As the mother of a teen, I’m reminded every day how important independence is to them. I could argue every day over clothes (“I can see your bra.”), friends (“Where did you meet her? How old is she?”), activities (“Don’t forget that the river is still plenty cold”), sleeping (“You do realize it’s after noon, right?), chores (“If the dishwasher is full, you could empty it.”) and a million other things.
Teens are hard-wired to be independent. And adults are hard-wired to want to clip their wings.
In real life, most teens don’t get to make as many choices as they would like. That’s why teens in books tend to operate pretty independently. Parents are often divorced, dead, drunk, or otherwise missing in action.
Letting my readers fantasize about being independent
In Shock Point, Cassie faces what would be any teen’s nightmare: an overseas boot camp where even looking at other teens could get you in trouble. But then she manages to escape and make her way back from Mexico by herself to confront her evil stepfather.
In Torched, Ellie spends a summer in a tree-sit with a cute boy. And her environmentalist aging-hippy parents give their blessing.
In Girl, Stolen, Cheyenne is blind and kidnapped, but figures out how to escape anyway. Her parents barely figure into the story.
In The Night She Disappeared, Gabie’s parents are trauma surgeons who spend most of their time at the hospital.
My next two books feature a girl who has no memory (and thus can’t remember her parents) and is on the run, and a girl who is an emancipated minor.
Even adults fantasize about independence
Four and a half years ago, I was able to quit my day job and work at home. And work I do - seven days a week, often into the evening. But I’m now in control of my life, just the way I fantasized about as a teen.