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My problem with YA Fantasy

September 15, 2008  Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, The Craft   7 Comments

My problem with Young Adult fantasy books, I came to realize, was parents. Let’s go over the parental plot device:

Dead parents
Unknown parents
Missing parents
Evil parents

Conveniently, getting parents out of the way lets a YA fantasy author spin a tale with added freedom from those pesky parental units. Yes, I know it’s more complicated than that, but still.

While I am sure that each generation needs its stories that deal with parental loss, as I got older, I ODed on the entire concept and my reading self ran screaming from the genre entirely for many many years.

My memory may be hazy, but there are, for example, excellent YA Fantasy books that have those pesky parents present, with Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series coming to mind (unless, of course my 28 year old memory of the series is off). Blowing dust bunnies off the neurons, I also believe Madeleine L’Engle‘s A Wrinkle in Time books also have parents that stick around and even provide, yanno, help.

So it was with… well I admit horror, that I realized The Baby Dancers protagonist were bereft of parental units, unlike my Gaterunner concept which had a humorously flawed, but helpful, family setting.

Bad Anthony! Bad Anthony! Now what am I to do? My outline running around my head is flawed!

Gonna fix that. The parents won’t be a permanent fixture at the elbow, but they aren’t going to pushed aside for my convenience either.

7 comments on: My problem with YA Fantasy

  1. Darcy September 15, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Well said. Actually the whole dead or unknown parents thing is quite overdone in adult fantasy too. I cringe whenever I see the word “orphan”, or “sole survivor” on flap copy.

  2. Anthony September 15, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks Darcy, you’re right, it is a sweeping genre generalization.

    I guess that is what attracted me to R.R. Martin. It’s a family story. Sure, bad things happen to the family members, but it’s all there, for good and for bad.

  3. Darcy September 15, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Are you referring to Song of Fire and Ice? I have been trying to read that book for ages. I swear there is a curse on me. I get halfway through, and I loose the book. I’ve owned five copies of A Game of Thrones and lost them all.

    But you’re absolutely right, it is a family story. Do we follow those characters in other installments of the series? I really liked the Stark clan, even the ones I liked to hate.

  4. Anthony September 15, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, yes. All the family is there, the author deals with it, one way or the other.

  5. David September 15, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Parents are in the Dark is Rising series (one of my favorites!), but as soon as young Will starts to discover his powers, the parents quickly become irrelevant background. (Nice that they’re there, though.) Instead, like many a YAF hero, Will starts spending more and more time alone with that strange older gentleman, discovering new things… which could lead to a different sort of Young Adult Fantasy, but I won’t go there. 🙂

  6. Anthony September 16, 2008 at 8:03 am


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