Everyone should have a librarian friend in their life. Someone who understands your need to add more books to your TBR. Someone who throws a book at you and demands that you read it. Someone who lets you do the same to them... Gabrielle Wong is a librarian for a secondary school in Australia at the moment but we met when we both lived in Morocco. We were the people who sat in the back corner during orientation and tried not to roll our eyes too much during the ice breakers and had an effinity for books. I had finally found my people.
Anyway, getting to the point of this post Gabrielle and I kept talking about creating lists of YA with good adults/parents because there are SO. MANY. BAD. PARENTS. Think about it. You could name fifty books easily off the top of your head that have bad parents. And don't even get me started on teachers (and librarians! -gw) in YA. That is not how you even pedagogy! Please God, let me not be crushing the souls of children at school accidentally. Thank you.
I Believe in a Thing Called Love
by Maurene Goo
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: No, but I wouldn't mind one
Published: May 30th 2017
Number of times read: 1
Rating: Tara's full review of I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Gabrielle: Okay, obviously first on the list is Maureen Goo, because Appa is the best. "Appa" is Korean for father, which is what our protagonist Desi calls her dad. Appa is a breath of fresh air. He destroys the stereotype of stoic Asian father you find in many YAs yet remains a believable parent figure. Appa is a single dad, trying his best to raise a daughter and supporting her in her K-drama watching marathons. But when he discovers the dangerous parts of her scheme - because teenagers are, let's be honest, not very good at risk assessments - Appa is total disappointed dad. Also, props to Goo for making Appa's home cooking droolicious. Tara wants a love story for Tash's parents (below) I want the story of Appa and Desi's mom because it. sounds. epic. My headcanon casting for Appa is John Cho. It is done.
Tara: Gabrielle’s headcanon for this book has become mine. Netflix needs to get on this (both the actual book and Gabrielle’s parent prequel), and I am sorry but, John Cho has no choice. He is playing the part. Also, as a small aside this book has ramen appreciation in it. PSA: ramen is so much more than those cheap soup packets that sustained you through college.
This Adventure Ends
by Emma Mills
Gabrielle: Sloane's dad is rather adorbs. I noticed the examples that we’ve picked for this list are not just decent parent caricatures but are actual characters with some depth. Sloane’s dad and his writers block is a rather major plot point to the whole story. I also love that he loves fanfiction. 100 percent can relate. This is probably a good time to reflect on whether as adults reading YA we relate more to the grown ups and are more sensitive to how they are portrayed.
Tara: A parent who actually understand fan fiction!? What witchcraft is this? Think about it: any student in high school in 2018 has been born after the year 2000. Like, we could be parents of a teenager. (Small terrifying aside: We could be the parent of a teenager and not have been a teen mother.) I am not a young’un and I have had internet in my home since elementary school.
Gabrielle: OF COURSE PARENTS UNDERSTAND FANFIC. Most of them grew up with them and the internet, too. I wonder if this is sometimes the case of authors writing how they remember their own parents rather than taking a moment to realise that age wise they should be writing about themselves. They are closer to the age of these characters than their own parents!
Tara: That’s it. Time is a cruel mistress and waits for no one. This is also how we get teenage characters who act as if it is the nineties.
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
Tara: Would this even be a liegit list if it didn't mention The Hate U Give. Parenting done right. Starr’s parents have to help her come to terms with the fact that life isn’t fair. And not in the, “I didn’t get that thing I wanted.” way but in the, “It is possible that someone will kill you because of the way that you look and we can’t keep you safe from that.”
Gabrielle: Right. With minor exceptions, they don’t try to adult-splain these things to Starr and her siblings. I don’t know if the parenting in THUG made an impact on me because they’re great examples or because they are models of how I want to parent. Are those two mutually exclusive, you ask? Yes, but enough about me. The really powerful scene between Starr and her dad, Big Mav, where they deconstructed Tupac’s THUG LIFE, gives me life. As a teacher, that’s how I want to help my students work through a problem. Big Mav in his cool AF way asks scaffolding questions that draws out a Starr’s thinking.
“Uh-huh,” Daddy says. “The Panthers educated and empowered the people. That tactic of empowering the oppressed goes even further back than the Panthers though. Name one.”
Is he serious? He always makes me think.
Is there a higher compliment than when a teenager says an adult makes them think?
Tara: That question isn’t rhetorical and the answer is no.
