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Friday, March 18, 2011

Flashback Friday & Rant: Why are All the YA Parents Dying?

 **Snatched from Hazzard7 on**

Okay, YA lovers. It's been awhile since I've done a Flashback Friday. I'm afraid this one is going to also include some elements of a rant too though, because I'm really *dying* to know why authors are killing off the parents in YA novels left and right.

But let's start with the flashback -- the absolute most terrifying moment of my high school career: my father's heart attack. I was fifteen, on the cusp of a band banquet and my boyfriend's senior prom, when I learned that my father was hooked to machines in a hospital hours away. By all accounts, he was expected to pull through, but incredibly lucky to be alive. Until that moment, the closest I'd come to experiencing death in the family was losing some grandparents and great grandparents.  Knowing that my father on the brink of being torn away from this life was one of the most numbing and horrific feelings I've ever known.

But pretty much, I was alone in that feeling.  I didn't know a SINGLE person who'd lost a parent when I was in high school.  Not one.  We lost a high school principal to cancer, and some girls nearly killed themselves in a car accident, but that was pretty much it. At least when I was growing up, the death of a parent was not a typical part of the high school experience.

Which makes me wonder why so many YA books I pick up+ (and excerpts on YALitChat) have a dead parent or parents? Yes, it's horrific and makes the MC's life suck. Yes, it ads instant sympathy. Yes, Disney did it to us in every movie we watched growing up.  But seriously... this trend makes me want to scream or pull out my hair or something.

To me, it feels like a crutch. Something a lazy author uses to prop up a forced change in location or feeling of being lost for the MC. It's also lazy because having TWO incompetent parents in the picture is a lot harder than one or none. And, as Kethleen Duey said at an SCBWI conference, if the parents are competent, nothing good can happen. But come on, divorce is all over the place.  Just split the two parents up if you must.

Is there more to this trend that I'm missing?  Like, did some publishing genie swoop down and declare that dead parents are a prereq to getting a book deal? I don't get it, I don't like it anymore, and I'm sick of it.  Rant over. 

What's your two cents on the issue?

+ See, for example: Timeless (missing dad, dead mom), Warped (dead mom), Firelight (dead dad), Wicked Lovely series (dead mom, unknown dad), Darkness Becomes Her (dead mom), 13 to Life (dead mom), Paranormalcy (no known parents) -- I'm not saying any of these books are bad by the way.  In fact, some have been my absolute favorites. But it's been done already!  Let's think of something new.