Saturday, January 23, 2010

The YA Family

I've read a few books recently that have annoyed me for one reason: the family set ups are really similar. Once I thought about it more, I realized that many YA families have a lot of similarities.

So today, let's pretend you're the main character in a YA book. Allow me to describe your immediate family for you:

Parents: There's a 90% chance that you only have one parent. The other one is dead, left a long time ago, or mysteriously disappeared because they're secretly a mermaid or faery or something like that. Most of the time the parent that's dead/missing/gone is your mom, but your dad might be gone instead. If he's the one who is gone, your mom is probably crazy or dates too many men in order to find a new ~true love.~ If your mom is gone, your dad is probably just really depressed and not over it yet.

There's also a chance that your parent has married someone new. Someone that you really, really don't like.

You probably still carry some emotional baggage around from your dead/missing parent, and it probably still affects you in ways you aren't aware of. By the end of the book, you'll probably have some big revelation about how they still influence your choices and how you need to let go and move on.

Your one parent probably doesn't play a big role in your life; they're just kind of there and mess up things up for you. They make your life difficult, but you love them anyway.

Why do you only have one parent? No idea. Ask one of the authors who have killed off your other parent.

But hey, if you have two parents, lucky you! Not only are your parents alive, but there's a huge chance that they're really cool. They probably like rock music and stuff like that. You're not embarrassed to be seen with them, as long as they aren't being all gushy in public.

Sisters: If you have a sister, good for you. If you have a little sister, she probably annoys you, but at least you have one.

But if you have an older sister, something is probably wrong with her. You think she's perfect and popular and loved by everyone, but something's wrong. She isn't happy. She has an eating disorder, or she ran away, or she hangs out with the wrong crowd. Your family is probably really surprised when you find out what's wrong, even though you all knew something was up all along.

Brothers: You probably don't have one. And even if you do, he's probably not a cliche brother. I asked some of my twitter friends about books with brothers, and I couldn't find a pattern to their behavior. Then again, most books don't have brothers in them so it's a bit difficult to be cliche, but still! No cliche brothers for you, if you have one.

Pets: Don't be silly. You don't have a pet. If you do, there's no mention of it. You're too busy hanging with your supernatural boyfriend or saving the world to take care of a dog.


What's the point of this post? you may be asking yourself. The point: I want a book with two normal parents, a normal sibling or two, and a cat.

I probably missed a bunch of cliches since I'm tired and my brain is only half-functioning, so if you can think of more, let me know!


  1. I recommend PEACE, LOVE AND BABY DUCKS by Lauren Myracle, which has a sister, both parents, and a pet.

    Also, HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown has both parents, although perhaps not such a happy family. However, in both of these books the parents are actively a part of the story.

    MEGAN MEADE'S GUIDE TO THE MCGOWAN BOYS has a girl whose parents are in the military and she gets sent to live with some family friends who have seven boys.

    DRUMS, GIRLS, AD DANGEROUS PIE has a younger brother and both parents, and MY SISTER'S KEEPER has a younger sister and both parents.

    DONUT DAYS has both parents.TWENTY BOY SUMMER also has both parents, although the story dictates that they aren't really focused on. The DIARY OF A WIMPY KID books have both parents, a younger brother, and a dog. THE COMPOUND has both parents, two sisters, and a brother.

  2. I love books where the main character has a cat. I know there are some, but I can't think of them right now. I mean, other than the Georgia Nicholson novels.

  3. OOoooh, also Audrey, Wait!, which has both parents and a cat.

  4. The Princess Diaries has a cat ad both parents, although the parents are not married.

  5. Excellent post ! Cracked me up. I feel the same way as you do, and you put in words what I've been thinking for a long time...! Love the part about having both parents and them listening to rock music and being cool. So classic. :)

  6. LOL!

    Most of the main characters in my books have both parents and come from a fairly normal family. Two are divorced and remarried, but nobody is dead.

    But guilty as charged - no animals! And I love animals.

    I promise to insert a cat in the next one.

  7. Heheheheh yup.

    Pretty sure Audrey, Wait has an AWESOME cat in it!

  8. Have you read She's So Money by Cherry Cheva? I think you would be most happy with the normalness in this one. xD

    Fun post! :D

  9. LOL, KHY, couldn't agree more. My personal favorite is the main character with the ditsy single-parent mother she has to take care of.

  10. Wow, Khy you nailed it! It's a common thread in YA and it does get tiring. Especially as I was a single parent and my daughter (19 yo) goes to college, is a good kid (for the most part) and I was involved in her life!

  11. I second Robbie's suggestion of Peace, Love and Baby Ducks, not just because of the normalcy but also because it's an awesome book.

    I was gonna suggest the Princess Diaries but the parents are divorced and Mia has no siblings (well, not until later, lol). She does have a cat though!

    Most Meg Cabot novels though seem to have the parents together, some pet, and siblings. Definitely check her out if you haven't already. All American Girl is a good novel. :)

    And since I have yet to mention it, HILARIOUS POST! I loved reading it! :)

  12. This is so true! I was thinking about this the other day and about how annoyed I get when the main characters either have major issues with their parents or just don't get along with them. I got along great with my parents as a teen-still do-and I would love to find that in a book.

    My favorite book family is the Weasleys-I want to join them. But I also recommend Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson-the family is quirky and they might have some issues, but they love each other and that's refreshing to see in YA.

  13. Heehee...I just loved this post! So true. I blush at the fact that some of my YA writing has some of these cliches in them. :P

  14. LOL!

    I loved the parents in How to Ditch Your Fairy. :)

  15. Oooh you're totally right! Only one I can think of off the top of my head that doesn't fit the stereotype is THE DARK

  16. Although my book, happily, was listed as one of the books with two parents, I think certain themes repeat in YA over and over -- including, but not limited to, dead parents, cool parents, best friends with red hair, lip-biting, etc.

    I spoke to my editor about this recently, since in my second book I have a protagonist who is in conflict with her mom and I was like, "Is this too cliche? Aren't all YA protagonists in conflict with their moms?" Her response was cool: she said that it's okay if themes repeat as long as an author puts a unique, genuine spin on it.

    So maybe it's not the theme that's cliche but the telling of it? I dunno. Just my $0.02.

  17. You know, I've been thinking about this a lot lately, too. When I sat down to begin my current WIP, it was important to me to give my main character an intact family, because I like the idea of showing all different kinds of families -- not only the divorced ones or the one-parent ones.

    It's really great to see posts like this, and find out what YA readers are looking for, and what they're tired of seeing! Thanks for writing it!!!

  18. Haha, I totally agree! Why is it that the mother's always dead??

  19. We can always count on you, Khy, to give us an honest opinion :)

    You are so right, though. It does seem to be a common theme for books to have one parent. In the story I'm working on right now, my MC lives with her mom. They get along really well, though, so ... hopefully Lara's right and the single-parent theme isn't the real problem, but rather the telling of it.

    I just finished reading Love, You, Hate You, Miss You by Elizabeth Scott--no pets or siblings, but the MC does live with both parents. Who are so sickeningly in love that it drives the MC crazy. That was something I've never seen before, and that I really enjoyed.

    Thanks for your always entertaining honesty!

  20. This post made me laugh because Snowball Effect has almost all the parent cliches you mention. Lainey's mother is crazy and dates a bunch of men, then she marries a guy Lainey hates, then she dies. Lainey's father is marginally present, but was generally a deadbeat most of her life. In my new novel, the parents are still happily married and they're the cool rock and roll type.

    Whenever I read a novel and the MC has a pet, I'm always terrified it's going to die. I don't know why I'm so morbid.