Discussion Time: Where are all the Parents in YA Books?

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

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.

Where are all the Parents in YA Books (1)

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. Β 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.

frostblood


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.

Where are all the Parents in YA Books (2)


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.

shades-of-magic-uk-series


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.

78 thoughts on “Discussion Time: Where are all the Parents in YA Books?

  1. Interesting, I’ve never considered that. I wonder if it’s a way of creating the character’s original wound. Losing parents, or having distant caregivers, would provide a good motivation and reason for a character’s self-sufficiency.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I feel like in a lot of cases the loss of a parent is what tends to drive some of the story. It leaves the characters with nothing holding them back and sometimes it’s what motivates their journey, I guess there are just only so many times you can read a YA book with no parents and no feel it’s more of the same old you know?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to admit my main character’s mother didn’t survive past the first chapter, however, my male MC has a good relationship with his mother and family and that will be shown throughout the book.
    But, you brought up a good point about the parents. They just seem to keep dying in Fantasy books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah in my current WIP I don’t have many surviving parents, it’s something I am definitely going to think about for my next MC. πŸ™‚
      I mean, I can see why parents are never in fantasy books as much, it just makes it extra special in a way when they are in the stories. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post! This is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves. It seems like the authors tend to just kill off the parents so it’s one less thing for them to explain. I love that you mentioned the Firebird series. One thing that I really liked about it was that the parents were involved and supportive!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, and yeah a lot of the time it does feel like that. Especially in books where the parents are alive at first but killed off in day the first chapter or so. Always seems pointless just don’t introduce them in the first place right?!
      The Firebird series is one of my favourites for so many reasons but one is definitely because of how well they balance the MC adventures with her parents. πŸ™‚

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  4. I struggled with the “parent situation” while writing my YA fantasy novel. Sometimes the parental relationship just doesn’t fit into the plot line. I am definitely going to keep this in mind when writing my next book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely get what you mean. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a long time, even before I wrote and published this post, but when I wrote something for NaNoWriMo last year there were no parents because it didn’t fit like you said. πŸ™‚

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      1. I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in where the story is going that we dont even think “you know a short little scene with mom/dad wouldnt hurt here”. I just get too excited and want to keep my plot moving.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. One of us is lying actually have some interesting and complex family dynamics within all of the main characters. Though parts of that book was problematic, I enjoyed the believability and range of the family relationships.

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  6. You raise such a good point. The only bookish parents I can think of in YA Fantasy are the Weasleys in HP and Joselyn Fairchild in TMI. It’s kind of sad really. My parents have always been extremely important in my life and I think that young readers could benefit from having parents present in the books they are reading. If the parents are always absent, what kind of message does that send to young readers?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ Yeah the Weasley’s are kind of like the benchmark for YA parents because they show how you can have supportive parents while still having the child go off on wild and dangerous adventures.
      It’s the same for me, and it’s why I’d love to see more well written and loving parent/child relationships, it’s really something lacking when you think about it more. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, I love this post, Beth! You already know how much more I’d love to see good parent-children relationships in books! I know that there are many situations in the real world where parents are unfortunately not good parents to their children, which is really horrible. But I think it’s also important to show what a GOOD family relationship looks like — especially because some abuse victims don’t realize their parent(s) is/are abusing them!

    Yeah, it’s definitely much easier to have the parents absent in fantasy, but it can be managed! I can’t recall any other fantasy where the parents were visible than in ADSOM? Oh, maybe also This Savage Song — August’s parents were so supportive of him! And yess, I LOVE the family dynamics in THUG & Ari and Dante; my favorite parent-child relationship in all YA has to be the one in Ari and Dante.

    Great discussion, Beth! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much May! πŸ˜€ Exactly, it would be great to see more good parent/child relationships in YA. And I completely get there are some horrible parents out there in real life (which is horrible I agree) but I think they must be the minority so why are they the majority in the YA genre you know?
      Someone else mentioned The Savage Song and yes I loved the relationship between August and his parents. It’s also good representation because it shows a good parent/child relationship between adoptive parents and children. Kind of another reason to love V.E. Schwab’s books. Also yes the parents in THUG and Ari and Dante are incredible as well, then again YA contemporary tend to have more parent/child relationships than fantasy does. πŸ™‚
      Thanks May! πŸ˜€ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, definitely! Most of the people I know have pretty good relationships with their parents — I don’t know anyone irl who suffered from a bad relationship?? So yeah, it’s definitely strange that “bad parents” are in a majority of YA books.

