Hello lovely people! Last week I talked about a new series of discussion posts I wanted to do, last week it was GIRL ON GIRL HATE IN YA and this week it’s the classic trope of parents being MIA in YA!

Remember the last Young Adult book you read and thought I had enough of this hero/heroine’s parents calling all the shots! – me neither. It has become a thing that for a plot to work, parents need to not be present or to not be normal for that matter — there’s no in between, and I get it, if the characters have curfews or they are grounded the plot cannot go on but when parents are present, it makes the story even more believable and more relatable.

This topic came to me while I was reading a book and caught myself wondering in frustration yet again, don’t these kids have parents? Is that a sign that YA books have an age limit that I am getting closer to? Barely on my 20s?! Is that a thing now, because more often than not I find myself wondering the same thing — so I’m wondering, is it the newest book trope or me? The ridiculousness of it all just hit me, I’ve read the most unbelievable situations that occur so that the characters can be left alone for a few days and I just can’t help but think that would have never worked in the real world.

As a reader, when I get into a story I don’t even want to think that this is fiction and in the real world that wouldn’t have happened, it sort of ruining the book moment for it. Yes, it’s fiction I’m aware but it’s a story that I am currently watching from someone else’s eyes and to stop in the middle of it and think that it’s unlikely to happen in real life is totally something that ruins the moment for me.


Would Harry Potter be the same if Lily and James Potter were alive? No! It would be a totally different story but still dead parents seem to be getting popular in literature.

Parents in YA tend to either be dead, unable to be the adults, working all the time, super controlling, cartoonish evil with lots of money or money hungry. Yes, some YA books know how to write a well-balanced story with parents that are present but not too overbearing, and those stories are a lot more relatable.

Different tastes in books is what makes it so fun, some books work some don’t — there isn’t a guide about it but from time to time there are more popular tropes that emerge and those that slowly find a balance or die down.

MIA parents seem to be a constant lately – a number of popular books feature them in one form or another only to have them being replaced by another parental figures and that is ultimately undoing whatever the book was trying to do in the first place.

If parental figures are needed for a story then why make the actual parents MIA?


There’s nothing wrong with heroes/heroines that are the adults in the family, we need that representation in literature, sometimes shit happens for a lack of a better phrase and you have to deal with it and step up but the problem is that YA books are using it as a cope out to completely write off the parents or to give the characters a sob story to make them stronger but when it becomes a trope, then we have a problem.

Great things can be done when parents are absent, some of the most popular book characters can attest to that and of course we need those books too but can authors make the same great things happen with the parents still present? I often refer to that as something refreshing and original – to have the parents more involved but in retrospect it is not really original, it’s just absent most of the time and it stands out.

Yes, teenagers and parents have a difficult relationship. Yes, it is fiction and we don’t need to read about something that already exists in most kids’ lives but is it really happening because it is fiction or because it’s easier?

Question: Do you miss parents in YA or not? Do you think there’s a balance between YA escapades and parenting in books?


7 thoughts on “ABSENT PARENTS IN YA”

  1. I have definitely noticed this trend. I’ve sat there and been like ” OKAY, where the heck are the parents? This would NEVER happen” And like you said, even when they are present, they’re usually dysfunctional in some way. It’d be really nice to see just some normal parents, with a normal parent-kid relationship, who check in on their kid & make sure everything is okay and aren’t ALWAYS working. So, yeah, I totally get what you’re saying here.

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

  2. Ok yes, I so often, while reading YA, find myself thinking, “I could never do any of the stuff this protag is doing because my parents would never have let me.” Seriously, where are their parents?? Who just lets 15 wander the city in the middle of the night and stuff like that?

    And the way you pointed out that it’s not actually new and original to have parents presents made me realize, I do point it out if I read a YA book that actually has good parents, but that shouldn’t be the kind of thing we need to point out. It shouldn’t be that rare. I fully understand that there are parents out there who don’t pay attention to what their kids are doing or kids whose parents have died, etc., but that shouldn’t be the norm. And I think it’s great to show other people in kind of parental roles, someone who is “like a father” the MC, for example. But I just think there should be more variety and having parents be present shouldn’t be such a rare thing. Especially since sometimes there’s not even a valid reason. It’s like the parents just… aren’t mentioned.

    1. Right? More often than not I get surprised to read about a good parental figure and that’s not how things should be if the book ends up having another parental figure in the end, what’s the point? Variety and balance is the way to go.

  3. Great topic, Kei! I guess absentee parents isn’t a huge pet peeve of mine but I definitely notice. For good or bad, I’m usually willing to just go with it – even though at the same time I can acknowledge how unrealistic it is. I get that most of the time it’s there as a plot device – the teen protagonists would never be able to do what they’re doing if an actual parent doing real parenting was in the picture – but it does strain the realm of believability. And it was still a teen and was reading these books I certainly wouldn’t be able to relate. My parents were decidedly *not* absent. LOL

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