Young Adult fiction typically, though not always, follows the story of a teenager or a group of teens. This is the age that the book is catered to and thus it makes sense that the main character(s) will be of a similar age. At this age the author can include a number of important people to the protagonist’s life as a part of the story, including family, friends, teachers, mentors, etc. They don’t have to be limited to only including teenaged characters into the narative because teenagers are at the age where people of all ages can have an influence on them and it’s not unrealistic for a teenager to have contact with people of any age be that younger or older.
This means YA is an open book to include many different types of interactions and relationships. However, I have found that many YA novels use the same old, tired tropes when discussing parental figures. The same themes show up time and again:
There are very few novels that have good parental figures. Bonus points if it’s a biological parents. Fantasy is particularly bad for this as many authors feel a teenager cannot go on an epic adventure unless the parents are out of the way or absent in some way.
Good mother figure are particularly hard to find. Comparatively, good father figures are easier to find. Yet both are rarer than the number of good mentors or teacher figures. That is not to say that there aren’t also a disproportionate amount of terrible teachers/coaches/mentor figures in literature compared to the so-called ‘real life’. There are also a fair number of teachers that follow the above tropes plus the ‘not telling you what you need to know’ and ‘ignoring you because I can’ tropes that are very prominent with mentor characters (*coughDumbledorcough*). However, I can name more of the unrelated to me and also not a guardian/caretaker ‘parental’ figures in YA novels than I can name examples of good parental figures.
I challenge you to think of a few examples of good parental figures. Off the top of my head I can name five pairs (The Weasleys and the Grangers from Harry Potter, Keladry’s parents in the Protector of the small series and Kit and Nita’s parents in the Young Wizards series) and one father (in The rest of us just live here by Patrick Ness). Yet, even the Grangers never got page time in any of the seven books so really it’s just assumption that they are good parents.
Just like we need diverse books, I think we need to include more good parents in our books. They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to exist in a way that is more than just an explanation as to way the main is allowed to fall into a new world and not once think that their parents will be worried if they don’t get home in time for dinner.