The Book Lantern weighs in, calling it Disappearing Parent Syndrome:
Disappearing Parent Syndrome, or DPS, is a term I coined while reading Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes. It is meant to describe a reoccurring theme in YA fiction where the parents vanish from the story. There are many YA novels where this is handled well -- either as a plot point so necessary it makes or breaks the story as in the case of Harry Potter or so plausibly and skillfully done that the loss of the parental presence does not detract from the story in the slightest. However, there are a great many novels where this is an unnecessary or unrealistic plot device used to justify a teenager living like a young twenty-something minus the annoying stuff like paying bills.While there are some novels that handle having less parental supervision like this beautifully, there are undeniably some whose sole purpose in using this device seems to me to be a means to an end. Personally, I'm inclined to think of the removal of good parental supervision as a way of sneaking around making a character sneak around. Crappy pun, but you get what I'm saying. In most of what I've read lately, it's been used as a way to let a character do what needs to be be done in order for the story to move forward, without wasting time on things like sneaking out the window, asking permission, or (gasp!) actually telling the truth to the parents and relying on trust and communication.
On the opposite side, Sara Ockler, Author of Twenty Boy Summer and Fixing Delilah, says:
The best YA lit — arguably, any literature — is not that which paints the most accurate reflection of reality, but that which resonates most authentically with the intended reader. It’s the whole “perception is reality” thing. Regardless of the reality, lots of teens perceive their parents as inept, mopey, or even downright bad — I know I did.At first I want to disagree with her, but there is truth to what she says here. Perception is paramount when reading a book, and each person's perception differs with their own experiences. I remember being a teenager and thinking my parents had absolutely no idea what was going on in my life. Looking back, I realize that this is not because they seemed to be absent from my life, but because they were absolutely NOT absent at any point, no matter how much I wished they were (sorry mom and dad; I was young).
And maybe it's for that exact reason that I find the idea of DPS so frustrating. It's something I haven't experienced, and therefore know nothing about. It's new, and something I don't agree with, therefore I tend to hate coming across it (and BOY have I come across it this year). But the truth is that this is a real problem. Are there parents in real life who seem to disappear from their children's lives? Yes. I met a lot of them while growing up. And while they seemed like the cool parents back then, I am grateful now that my parents were nothing like them. But it's all about perception. Mine has changed since I was seventeen, and sometimes I forget that.
Maggie Stiefvater herself, after listing the reasons she chose to write about bad parents, says:
I can't deny that there is a place for bad parents in literature, and I'm glad that she stands up for herself on this point.In short, my name is Maggie Stiefvater, and I write about bad parents. And bad kids. And bad animals. And bad decisions.
And I'm not sorry.
But I can't deny that there is a place for good parents, either.
Could a dangerous adventure or sweeping romance have happened in my teenage years? Probably not, with how vigilant my parents were...at least if it did, it would have taken a lot more strategy on my part. It would take more strategy on the part of any character in a book, too.
And yet I can't help but be on the lookout for books with vigilant parents. They don't have to be super nice or even mean parents. Supervision doesn't equal nice and sweet, and it doesn't equal rude, either. They can be the most strict parents alive, or pay just enough attention to know when something is wrong. But I would love to read about them, because it's something I'm familiar with. Something I have dearly missed in the books I've read this year.
I miss mom and dad.
So are you for, or against, DPS? I want to hear your thoughts!
And if you know of a good book with strong parental figures, let me know!