One of the hallmarks of children's lit, which many people are working hard to mend, is an absence of family. Lots of children in fiction are orphans. Like, lots of them. To an extent, this does make sense--kids like to imagine being independent, and it makes it easier for the child to be heroic. You might see siblings once in a while, and that's valuable, but it's also uncommon, and the parents are almost always absent.
Recently, in Twitter chats, children's book authors have been discussing it and talking about how we can revamp this, because it is important to tell stories about family as well. After all, it's a huge part of our lives! So I thought today I'd talk some about portraying family in YA lit.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of family in YA lit is The Hunger Games. This may or may not be because that's one of my favorite books ever, but for me, the relationship between Katniss and her sister Prim is one of the best I've ever seen. Prim is what drives and inspires Katniss. Katniss does so much to protect Prim, and as Prim grows, she comes back to help Katniss, too. That kind of familial love is very true, honest, and real. You don't get that a lot in YA lit, because so much of it focuses around boys and friends, and family is seen as a nuisance. But there are many teens, me included, who value their family a lot. Seeing Katniss and Prim have that kind of relationship meant the world to me, and I know it does for plenty others, too.
What are some other powerful familial relationships in YA lit? Naming siblings is easier than parents. In The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder has a great love for her adopted younger sister, for example. There have been some really fun ones with brothers, too. I can even name a couple of cousin relationships that have been really strong in YA lit. But good parents are hard to find. You can find some, but they fade into the background, and more often, you get the dead/sick/drugged/mean parents instead.
I'll admit, when I began writing myself, it was very easy to take the path in which families, or at least parents, disappear. My first completed novel ended up being about a family, but not a healthy one. My second, THE ICE ENCHANTRESS'S PLOT'S, has a focus on family that I think makes it more unique--the main character has two brothers who are pretty vital characters. However, the MC is an orphan, and after that, families vanished from my works for a while.
I got back into writing families with the CHOSEN FOUR series (which in general was vital in the development of my writing skill.) The third book heavily involved the families of the main characters, which was very revolutionary for me at that point and one of the most interesting things I'd ever done. I loved looking at those family structures and fleshing out the people my characters had grown up around. It even helped me get into some more serious topics that I think are very important, and it gave me a chance to diversify, in terms of family life and upbringing.
Since then, my family focus has been off-and-on, but I try to make it an important thing in as many books as possible. It is a lot more possible than a lot of kid lit author's realize. In the end, the important thing is that I get the chance to really flesh out these precious relationships and make something of them.
I'd like to encourage you to think about that, especially if you're a writer yourself. What YA books can you think of that have great familial relationships? Give me some recommendations!
Thanks for reading, guys! Please come back next time for an overview of WriteOnCon 2014, which is taking place today.
Images via Yahoo! Movies and thefamilyrx.com.
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