        And yes, I so agree! I think it’s because in fantasy, there are so many STRANGE and otherworldly things happening, so having parents absent is easier?? But it’d be great to see parents approve or actually help their children in fantasy!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t know anyone in real life who has a bad relationship with their parents, in fact between me and my group of friends very few of us have divorced parents as well. I guess happy families just don’t make for as good reading. πŸ™‚
        Yes, more supportive parents in fantasy, maybe popping up every now and again to help their children on their insane adventures! πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Definitely would like to see more of these! I can’t quite come up with any books where there are healthy parent-child relationships off the top of my head, but I did read about them. It’s something I always wondered and always felt like the YA world was lacking as well.
    I mean, I’m okay with absent parents but it seems like it’s become the norm, especially in fantasy like you said. It’s like every author decided to take Grimm’s/Disney’s cue and kill off all the parents LOL As though the plot would not be able to make sense otherwise.
    And I can see how revenge/solitude could make it easier for the heroes/heroines to go on in their journeys, and even justify a plot point – but at the same time it seems like a bit of a cheap trick? I don’t know, I would like to get different types of motives for a change just to see how it could work.
    Amazing post yet again, Beth πŸ™‚ And thanks for the discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like the fact that people can’t come up with good parent/child relationships in YA books just shows there’s an issue and that we need more parent/child relationship books in the genre.
      It has become the norm, and I’m not sure on the numbers but I don’t think in real life it is the norm. I get why there can’t be parents in every YA book, but it would be nice to see a little more because right now it feels special when a main character still has two living parents.
      Yeah having nothing holding them back makes it easier for the characters to place their lives at risk, but there has to be other motives for the danger authors could write. I’d love to see what else they could come up with. πŸ™‚
      Thanks so much Sophie! πŸ˜€ ❀

      Like

  9. Lovely post! I totally agree, a lot of the time the parents are just gone, and this relationship is definitely an important one for teens. I think it’s just easier to write stories without the parents, when I write that’s how I feel. For me, it’s just more difficult to include parents because they would usually diminish from the action and probably not approve?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ Yeah I think there are a lot of aspects that need more representation in YA books and seeing teens relationships with their parents is one of them because it’s such an important relationship while growing up. That’s the other problem, it’s hard to write caring parents who turn a blind eye to their children putting themselves in danger the way most YA characters tend to. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Fantastic discussion post, Beth. Always got a topic up your sleeves huh? πŸ˜› It’s funny that you picked this one cause I just recently read one novel where the parents are there and were quite intriguing in their dynamic with the character, while in the other fantasy novel I’m reading, the main character is an orphan! They’re both well done and I guess it all depends on the author and how they do it. Can’t say that I feel like there’s a lack of it in adult fantasy though, but it was definitely intriguing to hear about the YA fantasy side of things! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Lashaan, ha, yeah I do try and think of topics that I haven’t seen done much before. πŸ˜€ I’ve noticed that before, it’s rare in fantasy books to see parents but when they are it’s always an interesting dynamic to read. I guess in adult fantasy the main characters are more independent from their parents, they can go off and have these wild and crazy adventures, whereas in YA most teens are still living with their families so it’s something holding them back in a way you know?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is a good topic.. I recently wrote a ya book and my main characters parents are deceased and she mentions she wonders where one of her best friends parents went. I’ve always wondered why parents are never present but then again if they were some books would never happen!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, and actually yeah in the book I wrote for NaNo the main characters parents aren’t in the picture anymore. Kind of makes me wonder if in the face of this topic I should try and change that. πŸ™‚ Ha, yeah a lot of adventures and danger would have stopped the second the parents realised what their children were up to. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Loved the discussion in this post! I completely agree…where are the parents!? Personally, among all the books that I have read, I think that The Hate You Give is a book in which family has been represented best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ Yeah it seems to be something a lot of people have noticed, and I guess that says a lot about how much we’ve all missed parents in YA books you now?
      Oh when it comes to family dynamics there aren’t many books I can think of that come close to THUG! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Love this idea for a discussion post!! I would love to see some more parent-child relationship in books because parents are such a huge part of their life. In YA, the teens want to distance themselves from their parents, but that’s not always the answer. I think sometimes, a lot of problems could be avoided by clueing their parents in or asking for some help.

