Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reviewing Trends II (or Death By Car)

Tip of the Day, Librarian Edition: The public library is not a day care center. You must stay with/watch/assist your child at all times for their own safety.

Two weeks ago, I talked about the revived trend in YA novels of
characters in mental institutions. Today I'd like to talk about all the poor parents who are killed off in car accidents.

Recent YA novels I've read that include this plot point are:

(Dad is dead)

(Both parents bit the dust)

(Another orphan)

(Mom is actually in a persistant vegetative state after a car accident)

(More bad luck for Mom)

I understand that in order for the main characters to act a certain way, or to live a certain way, or to grow in a certain way, dear old mom and/or dad have to get their head through the windshield. And I understand that about 30,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents per year, so the number of parent deaths in YA novels may actually be statistically correct!

And keep in mind that I actually really enjoyed these books!

But the death-by-car element makes me as a writer think that if I need a dead parent, I should brainstorm a number of ways to off them, something more original that may also challenge my own writing/plotting skills.

Is there a "death by" plot element that you have seen enough of to make you resist using it in your own work?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing


Carmella Van Vleet said...

I feel like there's a lot of death by cancer. I'm sure the statistics are there (like for car accidents) but I think if I ever kill off a parent in one of my books, I'll try to come up with something else just be different: like choking, complications of diabetes, an avalanche, falling off a ladder or down the stairs, shark attack, lightning, snake bite. Ever seen that show 1001 Ways to Die? That's a fun one to watch when you're stuck!

Kate Fall said...

I think house fire gets done a lot too, but I might just be sensitive to that one. It's always been a fear of mine. House fire and car accident are interesting because there's an angle of wondering whose fault it was. You don't really get that from a shark attack, unless Mom gets pushed off the boat. You also get the sudden aspect of an accident versus a lingering disease or addiction. Your main character will be a different person if the death isn't sudden. You can load on teen guilt with a car accident too if the parent was on the way to pick up the teen or the teen was driving. So like the house fire, it gives you a lot to work with emotionally.

DeenaML said...

Car -- cancer is another biggie. I'll keep my reading eye open for that and see if trends up in 2012! Shark attack would be a good one for sure!

In only one of my [many] manuscripts, did I have a dead parent. It was the mom, and she had slit her wrists right after the MC was born. (Yeah, a real uplifting novel!)

Kate -- yes, sudden, unexpected parent death vs. long drawn out illness makes a huge difference on how the MC will cope with the loss. But I actually can't think of a house fire parent death in a recent kidlit novel....?