Chapter Eight: Parents In Young Adult Novels

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I'm often asked why I seldom have parents play a major role in my books. This is an important issue that I believe needs to be discussed.

When I sold my first YA books -- Slumber Party, Weekend, Chain Letter, Last Act -- and spoke to my first three editors, they all told me that they felt parents should not play a major role in teen fiction. Two of those editors were heavyweights in the field: Jean Fiewell at Scholastic and Pat MacDonald at Simon & Schuster. I was new to YA fiction so I took their advice to heart. I figured they must know what they were talking about.

As time went on and I sold lots of books, I was given more freedom to do whatever I wanted. However, I found for the most part the original advice was still sound. I believe, when plotting a YA novel, that it's helps to create a world where your hero or heroine is required to make the major decisions -- which is another way of saying it's better if there are no parents looking over their shoulders.

Sure, I've been accused by critics of creating "Adult-free Universes." I suppose I'm guilty -- to a degree. But I don't make this choice -- now -- because it was something I was told to do back then, or because it makes plotting a novel easier. I do it because, when I think back to when I was a junior and senior in high school, I felt pretty much in control of my world. Granted, my mother and father gave me advice when I asked for it but I didn't ask very often. They gave me a lot of freedom. They didn't even know what I was doing most of the time I was in high school and I grew up okay -- at least I like to think I did. Since my characters are like my children to me, I think it's only fair that I grant them the same freedom I was given at their age.

However, in the book I'm currently writing, the mother plays a major role in the heroine's life. So every book is different, just as every author is different. Write what you've experienced.

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