A few months ago I wrote about the types of relationships I’d like to see more of in YA books, and unsurprisingly parent/child relationships was the first one on that list. While the YA contemporary genre has a wide variety of amazingly written and developed parent/child relationship, in fantasy books there tends to be case after case where the parents are long gone.
After a while when you’ve read the same thing over and over again in the introduction, almost a footnote to the main character development, you start to wonder where all the decent parents are.
Where are all the Parents in YA Books?
When I think of contemporary books with amazing parent/child relationships I have so many releases on the tip of my tongue. My favourites include the relationship Starr has with her mother and father in The Hate U Give, that Aristotle and Dante have with each of their parents in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and even though their mother is gone when they are sixteen that Noah and Jude have with their parents in I’ll Give You the Sun.
However when I think of fantasy books with amazing parent/child relationships I struggle to come up with more than one or two releases. Most of the time it seems like the parents deaths’ are something thrown in the first chapter as background development to the protagonist. Something they use to further their cause again the antagonists of the novel or series. When I was reading Frostblood by Elly Blake, a book I did really enjoy, Ruby’s mother didn’t even survive past the end of the first chapter. She was killed by the Frostblood King’s soldiers’, and it was that action that pushed Ruby from the life she knew and into action against the bloodthirsty King.
You can write loving parents, and have a well developed parent/child relationship, without it affecting the characters’ journeys. Claudia Gray did it with the Firebird series. Even as Marguerite travelled all across the multiverses she still had her parents waiting back home, supporting her however they could, especially in the last book of the trilogy. Sarah Tolcser also did it with Song of the Current. Even though Caro doesn’t understand her mother, doesn’t quite trust her motives, both of her parents still love one another and still love Caro.
Even in The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig there is a well-written father/daughter relationship. Blake may not be the most caring or attentive father but the relationship he has with Nix was incredibly developed and that’s what I like to see in books.
When you’re a teenager there are certain relationships that shape your life, and I think the relationship you have with your parents is a key one. It certainly was for me, and I think it’s important to see a variety of different parent/child relationships in all YA books. Give me incredibly loving and supportive parents like in The Hate U Give, but also give me slightly distant parents who don’t know or understand their children like in The Girl From Everywhere.
Maybe in fantasy books it’s easy to have the parents long gone; easier for the main character to run around fighting evil and saving the world without too many people worrying over their safety, but it can be lonely. It’s nice to see these main characters with a wide variety of relationships rather than just the romantic ones they eventually form with the love interest they’re given.
It’s not necessary for every character to have a perfect family life. One thing that was done really well was the family dynamics in the Shades of Magic series. Kell may not have had his birth family but he had his adoptive one, and as much as Rhy was his brother the King and Queen were his parents. In the third book we got to see a lot more of those two characters, as well as their complicated relationship with their two sons. It was refreshing to read and A Conjuring of Light really added a lot of development to their family.
Now Onto the Discussion Part of This Post:
Would you like to see more parents/child relationships in YA fantasy books?
Have you read any fantasy books that have had a strong family dynamic, and developed it really well?
What are your favourite parent/child relationships in any YA book?
Let me know in the comments below.