DIANA L. SHARPLES
Without further ado…..WELCOME DIANA!!
Parents’ Role in YA Fiction
By Diana L. Sharples
I embarrass my daughter on a fairly regular basis. I tell her it’s my job as her mom. While that’s not exactly true—my job is to be a good mom, not to embarrass her—it’s true that my enthusiasm for the things she’s involved in has at times gotten in the way of her striving for independence. It’s no secret that the teen years are confusing for both adults and the teens themselves. Kids, especially in high school, are caught smack in the middle of a quest for who they are and what they will become… apart from their parents. And while we, as good parents, want to help them in that process, there are times when they don’t really want our help. Because it’s embarrassing. Because it means they still need Mommy and Daddy. Because they’re not ready to stand up against adversity yet. And that just isn’t very cool. So sometimes, we parents have to be uncool in order to help our kids. (And secretly many of them thank us for it.)
In the past few days the question of the role of parents in young adult fiction has been brought to my attention. A lot of authors these days are, in one way or another, intentionally removing parents from the character’s options for how to deal with their conflicts or dilemmas. Either by choice or circumstance, the young characters do not turn to their parents for help. Some adults reviewing YA fiction aren’t happy about this writing tactic. (Because, after all, they’re likely to be the good parents who take interest in their teens’ reading materials!)
To understand the situation, I believe it’s helpful to look at what makes for a good family relationship, and what makes for good fiction that’s going to appeal to teens.
When our teens are in some kind of trouble, we obviously want them to bring their problems to us so we can help. I’ve told my daughter over and over that I want her to come and talk to me when she’s got questions or problems. I’m always here to listen and help. But the truth is, she didn’t always do that. And there have been a few times when she delayed coming to me, because she thought I would be angry at her for some mistake she had made. This is a typical impulse for most teens, even for those whose parents might not be the fly-off-the-handle type. Getting in trouble with the parents is B-A-D!
And, in reality, there are parents out there who would respond in anger and not be so willing to listen and help. There are parents who are too busy or stressed to spend heart-to-heart talk time with their kids. There are parents who are too mired in their own problems to deal wisely with their children’s issues—especially those my-life-is-over teen dramas that are so easy for adults (who are so over it) and the media to make fun of. And there are parents who just aren’t there at all. The ideal scenario of a child coming to his or her mom or dad for advice just doesn’t happen for some teens. Sometimes, the parent IS the problem.
A lot of YA authors have used this far-from-ideal scenario as a primary conflict or a motivating factor in their writing. As they should. Because their writing might be exactly what a reader needs to see in order to cope with a similar situation in her life.
But then there’s the question of what makes for good teen fiction. I’m afraid it isn’t always what makes for good teen fiction to be enjoyed and fully endorsed by parents! The teenage characters in these stories are faced with seemingly insurmountable problems (at least as far as the character knows) and the last thing they think about is going to their parents. Why construct the story this way? Because going to the parents might not allow the character to learn and grow from his mistakes. In writing we use what is called a “character arc.” That is, the character must change in some way from the beginning to the end of the story. This is especially prevalent in young adult fiction, which is often called “coming of age” fiction. The character overcomes the challenges before him through fits and starts, determination and doubt, hope and fear, and his life and who he is are changed by the outcome. If the author brings in another entity (parents, teachers, police) to solve the problem, then the lesson is diminished, perhaps not learned at all. In essence, it’s taking the easy way out.
Even in adult fiction, a story is much more interesting if the protagonist faces his nemesis head on than if he calls the police to let them deal with the bad guy. In reality, most of us would call the cops, because they’re the people best qualified to handle a threat. But in fiction… we want to see the protagonist become the hero and overcome the odds on his own.
With teens questioning who they are, what they’ll become, what life means and who they’re going to spend it, and why so-and-so would say such nasty things about them, they want to read about a protagonist who confronts those issues and becomes her own hero. They know the authority figures are there to help them, but reading about a character who wins, on his own, thrills them. It practically sings of “becoming.”
Thank you Diana for taking a few moments of your day to spend with us and our readers!!
About the author…..
Diana L. Sharples:
Diana L. Sharples is an author and award-winning illustrator whose work has appeared in genre publications in the US and Great Britain. She currently lives in Canton, Georgia with her husband and teen daughter, and can often be found riding her Harley around northern Georgia. Running Lean is her first young adult novel.
Running Lean by Diana Sharples examines the relationship between two teens- one young man grieving after the loss of a loved one in Afganistan and a young woman secretly suffering from an eating disorder. This book moves readers past the typical “boy meets girl” story of falling in love, and examines what it’s like for teens dealing with being in a relationship and coping with (often serious) real-life issues.
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan (August 6, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0310734975
- ISBN-13: 978-0310734970
Available from Zondervan Books
And other fine online retailers!!
(Sponsored by the publisher)
Thanks to Katie, at BLINK,a YA imprint from Zondervan/Harper Collins, we are offering 1 lucky commenter a print copy of RUNNING LEAN by Diana L. Sharples. Sorry, open to US residents only! Giveaway will run from September 14 until September 21,2013.
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!
My Thoughts on this title will soon be available at:
Thank you everyone for stopping by today and spending time with our guest, Diana L. Sharples! Please spread the word!!