Tag Archives: young adult lit chat

Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction?

24 Sep

Announcements:

ShannonAThompson.com hit 18,000 followers! As a surprise, I shared the meaning behind all the chapter titles in Take Me Tomorrow on my Facebook page. Every chapter title is actually a direct quote from the chapter you’re about to read. This is to represent the clairvoyant drug, tomo, since it allows takers to experience the future. For those who haven’t read the story, tomo does not necessarily give you clear visions. It affects all people and all senses differently. Sometimes, you hear it, taste it, smell it, or feel it. In fact, it’s hardly ever clear as to what is happening. Only those who are experienced with the drug are able to interpret what they are experiencing, and even then, everything is just a guess, and the drug itself is debatable. But the chapter titles aren’t! If you go through the novel you will see the titles later on in the prose. Chapter One – Don’t Come Back – is found in this quote, “My heart lurched at his sudden change in demeanor, but I managed a nod toward the north. The forest opened up to the only park Topeka still had. ‘Don’t come back.’”

When Eat Books For Breakfast reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, she said it “was definitely an intriguing read—different from most of the other books in its genre…I would recommend it to readers of young adult dystopian fiction.” Read the full review by clicking here or check out my latest novel here.

I would also like to take a moment to thank Dan Thompson for including Take Me Tomorrow in his post Two Books Are Better Than One. (And no, believe it or not, we’re not related.)

Thank you for reading my announcements today!

Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction?

The other day, I was sitting in a hookah house while attending an online event. (I don’t always have the Internet at home, so I go there to work.) That’s when a good friend of mine came up to keep me company, and I was telling him about a novel I am working on. The main character is an orphan. That’s when we got to talking.

Why are parents always dead or absent?

This isn’t a new conversation. I’ve had it with many people, mainly in regards to Disney movies, but I think it applies to most fiction, especially young-adult fiction, but I’ll get to why I think that in a minute. First, I would like to admit that my stories are no exception. The Timely Death Trilogy involves two protagonists – Eric’s biological mother committed suicide, and his father doesn’t have the best relationship with his son, while both of Jessica’s biological parents died in a car wreck, but she was adopted, and she does have a good relationship with her adoptive parents. In Take Me Tomorrow, Sophia’s father is practically absent due to his traveling job, and her mother hasn’t been in her life since she was seven, but she does live with a mother-sister figure named Lyn. Why did I do this? I can’t speak for every author when I explain my theories, but I will explain my personal reasons for deceased or absent parents as well as a hypothesis from the literary side. Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am (in general) talking about fiction for children and young adults.

Literary reason:

Coming-of-age is a popular topic among fiction for teens and preteens, mainly because they are going through it themselves. That being said, I think a huge factor of “coming-of-age” is finding yourself through independence. This is one of the main reasons I believe parents aren’t included in fiction, whether that is through death or absence, but another reason includes freedom. I know. I know. I sound horrible for saying freedom in regards to an absent parent, but I don’t mean “freedom” as a good thing. I mean it as a driving force for a character to venture outside of their home, to go on adventures, to strive to survive on their own. If they had a perfect family at home, this need for survival or adventure would be hard to justify. But I would like to point out one thing that others seem to forget to mention. Even if a character is an orphan or under other unfortunate circumstances, the character (usually) has a parental figure, and I think that is just as important as having a “real” parent in the story. To me, a “real” parent doesn’t have to give life to a child or adopt a child or anything in terms of a traditional definition. I believe a parent can be anyone who is the main guide and protector for a child. In that sense, I don’t believe we take parents out of fiction. I think we show readers that parents (guidance) can come from many places, which can be vital during a time in which young people are striving for independence outside the home.

From The Write Catch

From The Write Catch

Personal reason:

I am only including this section to give insight to an author’s reasoning behind it (rather than my above section that simply guesses as to why we find ourselves in those instances.) When it comes to dead or removed parents in fiction, I can relate to it. My mother died when I was 11, and my father was a traveling businessman. I hardly saw him growing up. In fact, I saw nannies more, and we never had the same one for long. Mainly because my brother and I were rather…well…angry might be the best way of saying it. The only time we did have another parent in the house was my stepmother, and she was only married to my dad for a year before they were divorced, and we definitely didn’t get along. Whew. Is that enough personal information? I don’t necessarily have a problem sharing it, even if it makes others uncomfortable, because it was my life. My life is much better now. But it’s hard for me to imagine a teenage-life with parents being actively involved, so I personally write about orphans or absent parents because that was my life growing up, and my characters are going to reflect certain parts of my life, even when I don’t realize it. That being said, I still believe that parents are in my fiction (like Lyn with Sophia in Take Me Tomorrow or Jessica’s adoptive parents in The Timely Death Trilogy, not to mention Eric’s stepmother.)

So where am I going with this?

Sometimes authors aren’t writing about orphans or neglected kids for literary reasons. Sometimes they are writing from their heart, and – in reality – I have met more teenagers who can relate to absent situations than not. Having a “perfect” family is…let’s be real…impossible. No one is perfect. Everyone is human. And families will reflect that both in life and in fiction.

The reason that parents are generally dead and/or absent is simple: it happens. But that doesn’t mean we can’t add more parents to story lines. In my little opinion, including them is just as fine as not including them as long as the author is being true to the story.

Feel free to comment below with your reasons or thoughts on this topic! I know we’ve all at least read a novel or seen a Disney movie that includes this debate, so chat away,

~SAT

Everything I Learned From “Against YA” and More

7 Jun

Two announcements before my post:

T.B. Markinson’s debut novel, A Woman Lost, is on sale until June 11th. Only .99 cents. I really admire T.B. Markinson, so I hope you take the time to check out her novel by clicking here.

