Monday, August 13, 2012


Hello Reader!  Since I'm writing about teenagers, and I am currently wading my way through those awkward years between adolescence and adulthood where everyone expects me to know what I'm doing as if I'm an adult and then laughs at me when I talk about what I want to do as if I'm a teenager, I figured it would be a great idea to talk about one of the central issues that come up in YA fiction: parents.  And our relationships with them.

With that name, how do you think his momma treated him?

YA fiction either puts the parents and adults in the backseat as buffoons, untouchable gods, or condescending asshats.  The teenagers at the center of the story either rebel, or rebel, or rebel against these authority figures because...well, what else do teenagers do but complain, break the law and cry about their crush not giving them a Valentine's Day Gram.  To put it lightly, this is all very cliche and awfully silly.

Going to school with a ludicrous variety of kids, I've seen the gamut of parenting styles.  You've got the uber hippies who sneak pot for their children, and you've got the Asian tiger-moms who stuff napkins into their purses every time they visit a restaurant.  You've got super successful kids who never once in their life did anything wrong or got yelled at or got into trouble with teachers, either because they were sheltered beyond belief - or they were simply just good, motivated, hard-working kids.  On the other hand, there are kids who are constantly in trouble with their parents, butting heads and getting into conflict, taking their frustrations out on their bodies with vengeful tattoos and awkward piercings, yet still get better grades than you ever will and are wildly successful.

OMG I hated the Muslim guy's arc...why do we always have to impregnate someone to be "relatable"???

When did Degrassi ever address those kids?  Stereotypes are really easy to write about.  Could be because the majority of the characterization work is already done for you, but it's also because authors are in a naturally lazy profession.  You're sitting at home, either with pen & paper or on a laptop, writing down words and stringing together paragraphs into a story.  There's no heavy lifting involved unless you're fond of using absurdly giant pencils, there's no sweating from back-breaking manual labor unless you enjoy moving around reams and reams of scratch paper, and there's certainly very little dirty work involved unless you have a penchant for ripping apart your felt tip pens and pouring the ink all over your face every time writer's block comes knocking.

No, that's still not right.  Stereotypes sell.  Yes, that's better.  When you read interviews with agents and publishers, they want the next new thing.  To better handle the uncertainty of the public's fickle tastes, they want what's already worked beforehand.  This is completely understandable.  It's also lulled writers into complacency.  Especially when it comes to parent-teenager relationships.

I really need to learn how to put .gifs on here...

I don't blame any one television show or novel *cough* Degrassi *cough* *cough*.  I blame authors who can't think of new ways to get things done.  I'm not saying I'm some writing messiah with a innovative writing style that will blow people away - although if someone ever says that about me I'll grin so wide you can see my wisdom teeth.  All I'm saying is that I'm noticing a problem, and when I walk through Barnes & Noble I don't see anyone trying to fix it.

All you ever see are bumbling buffoons of parents.  Honestly, the best parent-kid relationships I've seen in YA fiction are in Harry Potter.  Everyone rags on J.K. Rowling for not being a literary genius, and yes her writing isn't top notch Charles Dickens fare.  But her relationships, the characters' interactions with each other, these are miraculous.  With very little literary prowess, she manages to blow us away with real feelings and emotions and everything in between those two synonyms.  The relationship between Ron and his mother is fraught with overbearing love and wisdom oft-ignored.  Molly Weasley is not a bumbling fool, but neither is Ron a brazen idiot.  Dumbledore is basically Harry's grandpa, and he's always looked to as a source of wisdom and confidence - he is not an authority figure to brush up against rudely and without any motivation other than to move the plot along.

TOO SOON!  TOO SOON!  *sobs in the corner*

You'd expect YA fiction to take a page from the wildly successful J.K. Rowling and her awesome character relationships.  Instead, they decide to settle on this general, very narrow tidbit of wisdom: there will never be another Harry Potter so why try?  They'd much rather go for the small game like the Hunger Games (Lord almighty why does Katniss' mom suck that bad?) or Twilight (Bella's dad is like a teenage boy who decided that having a mustache makes him a man).  These relationships suck, and the parents exist as filler - they had to pop out of something right?  Disney really knows what's up though.  They avoid all of these problems altogether and just kill the parents right from the get-go.  Brilliant people, Disney.  Just brilliant.

But then again, what do I know?  I'm no best-seller.  Here's an excerpt between Sheba, Briok's mom, and her son.  This takes place at the grave of Briok's father.  It's the first time he's visiting it, since he was in a coma when his father was officially buried.  His mother takes him, and tries to console him after he learns that he is half-human and the last Magna Beast.
              After several minutes without moving Sheba took pulled Briok away and looked him in the eyes.  “Do you know why I think you can handle this?”  She smiled and turned to rest her back against the statue.  “Proteus told me what you did, that night.  At that café, when you decided to disobey me and your father.”  She pulled him close to her.  “Briok, you jumped in front of a bullet.  You didn’t know that you were the Magna Beast, you didn’t know that you would probably heal.”  Briok continued to look away from her, but signs of life began to show.  He was fiddling with the grass, pulling at it in tufts.
            “I wasn’t thinking when I did it,” he finally spoke.  “And you’re my mom, you’re supposed to believe in me.”  He pulled his head up, “You're supposed to say all these great things about how amazing I am and support me.”  
             “Briok, you know your mother,” she stopped his hands from pulling at the grass, 
“If you do something wrong, I’m not afraid to tell you.  If you weren’t so wonderful, I 
would tell you.”  She laughed, “You risked your life.  You should be proud.  More than 
that, Briok you proved that you’re a man.  I’m proud to have you as my son.  You don’t 
listen to me, but I’m still proud.”  She hugged him.  Despite his dour mood, he returned her  
hug, burying his head in her shoulder

Like always, let me know what you think.  Until next time then.


  1. So I don't think of myself as some brilliant literary critic at all, I just happen to really enjoy reading YA novels even as a 22 year old. But I feel like there are great YA novels out there where the author does a good job of characterizing different types of parent-child relationships. Yes there are a slew of bad ones I'm sure, but to be honest, I've never encountered them. I try to read YA books by authors I already enjoy/are recommended by authors I already enjoy, because there is a lot of poor writing that I would have to slew through otherwise.

    Just my two-cents!

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