Super YA Nanny: Bad Parents in YA

Like love triangles, bad parents are a predominant feature in YA books.  It’s understandable that hands off parents are going to be a norm in the genre because many of the conflicts that exist in YA could be resolved by mere parent intervention.  However, sometimes hands off parenting goes a little too far.

Meet your YA bad parent mascot: Charlie Swan.  You  all saw this one coming.  He is probably the poster child of bad parents in YA fiction.  His daughter basically goes chaotic after her boyfriend ditches her and does nothing for months.  I had an interesting chat with a few friends recently about this.  While I suggested that it would’ve been helpful if Charlie enrolled Bella into therapy after her ordeal, others suggested that Charlie should’ve been questioning why Bella was in the woods in the first place (i.e. it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to think that Edward sexually assaulted her and then dumped her in the woods).  Good point.  Needless to say, if I were Charlie I would’ve not accepted the Edward/Bella reunion the way he did.  But then again, Charlie Swan is essentially a necessary prop in Meyer’s novel like many other YA parents/caretakers are.

Never fear though, bad YA parents, Super  YA Nanny is here.  She’ll get you back on track on how to parent. Or at least, she’ll make some suggestions on how these lackluster parental units can get back on track.

 

Like them or not, one thing people can agree about The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy is that the main character has some pretty awful parents.

The Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Brisbane: Self absorbed describes this couple perfectly.  They are absentee parents at best.  Mr. Brisbane even has a little bit of Charlie Swan going on with him

The Kid: Grace Brisbaine.  A girl who is obsessed with her  wolf.  We’re talking about a girl who is in love with an animal, no joke.  I seriously think Grace would make out with her wolf if she could and she sort of does later on in the book but that’s a long story….

What Super YA Nanny Suggests: Get your kid into therapy so that you can deal with any possible issues regarding bestiality.  Plus, get her pet cat so maybe she can focus on animals other than wolves.  Also, start paying more attention to her so won’t let random boys sleep in her room.

One of my big complaints-and others- with the Secrets of my Hollywood life is the parents.  If it wasn’t for them, I probably would’ve enjoyed the series much better.

The Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Burke: Typical Hollywood stage parents who mooch of their celebrity daughter and make feel like she has to support them.
The Kid: Kaitlin Burke: America’s sweetheart. Who finds herself often struggling between her career and college dreams.  It doesn’t help that her mom-ager is constantly pulling her one way while her friends are pulling her another.
What Super YA Nanny Suggests: Kaitlin should hire herself an outside manager and if that doesn’t work get herself emancipated and move out of her parents house.  Separation is key here for a healthy relationship.  Otherwise, Kaitlin will find herself attending rehab while her mother uses her fame to get a  reality TV show…oh, wait that’s another celebrity.

I wasn’t planning on featuring Blue Bloods again, but if Allegra Van Alen doesn’t qualify as a bad parent in YA lit then I don’t know who does.

The Parent:  Allegra Van Alen:   Allegra is a vampire socialite  who’s made some rather horrible choices and falls into a coma, leaving her mother to raise her kid.  It’s later revealed though that the coma wasn’t as involuntary as one might first believe.  Plus, as soon as Sleeping Beauty wakes up she ditches her kid with a one hell of a legacy.
 
The Kid: Schuyler Van Alen.  The product of Allegra’s illicit affair.  Allegra has basically been one of those hands off mothers leaving Schuyler to fend for herself.  It doesn’t help that Schuyler is also viewed as a pariah in the vampire community.
What Super YA Nanny Suggests: This relationship is toast.  If Allegra wanted to abandon her child it would less cruel if she would’ve found Schuyler loving parents and have her be adopted.

I love Meg Cabot to death, but I have to say Pierce’s parents suck.  This is actually sort of surprising since I love most of the parental features that Meg comes up with.

The Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Oliviera: You’re typical divorced couple, Mr. and Mrs. O are constantly fighting.  Although, unlike most divorce couples, I think Mr. and Mrs. O still have a thing for each other.
The Kid: Pierce Oliviera.  Pierce has had a lot of emotional turmoil in the past few years, girlfriend came back from the dead and now is dating the lord of the underworld.  Plus, it doesn’t help that her parents are constantly fighting and she’s moved.  It’s no wonder that she’s having issues.
 

 

What Super YA Nanny Suggests: Get over your own relationship melodrama and start focusing on your daughter.  Grant it, some of the melodrama could be enhanced by furies, but it’s not that difficult to see what is wrong here.  Mr. and Mrs. O obviously still have feelings for each other and both are stubborn people-hence they fight a lot and hence they neglect their daughter.  Some headway was made in Underworld  where the two of them seemed to stop throwing insults at each other when they thought Pierce was kidnapped, but there’s still some major work that needs to be done here.

There were many things I found to be throw up inducing about the selection.  One of them was parental behavior.

The Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Singer.  How would you like it if your mom pimped you out?  That’s what America’s mom does.  And grant it, she lives in a dystopia world where everyone wants to marry a prince.  But really would you try to pimp your daughter out to essentially a stranger?  Um, no.  Plus, you haven’t figured out your daughter’s been sneaking out for the past few months….seriously?
Mr. and Mrs. Singer, I’m sure you don’t dress like Pimp Dog.  Therefore, you have no right to pimp your daughter out.
The Kid: America Singer.  A Mary Sue in the making, I kid you not.  America is indecisive and somehow always ends up being right.  Also, did I mention that she’s incredibly beautiful…character issues aside, I think that America makes some really horrible choices in The Selection.  Choices that could’ve been permitted by some good parenting.
What Super YA Nanny Suggests: Pull America out of the contest, surely her parents still have some rights when it comes to her since she’s over eighteen-though knowing Cass’s weird world building Prince Maxon is now probably in charge of her life.   And try to teach her the importance of honesty.