The eBook of Seconds Before Sunrise releases in 5 days! That’s right. Only 5 days. I cannot believe it. I plan on sharing more insights from The Timely Death Trilogy soon. (Actually, I wanted to today, but the upcoming topic is very important to me.) Feel free to check out my Pinterest board full of hints and surprises before I announce more information, and be sure to join the ebook extravaganza party on Facebook for your chance to win a Kindle.

Happy reading!

Two days ago, my Facebook and Twitter blew up with a giant pink picture of an Alice-in-Wonderland-Look-Alike. It is an image that came with a title I cringe at: Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books.Even worse? The subtitle is “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

This horrifying article I am about to discuss can be found here. Written by Ruth Graham (not by THE Ruth Graham, you know, the philanthropist, but by Ruth Graham of New Hampshire.)

Don’t know who she is?

According to her Twitter, she’s a “contributing writer to the Boston Globe’s Ideas section; freelancer out and about (Slate, the Atlantic…). Former editor (New York Sun, Domino).” Her website – Ruth Graham: Freelance Journalist – is actually right here on WordPress.

Why am I sharing this?

Because I think it’s important to understand the writer behind the piece. I was hoping that if I followed her, I would understand where her opinion derived from. I was desperate for a deeper understanding, a slight chance that she meant well when she clicked “publish” on her viral post, so I followed her Twitter feed yesterday. I learned a lot from the woman behind the chaotic arguments that consumed every social media outlet I can think of, and I thought I would share what I learned below.

This wasn’t good for my blood pressure. It probably won’t be for yours either. You have been warned.

1. “Also YA writers & agents asking if I think they shouldn’t do their jobs. Uh, no? Definitely keep doing your jobs!”

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It isn’t okay to read YA as an adult, but it’s definitely okay if you can make money off of it. Also, if you’re a YA author, make sure to tell your adult readers that if “they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.” This is because all YA novels are “uniformly satisfying” and completely unrealistic. Make sure your YA novel follows these standards because they are undoubtedly true. Every YA ending causes you to either weep or cry. Trust me on this. Graham explained how “emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.” Forget the fact that fiction is FICTION – not nonfiction. Adult fiction is a reflection of the real world and young adult fiction is a pleasurable escape from reality. Every. Time.

2. “Another mysterious thread today has been angry librarians & parents defending themselves for reading YA for professional/parenting reasons.”

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So mysterious. Readers actually want to defend a genre they read? Whoever thought readers actually cared about books? I definitely wouldn’t have expected teachers, librarians, and parents to defend novels they shared with their child. Weird. I would call Nancy Drew to get on the case, but I am a 22-year-old adult; therefore, I should no longer think of her as a viable reference to solving mysteries. But I do know this: parents should never read what their kids read. Knowing what their kid enjoys or trying to understand why their kid enjoys it is exactly why we have so many bad parents in this world. Librarians, too. Why should they spend more time trying to understand the marketplace? It’s not like it’s their job or something.

3. “I’m not saying I’m not pretentious at all, of course. But I’m definitely not the MOST pretentious. But trust me: There’s more pretentious stuff out there.”

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If you’re not the most pretentious, you’re okay. If you’re not the most mean-spirited or hateful or cruel, it’s also okay because there are worst people out there. In regards to reader shaming and reading snobbery, as long as you’re not the worst, it’s okay. Just put the disclaimer, “at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old.” Follow that sentence with “we are better than this.” This will unify your reader and you while also distracting them from the fact that you don’t sound snobbish, joyless, old, or pretentious. You just sound like you want everyone else to be.

4. “I’m not at all opposed to guilty pleasures! I’m just arguing for some guilt along with the pleasure.”

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You can read YA as an adult, but you better feel damn guilty about it. You better feel so guilty that you ask for a gift receipt anytime you buy a YA book at your local bookstore so they won’t know you are the reader. Actually, get an eReader, so no one knows what you’re reading in public. Shame on you if you don’t feel any guilt. You could’ve spent that time reading real literature, preferably something with “Weird facts, astonishing sentences, deeply unfamiliar (to me) characters, and big ideas about time and space and science and love.” This is what Ruth Graham reads without any guilt, because she considers it literary, so you should, too.

5. “Working on something today that will make some people mad, wheeeeeeee!”

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Rejoice in the fact that you can anger people. This means you’re an adult with important things to say. Angering people means you are, in fact, important, and you should be proud and happy to anger people. This is literature. This is what reading is all about.

Okay. So I may have gone a little overboard. My blood pressure is still too high, after all, but I had to respond. I had to point out the fact that this article was written, knowing how much it would anger the reading community, yet we allow it to go viral because it strikes a place in our reading hearts that HURTS.

We love to read what we love to read.

I am very passionate about changing our reading community to only encourage readers. In fact, I’ve written about this before in my blog post Readers Hating Other Readers, and – sadly – I doubt this will be my last time writing about this.

With a heavy heart, I want to conclude all of the emotions I have ever had about reader shaming:

Adults shouldn’t be embarrassed to read young adult fiction. No one should be embarrassed to read anything. Reader shaming is what we should be embarrassed of.

~SAT

P.S. If you’re a young adult fiction reader – no matter your age – I would love it if you read one of my novels. In fact, I will probably do a little dance of excitement if you do. I even share all reviews right here on ShannonAThompson.com. (If you’re boycotting Amazon, don’t worry. Also available on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.)

Click today!

Click today!

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