    Personally, I’m not a big fantasy fan so I don’t have any recs. As for parent-child relationships in YA, some of my faves are the entire Song family in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, the family in THUG (like you said), Viv’s mom in Moxie and Colby’s relationship with his family in Nina LaCour’s The Disenchantments. πŸ™‚

    Feel like I could go on and on about some of my favorite family dynamics haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Rebecca! πŸ˜€ Yes, exactly, my parents were a huge part of my life when I was a teen and I’d love to see those kind of relationships represented more in YA fantasy books. I get how teens want to distance themselves, and that can still be done in books I think without making the parent ineffectual or without killing them off.
      I will say if you’re looking for books with good parent child relationships fantasy isn’t the best place to find recommendations! πŸ˜€ The family in THUG are incredible, and oh I have all of Nina LaCour’s books on my to-read list still do you’ve just given me another reason to pick up her books! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  14. In a children’s lit class I took years ago, the topic came up of why so many main characters are orphans or at least have to leave home for the story to really start. I think ultimately what the professor said was that it gives the chance for the hero to go on their adventure without the constraints of others setting rules on them, and also because it gives them space to develop as a character. If they’re forced to save the world (or whatever) on their own instead of relying on their parents’ help, it forces them to grow up and learn to rely on themselves. I think that might be why it happens in a lot of fantasy books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh that’s really interesting to hear, and it makes sense because I suppose in some of the books I’ve read if the parents were still alive would the main characters have ever left home and gone on their adventures. But at the same time I think it would be interesting if there were more parents in YA books simply to add a different dynamic to the story. There are only so any books you can read where the parents die off at the beginning before it all starts feeling a little too same-y you know?

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      1. Totally agree. For the sake of having a variety of stories, I think we need to have a variety of family arrangements. Plus how unique would it be to have a fantasy hero trying to have a Harry Potter-type adventure, but their overprotective parent keeps calling and texting? Lol!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh that would be a great idea for a story. πŸ™‚ Kind of like how in superhero films like Spiderman the hero has to keep his identity secret, it could be the same with the main character having to keep their adventures on the down-low around their parents! πŸ˜€

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  15. I always wondered this. Plus a lot of fantasy books seems to have the main character with a family that die before or at the beginning. I guess so the author isn’t burdened with excess characters? Still so strange that there’s so many like this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does seem to be a bit of a trend. πŸ™‚ I guess that makes sense because if the parents are killed off early it’s less characters to develop and less characters to get in the way of the main characters adventure but that strikes me as a little lazy you know?

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I just reblogged your article, I hope you won’t mind! I so agree with you, it’s one of the things that bugs me the most in YA, and it gets even worse in fantasy.
    The Hate U Give is one of the books where the family is the best represented for me. But when I think of fantasy, I can’t find a single title…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s fine, thanks for letting me know and I’m glad you agree with me on this topic because it bugs me too.
      The Hate U Give is a brilliant example, and there are plenty in the YA contemporary genre, it’s just in fantasy where good parental figures seem to be a little lacking. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Reblogged this on and commented:
    I often say in my reviews that, in my opinion, parents are not well enough represented in YA. This article perfectly explains what I feel about this subject!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Really interesting discussion!! I love how you explored unconventional family dynamics- especially with reference to Shades of Magic, because I think Schwab does that really well πŸ˜€ I do think it’s easier a lot of the time in fantasy for the parents to be written out of the book, so that they can have totally irresponsible adventures πŸ˜‰ (a lot of the time that no parent in their right mind would let them have πŸ˜‰ which is why if they’re not absent, they’re often just plain old bad) But I also think there’s room in YA for lots of different types of parents- including good ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. πŸ˜€ Yeah it doesn’t always have to be two parents and a child, there are so many other things that make a family. Schwab is incredible at writing different family dynamics, and it’s not just in her Shades of Magic series but a lot of her other books too.
      Oh yeah, I completely get that because when it comes down to it that’s why parents are written out of books, but I’ve read stories where the parents have been very much alive and part of their children’s lives and those children have still been able to have irresponsible adventures. I think it would be interesting to explore parents in YA books without killing them off in the first chapter you know? πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Good post! Parents do seem to be fairly absent in ya novels. I mean in all big franchises like Harry Potter, although I suppose Ron’s family are may count and his relationship with his parents perhaps, the Hunger Games Katniss’s father’s dead her mother is rather useless, Twilight which I cannot bear Bella’s father is also useless, I wish he had taught her to stop whinging, her mum non-existent. Take also fantasy such as GOTH, I know that is more adult in content, but although Ned and Catelyn, are good parents, they die quite quickly in the novel. Cersei is an awful mother, and Jaime is almost in non-existent to his children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. πŸ™‚ Yeah it seems to be a trend in a lot of YA books, fantasy more so than contemporary. The way I see it the Weasley’s kind of took in Harry but they are still a good example of a family dynamic in books simply because they were there for all their children and Ron never really stayed back when Harry rushed into danger. But yeah with The Hunger Games and Twilight it seems like very early on the parents are pushed to one side or taken out of the story all together meaning their children can rush off into danger without worrying about anyone waiting at home for them. Shame because you can write good fantasy books with caring parents, I’ve seen it done and I’d love to see it done more. πŸ˜€