The Serpent King
by Jeff Zentner
Tara: This book actually has the full gamut of parents. Monster parent? Check. Abusive parent? Check. Weak, manipulative parent? Check. Beaten down, parent? Check. But Lydia's parents give the reader some hope that functional long-term relationships are possible and that strong, loving parents do exist. My favorite parenting moment in this book is actually Dill having a heart to heart/emotional breakdown with Lydia's dad and then both of them eating candy and trying to pretend that it didn't happen.
Gabrielle: What Tara said.
Tara: Related: What is this magic Candy Cane truffle and why do I not have it in my life?
Gabrielle: Tara, tell me I’m wrong but I’m beginning to sense that we also heart food in YA.
Tara: Food is the most important thing. Don’t @ me.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
by Jenny Han
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1
Published: April 15th 2014)
Rating: Tara's review of To All the Boy's I've Loved Before
Tara: Well, hello father who manages to raise three girly girls on his own. Think about it. How often does that happen? Usually, a single dad raising girls alone means automatic tomboys. Lara Jean's dad lets his girls have the interests and aesthetics that they want and continues to support them.
Gabrielle: This goes beyond the brief but can I say I love this one not just because of wonderful father-daughter relationships but the sibling relationships are also heartwarming. So… FAMILY LOVE.
Tara: It is a great example of families being different and having diverging interests and still being a loving unit. I loved the girls matchmaking. “Dammit, we are going to make sure that Dad is happy!”
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe #1
Published: February 21st 2012
Rating: le adorbs
Gabrielle: Ari's relationship with his parents makes me all . Ari loves his parents. He doesn't tell them everything like they're besties but he doesn’t shy away from confiding in them, especially his mom. A model of healthy parent-child relationship if I’ve ever seen one. And his astute insights into his parents really show that he sees them as more than just antagonistic parental figures. Here's a couple of my favourite lines from Ari about his mom:
My mom, she sometimes resided in the space between irony and sincerity. That was part of her charm.
She sounded a little angry. I loved her anger and wished I had more of it. Her anger was different than mine or my father’s. Her anger didn’t paralyze her.
Tara: Ah, yes. That fine balance between being supportive and parenting and trying to make your child into your best friend. Which as a non-parent I understand that you shouldn’t do.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy
by Kathryn Ormsbee
Tara: Tash's parents could have their own YA love story. Or at least I think so based on hints given in the book. I may or may not have already written in it my head. They are complete people. They have interests and lives outside of their kids. Sometimes it feels that YA is telling people that once you have a child you somehow become less of a person. Or that you SHOULD become less of a person. Not in this story.
Gabrielle: What’s refreshing is that Tash’s parents don’t treat YouTube like it’s some incomprehensible piece of technology and sort of even understands what Tash does and why the awards is such a big deal for her. There’s no “I have no idea what this tube malarky is but I will blindly be happy for your success honey.” See above re: parents of teens know about the internets. BUT they are still rational parents and have legit adult concerns that they share with Tash. Mostly surrounding money. There is a recurring conversation about going to a state school versus going to Vanderbilt and, of course, paying for the trip Tash needs to take for the awards ceremony.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: Would that it were
Published: April 7th 2015
Rating: Tara's review of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Tara: I love that the reason that Simon hasn't come out to his parents is that they would make it into a big deal. As in, he would get so much support that he wouldn't even know how he felt about it anymore. The scene where Simon's father apologizes to Simon get me in the feels every time.
Gabrielle: Hahaa. Wait till you watch the movie.
Tara: Let me take a minute to rage against the fact that CHINA WILL NOT ALLOW THIS FILM TO BE IN THEATERS HERE. Please picture me as a small toddler throwing my body on the ground and screaming because I am not getting my way.
Gabrielle: *insert GIF here*
Of course these were only the books that we thought of that had a contemporary setting. And weirdly only straight parents. We focused on the standouts and the couple of same sex parents that come to mind immediately are Lola and the Boy Next Door, where the dads were the best part of the book and The Upside of Unrequited which is by Becky Albertalli who we already have on the list. Does anyone have any suggestions? I would love to read some more books featuring great gay parents We also didn't even start on foster parents. Or teachers/librarians. We might need to get together again and make another list because bad teachers are running rife in YA
In case you are interested Gabrielle, a couple other friends, and I started a podcast while months ago on international teaching. Go and check it out at Global Castaways.
Can you think of any books with positive parental character that we missed?
* We 100% understand that good parents are historically missing in YA.