Monday, February 16, 2015

Killing Mom and Dad by Jody Casella

I know. I know. We are supposed to write about love-- romantic love. But I have been thinking about a different kind of love lately. The parent/child kind.

My daughter's about to graduate from high school, and in a few months she's leaving home to go away to college. I have a weird contrasting mix of feelings about this upcoming event.

I love my daughter. But sometimes I want to throttle her.

I worry myself into a frenzy thinking about her when she's off driving or out with her boyfriend or her friends. But some days she's busy doing something and I'm busy doing something and she's totally out of my mind and I'm assuming she's okay.

I don't want her to go away to college. I want her to go far away to college.

I'm completely fine with the whole empty nest thing. Yay! Rah Rah! My husband and I have our lives back at last. But I can't imagine my life without my daughter in it on a day-to-day basis and just writing that line makes me feel like someone kicked me in the stomach.

So, basically, that's parent/child love how I've been thinking about it lately.

YA books have a grand old time playing around with parent/child relationships. By which I mean that in a lot of YA books the parents are dead.

After reading hundreds of these books and writing a few myself, I've come up with a theory about why this is true.

Teens do not want to read about parents in their books. 

They get enough of their parents in real life. Yeah. Yeah. Sure. They love you. Sometimes they go to you for advice. They enjoy seeing you in the audience of their plays or on the sidelines of their soccer games. But they like to read books where YOU ARE NOT THERE.

Books where the teen main character has no helicoptery mom or dad swooping in to save her. Books where the kid goes on adventures or makes stupid decisions or drinks alcohol or has sex with the love interest or cheats on the love interest or tells a lie or bullies someone or gets bullied or grieves or is stricken with a deadly disease.

Books where the teen main character fights and loses, but in the end, fights and wins.

The parents in those books are spinning in the background, dealing with their own problems or going out of town on conveniently scheduled trips or dying in car accidents or being attacked by wild dogs.

Sometimes the parents are assholes. Because, NEWSFLASH: a lot of parents in real life are assholes.

Sometimes the parents are lovely people who love their children fiercely but can't quite see the huge complicated dramatic emotional outrageous unfair glorious world their main character child is living in... because their child has kept it a secret.

Psst: Your child keeps secrets from you.

Just like you once kept secrets from your parents. Because you didn't want to get in trouble or you didn't want them to think lesser of you. Because, ultimately, it was none of their business what you did with your own life.

You grew up. You left your parents. And your children will grow up and leave you. One way or another, the easy way or the hard way. Whether you are a good parent or a bad parent.  Whether you love your child fiercely or not. Especially if you love her fiercely.

She will leave you.

Because that's the way her story begins.

Once upon a time my daughter
liked to wear plastic bowl hats. 


  1. True, true, and a good explanation for why the "absent parent" in YA doesn't bother me nearly as much as it seems to bother a lot of people.

  2. You're so right Jody! Teens can't be free to act like adults in real life or in fiction if parents are always hovering nearby. Adorable picture! I'm just getting over my Santa blues. I can't think about the empty nest thing yet. :)

  3. Totally agree as well, Jody! Teens don't like reading books with parents in them and I also don't think writers like writing about parents (or at least I don't). If I wanted to write about adults then I wouldn't be writing YA! :)

  4. Yeah, the absent/dead/whatever parent thing doesn't bother me at all. I just don't care where the parents are in YA, at least most of the time. I think, too, that in the sense that literature allows us to "practice" at life, imagining a life where the parents aren't in charge is important for teens.

    Also, I have a 5-month-old, and this totes made me weepy. :-)