Tip of the Day: Check out kidlit author Kate Messner's blog for a photo recap of the amazing Children's Book Festival held this past Saturday in Rochester, NY!
I've been reading a lot of middle-grade novels lately, and something I've noticed that I've loved in them -- especially compared to recent YA novels -- is the Parent Involvement with the main characters.
For example, in THE AVIARY, even though Clara's father is missing, her mother notices when Clara sneaks around and she calls her out on it. The author could have easily let Clara get away with her secret curtain signal to her new friend, for example, and made Clara's mother be completely oblivious. But in reality most good parents, like Clara's mother, are *not* oblivious and I appreciate the way this was portrayed. It also ups the creativity that Clara -- and the author -- need to have in order for Clara to get what she wants.
In the middle-grade novel SPRINKLES AND SECRETS, Sophie lies to her best friend at one point, but her mom quickly finds out about the lie and confronts Sophie, telling her that she needs to correct her behavior. Again, life would've been a lot easier for Sophie if she was able to keep her secrets and lies to herself, but because her mom is an attentive parent, she corrects Sophie's behavior. Sophie is forced to deal with the truth and reality because it's the right thing to do, which adds more tension and conflict in the book.
Meanwhile, I'm 1/3 of the way through a YA novel that takes place in a boarding school. The MC's parents live a few hours away and when a serial killer leaves his victims in the vacinity of the boarding school, the MC's parents are casually mentioned as asking her to temporarily move back with them. The MC refuses and her parents apparently drop it, though they are said to call her frequently.
Now don't get me wrong; I am really enjoying this book. But it seems that the potential conflict that caring parents can add to a plot is abandoned. Overall I have seen this omitted more easily in YA novels; the parents just need to be removed from the MC's life/physical location so "things can happen." When the parents are cast as good parents, though, it is less believable and it lets the MC -- and author -- more easily find "solutions" to her problems that won't be checked by an adult. I find that this "absent parents" tactic only truly works in instances where the parents haven't been made out to be "good" parents to begin with.
I love how in MG novels, attentive parents can be good for the main characters' morals and family life, but bad for their ability to sneak around and behave "badly" or in a way that a good parent would not approve of. I love that parents are obstacles for kids in MG novels that they need to work on the up-and-up to get what they want.
What are your takes on parental involvement in YA and MG fiction?
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing