Discussion Post: Parents in YA

There’s a recurring joke in the YA world that all parents in books are either

  • A) Dead
  • B) nonexistent
  • And when they do exist, they’re awful

There honestly is a lack of good parents in YA—a lack, even, of parents at all.

Out of this, a lot of bloggers often call for more good parents in YA. I understand the idea behind this: if reading is supposed to be an escape, then giving young adults a world in which parents are kind and supportive is an important responsibility of YA.

That being said, I also want to see more bad parents in YA.

The point, I think, of having good parents in YA is to give teenagers with awful ones an escape. Those books show teenagers what encouragement and love feels like and gives them positive voices to listen to when the real ones are negative.

However, reading should not just offer an escape from reality, but sometimes confront reality. This reminds people that others have survived what you are living through.

Here is the problem: the same way that YA has basically no parents, it also seems to have only a few types of bad parents. There are the parents who have fallen out of touch with their teens as they grew up, the parents who flat-out ignore their children, the parents who fail to recognize or accept their children for who they are.

But they have one thing in common:

At some point, there is a conversation and/or realization that brings the kid and the parent together, ending in understanding and forgiveness.

That relationship evolution is based in the idea that no parents are so blind or rooted in their beliefs that they could face their child in a moment of honesty and not fix themselves. It is based in the idea that teenagers and parents just don’t “work”—until they have breakfast together, cry it out, and reconnect. It is based in the idea that no parent is unforgivable, unfixable.

I’ve had a lot of friends, with a lot of parents who screwed them up in different ways. Parents who

  • Taught their children strict body image ideals that permanently made them to value being skinny over being healthy
  • Ignored their child’s depression, even when the child point-blank told them how they felt
  • Ignored their child’s attempt to speak about abuse
  • Decided their child was a chronic liar instead of listening to them recount problems they faced
  • Made their child fear the imperfection of an A- (let alone a B) so palpably that the child chose to value studying over taking care of their physical and emotional well-being

Parents who were more than clueless, more than out of touch. Parents who continued their behavior after confrontation.

Parents who honestly, I won’t forgive.

I am not saying that this applies to every bad parent in YA. They are not all bad in the same way, nor are they all forgiven. They aren’t. But it feels like there is a strong trend in favor of acting like parents making their children feel like shit was just a misunderstanding. And I’m not okay with that.

At best, it isolates teenagers. It takes a story that could be a beacon of hope—this character lived in the same situation but survived like this—and turns it into a “whoops, just kidding, you’re on your own.”

At worst, it gaslights teenagers into blaming themselves for their parents choices by making them believe their parents would be kind if they could just have the right conversation. This might sound like a far-fetched idea, but a lot of the teenagers I know have tried to talk to their parents about their issues, and it didn’t work. Not all of them, of course, but there are more than the two options: silence and forgiveness.

Young adult literature is complex. It cannot be defined by one trend or cliche. It has fluffy romances and heart-wrenching plots in both fantasies and contemporaries. YA has something for everyone to connect to. It gives readers things to laugh about and things to cry about. It helps us escape reality, and it gives us the tools we need to confront reality. The multitudes of YA are what makes it so incredible. 

I do not want every book published to have awful parents. I do not want every awful parent to end un-forgiven. What I do want is a YA that presents all types of parents, even the ones we would like to pretend don’t exist. 


What do you think? Was this post relatable? Are there any books you can recommend that break the forgiveness model?

Six Things College App Essays Taught Me About Writing

I just finished all of my college apps!!! *screams with joy for hours*

john-stewart-happy

And while it was a horrifyingly stressful and (sometimes) tedious process, it did teach me some things about writing and myself as a writer.

1. How to write something that doesn’t rely on dialogue. Or sarcasm.

In my fiction writing, I rely on dialogue and sarcasm. College app essays weren’t really the place for that style writing, so it was an adjustment. Trying to find a tone that conveyed my personality without making me sound like a bitch was something that I’m proud I accomplished.

2. Just how many “voices” I have, outside the ones I already knew about.

This goes with the one before, but as I wrote more and more essays, I started to develop new writing voices. I still prefer my fiction/journalism ones, but I like that I discovered others.

3. How to be done with something. And actually be done.

I have been writing fiction for years, but I have never really finished something. I have reached the end of pieces, and edited pieces, but I have never really felt done. With college app essays, I had to write, edit, and turn it in. This was incredibly stressful at the beginning, but it also feels awesome to be actually done.

4. Kill Your Darlings is actually really good advice.

I have heard the classic writing advice “Kill Your Darlings” for a while, but college app essays were the first time I really had to use it. And damn, it works. I can’t tell you how many essays clicked into place when I got rid of a favorite sentence, metaphor, or idea.

5. How to write, even when I don’t want to.

My WIP started to teach me this over summer, but it was writing essays for college apps that finally drove home this lesson. Although I still occasionally give in to writer’s block, I am now able to get myself to sit down and write, even if I don’t feel “inspired.”

6. Word counts are the worst, but only sometimes.

This was my first real encounter with word counts, and it was rough. Of the hours I spent working on these essays, only half the time was writing. The other half was spent editing them down to the right word count.

But I also started to appreciate word counts for the direction they gave me. I knew how far to go with an essay based on the word count. Without them, I don’t know if I would have edited my essays as thoroughly. So I guess word counts aren’t the worst.


What do you think? Was this post interesting for you? Have you applied/are you applying to colleges, and if so, what was it like for you?

Poetry: This Was Supposed to Be a Poem

I wrote this last night after an indescribable school day. I am extremely raw and frustrated right now. I know that we will get through this, but that does not mean that yesterday was not horrifying.

This was supposed to be a poem

About victory and relief

With lyrical metaphors of broken

Glass ceilings.

 

This is not a poem

About victory

I have nothing to share but what I saw today:

 

Empty faces

Scared

Shocked

Searching for something other than

This.

 

Off-balance bodies

That tried to step forward and were instead shoved

Back.

 

Wide eyes and muddled minds

That forgot youth

Was a bubble, and all bubbles

Pop.

 

My class is staring into our future

And a horrifying abyss is staring

Back.

 

We thought we would break glass last night,

But we broke instead.

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I enjoyed this story a lot more than I expected, though I wish the writing had been a little different.

3.5/5 stars

cover-frankenstein

synopsis for reviews 2

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Add it on Goodreads.

my thoughts for reviews 1

Like 99% of the classics I read, I read this book because of school. I can’t say that I had low expectations for the book, because I had honestly no idea what to expect. I knew that Hollywood portrayed the Creature wrong…and that was it. I was pleasantly surprised by Frankenstein, though.

I’ll start with the positive. I genuinely enjoyed the plot of this book. Having known nothing about the plot beforehand except that the Creature comes to life and everything goes wrong, I found the actual plot original and complex. There is so much more going on in this book than “whoops, bringing the dead back to life is a mistake.”

There were surprising moments and the story built to a strong climax. I loved the approach the story took to discussing good and evil, as well as how it left some moral questions unanswered.

The Creature was a fascinating character, and his complicated relationship with Victor was unexpected and nuanced. I absolutely hated Victor, but I admire Shelley for how completely she got me to hate him. Both characters grow significantly throughout the novel and I never felt like I didn’t understand their motivations.

Looking just at the overall plot of the novel and the two main characters, Frankenstein was a really solid novel. Unfortunately, the details are where I start to like the book less.

First off, waaay to much time passes. Seriously, the book spans like six years, with most of that time just being Victor passed out from his bad decisions or loitering, trying to decide what to do next. If you cut out all the waiting around parts, the plot is paced pretty well, but I could never get fully invested in the story because so much of the story wasn’t the main plot. 

Also, the writing bothered me. I knew it was a “classic” going in, so I wasn’t expecting it to read the same way a novel written today would. I can forgive the novel for its wandering sentences and obsession with figurative language—in truth, I actually enjoyed those parts.

However, the story is told in a forcibly “tell” instead of “show” manner. For me, it felt like certain chapters were trying to suck all of the excitement out of the plot in the way they were told. For a book that is entirely in first person (though the narration changes), it feels like it’s written in third person—by which I mean that something is constantly separating me from experiencing the action up-close-and-personal. 

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. It is one of my favorite books I’ve read in for high school, both from a plot standpoint and a literary analysis standpoint. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy “classic” writing, or who are at least able to forgive a story for slower pacing.

Top Ten Parts of High School I Wish YA Authors Talked About More

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is a Back to School Freebie.

I’m a senior in high school, and my high school career has been very academic-focused. I can’t speak for everyone, and I don’t want to act like my HS experience is everyone’s HS experience. That being said, here are some things that I wish I saw more of in YA literature. 

1. Homework. No seriously, homework.

I don’t care if your character is the biggest slacker in the world or the valedictorian, they have homework. Maybe they cheat on their homework, or do it during class, or only turn in every third assignment. Still. If your character goes to high school, I’d really like to have homework mentioned.

2. Club meetings during school. Or club meetings at all.

This might just be my school, but for me, most of the clubs on campus meet during lunch. That means that sometimes I can’t eat lunch with my friends, either because they’re in a meeting or I am.

3. Extracurricular activities that aren’t sports.

I think YA authors are pretty good at having athletic characters. But even if a character isn’t athletic, they probably have something to do after school.