Parents to Note:

It should be noted that while their are tons of horrible parents in YA there are a few good parents.  I’ve listed a few below.

Mr. and Mr. Nolan from Lola and the Boy Next Door: Lola’s parents try to stay involved in her life, even if that means forcing her and her deadbeat boyfriend to eat brunch with them every Sunday.  Plus, unlike most parents in YA Mr. and Mr. Nolan aren’t afraid to ground Lola when need be.

 

Ali from Raised by Wolves: I really admire Ali from pulling out her foster daughter from an abusive situation.  In this day and age abuse is often fluffed over in YA especially when it’s a paranormal, so kudos to you Ali.

Prince Phillip and Helen Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries: Princess Mia’s parents aren’t perfect, but they generally do try to take care of their daughter.  I think this is really shown in Princess Mia when Mia is sent to therapy for her depression.  Bravo Mia’s parents, unlike other parents who let their daughter just sit their for six months catatonic, you take action and that rocks (although, I definitely missed Mia’s Lifetime movie marathons after you took her TV out of her room).

Mr and Mrs. Weinstien from The Magic and Manhattan series.  While they have their faults, I do think the Weinstiens care for their daughter.  And while Mrs. Weinstien really should’ve informed her ex about her magic powers, it’s obvious that both parents do try to interact and care for their daughters.

Rachel Morgan from The Gallagher Girls.  Despite the fact that she’s letting her daughter become a spy, Rachel does try to care for her daughter.  Of course, that still doesn’t keep her disappearing for three months….but nobody’s perfect.

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7 thoughts on “Super YA Nanny: Bad Parents in YA

  1. Gosh, I love this point! Plus, you're totally right, I hate when parents in YA are just props .- I'm actually planning on writing a list of my favorite parents in YA, too, but it'll be a long ways coming yet 😛 – and well, you explained why pretty well. I agree with your picks. I think Lola's parent were the only thing I liked about her. 😀 And YEah! Prince Philipe might be a little 'middle age crisis' and her mom a little distracted, but they stand up for their kid when need be.

  2. I think a lot of it has to deal with characterization. I notice that I really like books the supporting cast is well defined I can handle bad parenting in YA more. Like Allegra in Blue Bloods. I hate her parenting skills, but I understand why Melissa decided to make her an absentee parent. A lot of time though, it just seems like the parents are merely thrown in there because the character is under 18 and hence they need parents. I'll be interested in reading your list when it's posted.Yep, I love Lola's parents. They probably were one of my favorite things about the book. As for Phillipe and Helen I find them to be hilarious and realistic in a strange way. I would've loved for Phillipe to appear in New Moon just to deal with Bella's mopiness. I bet she and Dr. Knutz would've had a lot to talk aobut.

  3. Dear YAL Book Briefs: I'm an award-winning author with a new book of YA fiction. Ugly To Start With is a series of thirteen interrelated stories about teen life published by West Virginia University Press in November of 2011. Can I interest you in reviewing it? My book's only 160 pages short. The writing is easy and open, and all the stories are interconnected–same hero and story arc throughout. It reads like a brisk novel in the form of stories. If you write me back at johnmcummings@aol.com, I'll send you a PDF of my book. At this point, my small publisher is out of available review copies, so I hope and politely ask that you consider the PDF. I would be very grateful. My publisher, I should add, can offer your readers a free excerpt of my book through a link from your blog to my publisher's website: http://wvupressonline.com/cummings_ugly_to_start_with_9781935978084 Here’s what Jacob Appel, celebrated author of Dyads and The Vermin Episode, says about my new collection: "In Ugly to Start With, set in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Cummings tackles the challenges of boyhood adventure and family conflict in a taut, crystalline style that captures the triumphs and tribulations of small-town life. He has a gift for transcending the particular experiences to his characters to capture the universal truths of human affection and suffering–emotional truths that the members of his audience will recognize from their own experiences of childhood and adolescence.” My short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Twice I have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. My short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007. I am also the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2009),winner of The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12)and one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY. For more information about me, please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Michael_Cummings Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing back from you. Kindly, John Michael Cummings

  4. Oh I love this list! I loved the cuddlebuggers' post about bad father's as well 🙂 it's true that YA books often have absentee parents, but some of those parents are so much worse than others it's not even funny!I think my top bad parent is Nora's mom in the Hush, Hush series. But I agree with the parents you have mentioned as well – I wonder why these kids even have parents being mentioned at all…

  5. I loved their list too. I was so glad it wasn't just me who saw this. It's really a disturbing trend, the lack of parenting in these books. I keep thinking back to a Beverly Cleary book, Mitch and Amy, that I read when I was younger. In the book, the main character and her friends often play Little House in the Big Woods a la the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and always talk about weird ways to get rid of the parents so that don't have to deal with them in their games. I often think that similar conversation goes on between the author and editor when it concerns parents in YA. I almost did put Blythe Grey in there, but I ended up putting Allegra Van Alen in there instead because I find her to be slightly more intolerable. But Blythe really is a piece of work….

  6. Exactly! Despite having her parents keep the whole princess thing from her and being essentially a love child, I think Mia had one of the most balance upbringings that you see in the genre. I really think that's one thing Meg excels in her books. And okay, I did say that Mr. and Mrs. O were pretty lousy parents, but I see the logic behind that and I think (keeping my fingers crossed) that somehow a lot of their bad parenting will be resolved by the end of the series.

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