aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Why are there so many dead parents in children’s books?

Editor - and author herself - Leila Sales takes issue with the number of dead parents in books for teens.

For the record, I’ve had written teen with parents (Shock Point), teen with older adoptive parents (Torched), and one dead mom (Girl, Stolen. The dead mom is barely mentioned - the step-mom gets more air time. And she’s nice) (although I guess another character has a mom who took off).

She thinks writers who create characters with dead parents are guilty of lazy writing - because they don’t have to show their relationships, because it creates instant empathy, and third because grownups are boring (although I don’t quite follow why that is lazy writing).

And I think she undermines her own argument when she says, “Adult characters put a damper on the kid-only adventures that make children's books fun. But there are solutions to this problem other than just killing them off. Set the book at boarding school, summer camp, or another parent-free zone. Create parents who are clueless or uninvolved, à la Harriet the Spy. Fade their role into the background.” This is the only part that bolsters her argument about laziness. “Write parents who actually have something to contribute to the story, who aren't just a barrier between the kids and fun.”

I think one reason there are so many dead parents is because the teens need to fix things on their own. No parent or parents means one less person to interfere.

You can read her article here.

What do you think about the issue of dead parents?

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Tags: death, ya
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