On April 1* found an essay in The New York Times called “The Parent Problem in YA Lit” by Julie Just who apparently is the children’s books editor of The Times which just makes the article more frustrating. (I heard about it from Leila from Bookshelves of Doom** who linked me to Liz B’s post about it at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy.)
Like a lot of readers, I don’t really understand what Just was trying to tell the world with her essay. I didn’t really see a point to it but Liz B’s theory that Just was more wondering about the real parents of today than the book ones makes more sense than anything else I could come up with.
Whatever the point, I had a real problem with the essay because no matter what she was trying to convey part of that message was that parents in YA novels are not always absent (allowing young people to rise triumphantly as Just notes in the essay) and not always realistic or “good”*** and instead tend to be losers compared to the teens presented.**** I don’t think that is a fair claim and I don’t think it’s an accurate one. Like any other genre there’s a cross-section–the good and the bad are presented.
Suffice it to say the article got under my skin and I want to prove Just wrong.
I want a list of “good” parents, “real” parents, parents who could be role models instead of horrible examples, parents readers will like as characters even if they might not identify with them (because, hey, YA books are written for teens not parents).
And I want your help!
Which brings me to the real point here. Join me in solving Just’s parent problem. Let’s find the good parents in YA Lit.
Here’s the plan:
For the rest of April I invite you, my readers and fellow bloggers, to put together a list of your top 5 (or 10) YA books with “good” parents. The list can be annotated with why the parents are good or it can just be titles and authors, whatever make sense for you. If you want you can respond to Just’s essay or you can just make a list.
What is a good parent? Well that’s up to you. I refer you back to the garish red blockquote earlier in the post. “Good” parents are not necessarily perfect. But they’re real. They try to help. And they make sense to the characters and the readers. They might be role models or friends. That’s my criteria and it might mean something different to everyone but I’d suggest using it as a starting point. Maybe the criteria will be mentioned before the list, maybe it won’t–up to you.
Now, what do you do with this list?
Bloggers: Do what you do best, post it! Link back to this post so I can find it and add it to my master list and post whatever you want to add to the parent conversation along with your list.
Readers: If you want to play along but you don’t want to blog, leave your opinions and titles in the comments (some posts might be held for moderation but I will approve them ASAP).
You have until April 30 to put together your list and post it. Let’s see how many good parents we can find together!
*April 1 was not a good day for me. Just about every Internet April Fool’s Day joke I saw played me for a fool even though I know mama didn’t raise no fool; one joke from Celtic Thunder was barely a joke because it said George was leaving which is NOT funny AT ALL.
***”Good” parenting can be defined in many ways. I took it to be both realistic and active parenting where a parent is involved in a teen’s life and not their chief nemesis for every single minute.
****Losers is my own terminology choice but I thought it might have been implied from the rather loaded passages Just used to support her thesis such as it was.