The Sunday Symposium is a weekly feature in which I'll be discussing various bookish topics and asking for your commentary, as well. This week's topic is the presence of familial relationships in young adult novels...or lack thereof.
I'd like to assume that everyone has a great home life and that parents are present and accounted for...and more. But let's face it, that's not a very realistic outlook. Although I had a great childhood, it was anything but perfect. My parents were over-bearing and supremely strict and this led to the twitchy, quiet mouse of a girl you see today. (Gawd, I hope they aren't reading this. :P) But it could have been the other extreme, and they could have been emotionally unavailable or flat-out not around.
My own family situation is proof of that. I was everything my parents wanted and expected me to be: I excelled in school, I helped out around the house, and I didn't get into trouble. Seriously...I was only ever written up once in junior high and it was for such a lame reason -- I was in the cafeteria restroom before school in the morning, which wasn't allowed. My mom wanted to fight the write-up, but it was the only time I'd ever gotten into trouble, and it made me feel kind of dangerous, so I wanted it to stay on my record. Lame, I know. I didn't get to experience that feeling again until my senior year of school. I found out that I was going to be Salutatorian, not Valedictorian, due to a mere four thousandths of a point. Color me devastated...and engraged. I went a little crazy for awhile. Attending parties every weekend and all but giving up on school. I was even dating, which my parents did not allow yet. (I told you, they were VERY strict.)
But I digress. My point is, even with domineering parents, a teenager can get away with a lot. It's not necessary to write them into a bad situation just so that they can. I understand that sometimes the lack of parental figures is a result of a larger story, especially in post-apocalyptic and fantasy novels, but I know that it can work in a contemporary story, too, if it's handled well and doesn't feel forced.
Still, if a book's targeted audience is young adults, I'd like to see some semblance of a happy home life for the main characters, at least where applicable. If we want to raise the youth of today to grow into wholesome, well-balanced individuals, shouldn't we show them examples of those? I'm not saying every book is going to have a happy ending or even that the majority of the storyline should be light-hearted and fun because where's the honesty in that? No, all I'm asking is that authors not include a bad home life and then give the character an unrealistic happily-ever-after. If they come from a bad family situation, show them trying to overcome it and document their struggles and how it affects them. Kids should be able to read and identify with characters.
Sigh. This turned into a ramble and I'm not even sure I made the point I was trying to make. I'd still like to hear your thoughts on family dynamics in young adult novels. I'm of the mind that they should be realistically portrayed, but I can see how the more over-the-top types would be entertaining. What say you?