The Missing Parents in Young Adult Fiction by Allie Burton

Why do so many young adult books, especially in fantasy, have absentee parents? Whether dead or missing or never around, parents in young adult fantasy books need to either be awol, overprotective, or evil.

Take my newest release, Snow Witching White. Her parents were killed when she was young, her overprotective grandfather hid her away, and now she comes face to face with her great grandmother. I won’t spoil the book by saying what kind of parent figure she is, but you can preorder the book for .99 cents at this link:  The book releases June 28, 2022.

One reason parents are missing in young adult fiction is because it adds to the conflict of our teen hero and heroine. With no parents our hero/heroine feels abandoned and alone. They are always searching for a family. With overprotective parents our hero/heroine feel smothered and don’t know what’s really happening in their world. They act out toward their parental figure and want to have adventures. With evil parents our hero/heroine are treated poorly or abused. They want to escape.

Each one of these scenarios is a great place to start a story. For example, in Cinderella Assassin - the first book in A Glass Slipper Adventure, our heroine is abused by her stepmother. She’s unaware of how the magical people are being treated in her world. She yearns for escape and adventure. And she gets both.

Another reason parents are missing in young adult fantasy books is because deep internal wounds add to the character’s growth. With an evil parent figure, the hero/heroine might be distrustful and a loner. With an overprotective parent figure, the hero/heroine might start out as a risk taker. With dead or missing parents, the hero/heroine might be afraid.

A book featuring a character who needs to learn, grow, and change is a dynamic character. In Atlantis Riptide (free at your favorite retailer), the main heroine runs away from the circus tired of her adoptive parents’ abuse. She has a wound from her biological parents abandoning her and from the treatment she grew up with. She also wants to escape and have an adventure. She’s a loner, but she’ll need to trust others to survive.

In real life, I don’t wish for any child to be without a parent or to have an abusive parent. But in fiction, it makes for great conflict and an interesting story.


  1. Deep internal wounds + having to go it alone. Such great conflict. And that's before the main plotline comes into play!


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