guide to Absentee Parents.' Not that I can point fingers. Much of my own writing and books I love have young or absent parental figures.

What are your thoughts on parental roles in adolescent literature?

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