Planning Parenthood in YA Fiction Jen Doktorski

I don’t like rules that restrict my choices.

These days, it seems like there are a lot of them for those of us who write YA novels. More so than when I began this journey a decade ago.

No love triangles.

No green-eyed characters.

No instalove.

No character self-description via a mirror.

No trendy teen-speak.

No tropes of any kind.

No dumbing down language.

No telling a story from the POV of a character who does not look like you.

And of course, no parents. Or dead parents. Or useless parents.

I’ve written and published four YA novels and parents are present in each to varying degrees. You can find them here. My fifth YA novel, which is on submission right now, includes very few on-screen moments with parents. Mostly because it’s about two teens on the run and the presence of parents does not serve the plot or story.

Do parents belong in YA novels? It depends on the story you want to tell. Ultimately, the decision is the author’s alone to make.

My book. My choice.

Perhaps the bigger question is, should parents be writing YA novels? Do teens prefer books written by authors closer to their age? Are we looking at a future where parents will be closer to their age?


  1. No green-eyed characters? Why can't there be any green-eyed characters? When I was a teen, most of the YA books were written by parents. Judy Blume was my favorite because even though she was older, she seemed to know exactly how preteens and teenage girls thought.

    1. Yes, I've gotten comments that green eyes are the least common color and yet the most overused for the love interest in YA fiction. I should note that I have three green-eyed people in my immediate family. lol. Totally agree with you about Judy Blume. She's the kind of adult who never forgot what it was like to be a kid/teen.

  2. ! Your book, your choice. Blume's ability to write from the young POV is what snagged me as a picture book reader. The Pain and the Great One made me a reader.

    1. Would you believe I've never read the picture book or the series? I need to!

  3. Kinda reminds me of my early days in AA when at every meeting there seemed to be a bunch of amateur psychiatrists who pontificated about the dangers of drugs in terms of impairing recovery. I was taking a number of people who had a mental illness, as well as an addiction to those meetings and their recovery often pivoted on them taking prescribed medication. I often had to spend the drive back to the institute explaining that those who were telling them what to do, had no business doing so.
    Having vented, I've been line editing the stories in my YA anthology that I hope will come out in August. Boy, am I a dark writer. I'm wrestling with one of those content warnings you see in many YA books these days. Maybe mine will just say: "There are bad things happening to many of the kids in these stories, but they're things kids all over Maine experience on a daily basis...Get over it."

    1. Ah, yes. Are you referring to the "No troubled teens" rule? I left that one off list because, what are we all doing this for? The problem with narrow-minded rules is that there's no room for all the unique sets of circumstances humans, real or imagined, might find themselves in.


Post a Comment