Hello everyone, welcome to another discussion post! ♥
The other day I was taking a test and there were these whole questions about family. Like, how I see my family, how I feel about my parents, how I think I mean to them, etc, etc. It was easy, but it got me thinking and sparked the idea to write this post. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get serious and talk all philosophical, we’ll be talking about the role of family in books 😛
I’m sure you all have heard or read about 20 other discussions concerning missing parents or dysfunctional families, so I really hope I bring something new to this topic ♦ You must have noticed that ‘absent parents’ is one of the most common trope in YA fiction, especially fantasy. Absent parents could take on so many forms, and luckily I have made a list for you 😉
DISCLAIMER : These are the kind of absent parents that often show up in BOOKS, not in real life.
- Dead parents. This trope is super common to the point where it is overrated and no longer realistic. I mean, how many times have we met an orphan MC? This trope allows complete freedom and independence to the MCs. Popular books with this trope : Harry Potter, Throne of Glass.
- Single parent. I have no idea anymore of how often I encounter this trope in YA. It’s everywhere. And to top it all off, the single parents are usually too busy working or too clueless to actually pay attention to their children. Popular books with this trope : Twilight.
- Still married but no longer ‘together’. Okay I made this up I don’t know what this kind of trope is actually called 😛 basically the marriage is falling apart, you get idea. Parents like this usually can’t stand each other for too long and as a consequence, they neglect the children. Popular books with this trope : Jack’s parents from Holding Up the Universe
- Insane parents. Like, literally, mentally ill parent (or sometimes just portrayed as ‘crazy’ for no reasons). Parents are usually too incapable of taking care of themselves, let alone their children. This trope usually forces the first children to take over their responsibilities by taking care of the house and their younger siblings. Popular books with this trope : Angelfall, The Hunger Games.
- Ignorant parents. Parents who belong to this trope are usually the irresponsible ones or the ones who are too busy with works. With no parental supervision, this trope allows children to do whatever they want and/or need to.
No matter what form they take, the parents are still absent. They might make some appearances but not necessarily relevant to the story itself.
Obviously there are reasons why this trope is common. Here are 4 reasons that I managed to come up with, feel free to add yours on the comment! 😉
1) YA fiction mainly focuses on… well, the young adults aka our heroes/heroines. Parents, or family in general, are not the main focus of the story and featuring them on too many scenes would probably steal the spotlight from the MCs. This happens especially in YA fantasy because the focus of the story is usually a quest or mission or some other things like that.
2) Absent family allows the main characters to do things that are otherwise impossible. Like… I don’t know, saving the world? 😛 Which is most likely impossible when you have two attentive parents and a bunch of siblings, I mean talk about danger and curfew and whatnot 😛 but in general, absent parents allow the main characters to grow up and be strong. The absence of parents force them to be independent, brave, and able to make decisions for themselves. All of which are needed in a strong protagonist ♦
3) Reduces the complications. This might be a little harsh but let’s be real, the absence of family literally make the story less complicated. The MCs only have to deal with their quests and problems without family getting in their way.
4) Sometimes they really are necessary because they move the stories. Like, if Harry’s parents were still alive, surely he wouldn’t need to fight Voldemort in the first place. Or if Penryn’s mother were perfectly sane, Penryn wouldn’t have to take as much care of her sister as she currently does. Mind you, I’m not completely against this trope. There are always exceptions to even the most cliche trope. I really don’t mind if it actually matters to the stories.
UNREALISTIC PORTRAYAL OF FAMILY. I don’t know about real statistics, but most of my friends in real life still have two, happily married parents. I mean obviously, I also have friends whose parents are divorced or have passed away, but the numbers aren’t as high. Besides, I don’t think authors could easily remove family from a character’s life because family is an important part of our lives. Like, no matter how old I am, or where I live, my family is still a big part of my life and they still influence most of the decisions I make in life ♥
MISLEADING. I have to admit, I used to think that in US (or every other western countries) divorces are really common and the majority of married couples would eventually get a divorce. I mean, don’t blame me, I read them in books. But I’ve come to learn that those aren’t true. I read news, watch tv, read someone’s blogs, and I realized that most couples do stay together. So why do books portray otherwise? I was definitely misled 😦
BAD EXAMPLES. Let’s be honest, how many times have you encountered shitty parents in YA? My answer is a lot. Here’s one especially troubling example.
Emily’s parents from Since You’ve Been Gone are basically a brand-new form of missing parents. Like really, they were home but could not be disturbed for weeks because they were too busy preparing for a play. They left money and stock foods for Emily and her brother so they could take care of themselves? Um, no. My parents won’t stop telling us to eat and even if I’m away, or they’re away, they call to make sure we are taken care of. Or at least to make sure I have fed my brother. Apparently Fadwa also thought so 😛
I’m sure not everyone will think this far, but sometimes I wonder if this kind of absent-parent trope is strengthening the image that kids could only achieve great things if their parents aren’t around. Hmm, what do you think?
Lucky for us, not all young adult books suffer from this kind of trope. There are a lot of books (mostly contemporary) that managed to do it right ♥ ♥ ♥
THE MOST BELIEVABLE FAMILY PORTRAYAL
THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. I realized Lennie’s family is not at all perfect, but I love seeing them make the most of everything. The love between them is just so real and easy ♥
TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE. Hmm when it comes to family goals, I’ve mentioned this book a couple of times before. Bottom line is, fabulous sister dynamic, responsible kids, and amazing dad. You can read my review here 🙂
PS I LIKE YOU. This family is just so so so real! Lily’s family is so loud and too involved with her family I mean hello #relatable! 😛
MY LIFE NEXT DOOR. Who doesn’t love The Garretts? ♥ My mom and dad both come from a family of 8 so I understood how loud yet fun big family could be.
ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE. I love Dante and Ari’s parents so much!! They’re just so loving and accepting and still not without their flaws ♥
HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE. I do admire Libby and her dad’s relationship. It’s nice to see them both try to understand and please each other. It’s one of those single parent done right. You can read my review here.
THE RAVEN BOYS. Another single parent done right. I love Blue and her mom’s healthy mother daughter relationship 😀 also Persephone and Calla!
I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN. Not exactly family goal, but a real portrayal of sibling rivalry. Watch out, sibling rivalry could be really scary 😛
ON THE FENCE. I absolutely love all Charlie’s brothers! They’re so fun, protective, and completely annoying at the same time ♥
ANGELFALL. Penryn and Paige’s relationship is definitely admirable. In fact, the whole plot of this book starts when Penryn wanted to save her sister.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS. Despite their brutality, can we just take a moment to swoon over Alec, Isabelle, and Jace? 😛
Other recommendation posts worth checking out
Tracy @ Cornerfolds shared book recommendations that actually feature parents
YAYYY those are my take on family role in YA fiction! I’m honestly getting tired of all these absent-parent tropes, but I’m not completely against it. There are ALWAYS exceptions 😉 what do you think about the role of family in books? Are you okay with missing parents trope, or do you feel like parents need to make more appearances? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Also, have you read any of the books I mentioned above? 😀 I’m OPEN to more recommendations! ♥
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