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  20. This was a great post! I used to wonder about where all the parents were in kid/teen shows or if there were parents then where were all the mature or at least realistic parents? And in YA books too! I would really love to see a parent/child relationship in more YA. I think it’s a really valuable and valid piece to any YA story and wish it was included more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Angela! πŸ˜€ Yeah this seems like something that has been going on for so long because there has never been very many parents in YA fantasy books or shows. Now it almost seems like it’s become normal not to have them there. Oh definitely valid in my mind, teens are still shaped by their parents so it would be great to see more of that dynamic represented in the YA genre. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Oh this is such a great post, Beth! ❀ I have to agree with you, I love when there are great family dynamics in books, and parents are such an important figure in teenager's lives. Obviously, a bit more in contemporaries than in fantasy, but still. It's always great and refreshing to see parents there in fantasy books as well, such as in the Firebird series, I loved that they had an important role in the whole thing as well! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie! πŸ˜€ ❀ Yeah I always find the books with great family dynamics I enjoy more because it adds an extra layer to the development of out main character. There are plenty of amazing families in contemporary but I'd love to see more in fantasy books as well because it seems like there's so few at the moment. The Firebird series is a great one of parents, why can't we have more like it right? πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I absolutely LOVED the family dynamics in Song of the Current! Caro’s parents were so cute, honestly. I would love to see more families in YA fantasy! Jesper’s dad in SoC is also a personal favorite of mine πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I would love love loveeee to see more family dynamics in YA! I REALLY WOULD! I think that considering how much parents are a part of a teen’s life, they are seen so rarely in a genre that is read by teens as well as adults!

    I think that This Savage Song / Our Dark Duet had a wonderful parent / child relationship between august and his adoptive father. I think that it shows a lot of the emotions that teens can struggle with when it comes to their parents, and obviously, in ODD, the other factor that was introduced really highlighted the family relationship. I personally find this to be my favourite, but I also really liked the parent / child relationship in The Upside Of Unrequited, too!

    Great discussion topic πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh same here, my parents were a big part of my life when I was growing up and I think it would be interesting to see more interactions between YA main characters and their parents. πŸ˜€
      Yes August’s relationship with his adoptive father was amazingly written, they didn’t have a perfect father/son relationship but sometimes it’s the non-perfect relationships that add more you know? Either way I think V.E. Schwab writes incredibly family dynamics. Rhy’s dynamic with his parents, especially in ACOL, made for brilliant reading.
      Thanks so much Lu. πŸ™‚ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. YES!! EXACTLY!!

        yes, no one has a perfect relationship, and it was so nice to see their relationship because they both loved each other, but it wasn’t smooth sailing all the time, and there were difficulties (like monsters rampaging the city, ahah). I haven’t read ACOL yet, but when / if I do, ill look out for it!!

        youre welcome!! ❀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It felt like a real relationship more that way, it showed the bad as well as the good and the unconditional love between parents and children. I loved seeing that in a YA book just because it’s not something I see that often.
        Oh definitely do, it was incredible aspect to the story. πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

  24. I would definitely love to see more parent interactions, whether positive or negative! One’s relationship with their parents often provides a lot of insight as to why they are the way they are. I can’t really think of any fantasy books with parents mentioned. It seems like often the character is orphaned so the idea of parents stopping the world saving doesn’t pop up. My favorite set of parents has to be the Weasleys! They have some pretty hilarious interactions with their kids!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah same here. πŸ™‚ I don’t know why they’re not in books more because when I was growing up my parents were a really important part of my lives, they still are actually, and I think it would interesting to see that play out in more YA books. I think that’s the main reason parents are often killed of, stops them from getting in the way of the characters saving the world. The Weasley’s are incredible parents, and proof you can have parents around and still let the children go off on insane and dangerous adventures. πŸ™‚

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