4. STRESS.

Oh my god this needs to be talked about more. Do you know how frustrating it is to read about characters that are supposedly smart (or even just kind of care about grades) that don’t stress about school? Ever?!?!? Tests are stressful. Projects are stressful. Not knowing how to do math homework is stressful. School is stressful, and not just for people trying to get a 4.0.

5. College stress.

I want to see freshman planning what classes they will take in the next four years to be in a good place for college. I want to see sophomores freaking out because they haven’t done enough community service or didn’t get a leadership position in a club. I want to see juniors ready to stab the next person that asks them which colleges they want to apply to. I want to see seniors frustrated that they have to defend their college choices from the relentless judgement of others.

I wish those things didn’t exist, but they do, so start writing about them.

6. Bad teachers.

While inspiring, there-when-you-need-a-word-of-advice teachers are common in YA, bad teachers aren’t talked about enough. They can destroy a school year. They can make you not want to go to class or care about your grade.

7. Battles for something other than valedictorian.

I have started seeing a lot of books centered around people battling for being top of the class. First of all, a lot of schools don’t do ranking anymore (my school doesn’t), and second of all, academics are competitive even on a lower level. College apps pit you against millions of other high school students, and that puts an inherently competitive edge into a lot of aspects of high school.

8. An understanding of AP classes, the SAT/ACT, SAT subject tests, etc.

So often, I’ll be reading a book and a character will go to “AP History.” It seems like a minor thing, but it jars me out of the story. There are at least three different classes that could be called “AP History,” and when the author doesn’t pick one, it gives me the impression that they haven’t talked to HS student in years.

There’s also a financial side of standardized tests that should be looked at. If your character is poor, talk about how expensive these tests are, how complicated getting fee waivers can be, and how frustrating it is to be competing with people who can buy prep books and classes without blinking an eye.

9. Dress codes.

Not every book needs to talk about this, but some should. There is a giant push back against dress codes right now, pointing out how sexist and outdated they are. I would love to see this discussed in a YA book.

10. Sleep deprivation.

I can’t tell you how often I hear people say that they got 2-3 hours of sleep the night before, or that getting 5 hours is a lot for them. Sleep deprivation has serious side effects that I see all around me every day, and I wish more authors would talk about it.


What do you think? Fellow high school students, does this sound familiar? What parts of high school do you feel authors miss?

Is Reading Homework for You?

When I was in elementary school, I read after school every day. There were days when I would come home and read for hours straight; there were days when I started a book in the morning and finished it that night. And it was awesome.

Then, sadly, high school hit, and my reading habits slacked off. Actually having homework definitely put a damper on my afternoon reading sessions. (Also the discovery of Netflix, not gonna lie.)

The thing is, I really care about school. I have good grades, and I’m proud of them, and I am constantly working to make sure that I am the dedicated student that I want to be. Sacrificing reading time to study for a test or get ahead on homework is something that I’m willing to do.

Why am I telling you this?

Recently, I’ve been in a massive reading slump. Or, not a slump, because I want to read, but I just…haven’t. I haven’t had time. AP Tests (massive exams for college-level classes you can take in high school) are coming up at the beginning of May, so it’s studying crunch time for me.

The point is, I have been reading the same book for nearly three weeks now. It’s a great book, and I know that I am hurting my enjoyment by stretching it out so much. But the problem is that I usually only read during class or on weekends, and recently, I haven’t had time in class or on weekends. Reading isn’t something I have to do anymore, it’s something I do when I have free time forced upon me.

Which brings me—finally—to my point:

Do you guys read after school? Do you treat it as homework, i.e. something that you have to do on your off time?

I don’t, and I haven’t for a while now. But this recent slump has got me thinking that maybe I should start to expect myself to read on school days. Maybe reading a few chapters every few days should be on my To Do List, alongside math homework and refilling my mini stapler.

I have started to think of reading as something that I do only when I clearly have time, which I’ve lost recently. Without that obvious time to read, I’ve basically stopped reading…and it sucks.

What do you think? Is reading something you do after school, or is it only a weekend thing for you? How do you balance being a student and a reader?

Poetry: Stolen Fire

I used to have a raging fire—

Crackling, dancing, bursting, writhing

Wouldn’t sit still, wouldn’t calm down

It devoured and it lived

 

But I ran out of logs

But at least I still had kindling—

But I ran out of that as well

But at least I still had embers—

To hold back the looming darkness

But the wind carried each off

One by one…

Silent theif.

 

Where did that spark go?

I wonder

Fumbling in the dark

Who stole my matches?

Do they want me to freeze tonight?

When did the night

Grow so dark

And cold?

How will I get my fire back

When it never occurred to me to wonder

How the first one started?

 

How did I never notice

The importance of my fire

To beat back the night inside of me?