Tag Archives: discussions

The Worst Mothers in YA Fiction

In honor of Mother’s Day, instead of extolling the virtues of the great fictional moms out there (of which there are many) I’d like to take time to discuss the worst parents I’ve encountered in young adult books thus far. Let’s face it, they can’t all be Rachel Morgan, mother of Cammie Morgan, ex-spy, and kick-ass Headmistress of the Gallagher Academy.

I write YA–don’t worry, I won’t talk about my novel–and I know one of the hardest parts, especially in urban fantasy or supernatural stories, is getting the parents out of the way. You can’t have a story if the protagonist is grounded for hot-wiring a car or missing curfew. It doesn’t work if mom notices the kid’s grades are slipping because she’s spending all of her time chasing werewolves through the woods. Some books do this well. (Some even let the parents in on the Big!Secret, like Laurel’s parents from Wings.) So let’s talk about the bad parents (often moms) I’ve encountered recently.

Disclaimer: I am not a parent. I have two lovely cats, Billy and Locke, and a step cat, Louis–don’t worry, I won’t talk too much about my cats–but no kids. I’m sure I’d make a terrible parent. This is my opinion based on what works in the book and what doesn’t. Obviously parenting is hard and writing good parents can be hard, especially if your character is running around all night fighting demons or whatever. Also I have a mom! I love you, Mom! Okay, then, let’s start this party. Also, there are a few spoilers.

Jocelyn Fray, mother of Clary Fray – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare  – Granted, I’ve only read the first book in this series and maybe she gets awesome, but in this installment, she’s basically a woman in the refrigerator. (TV tropes alert!) She gets kidnapped and then spends what time they have her in a coma, so it’s not her fault that she does nothing. She loses points with me for never warning Clary of the danger she was in and having Magnus mind-meld her as a young child. And yes, I know it was all for her own protection, but I feel like knowledge is better armor than ignorance. But then I without it we’d never meet Magnus and he and Alec are adorable. Also the plot sort of hinges on it.

Jacinda’s mom – Firelight by Sophie Jordan – In an effort to protect both of her daughters, Jacinda’s mother moves them away from their dragon pride to a small town in the desert. That’s fine and logical, except her goal isn’t just to keep them safe from the cult-like pride. It’s to kill Jacinda’s inner draki (dragon spirit, I guess?) Draki need forests and lush greens, and the desert will kill it, just as her mother killed her own long ago (and Jacinda’s poor twin never had one). I get that she’d be safer without it, but it’s a huge part of her and her mother is actively trying to destroy it. She’s cruel and refuses to listen to reason, determined that because she didn’t want her own draki part, Jacinda is better off with out it. That’s a pretty final decision. It’d be like if your mom decided you should have one arm, because she has one arm, and your twin only has one, and made you get it amputated. It’s that disgusting, and yet her mother sees no reason Jacinda shouldn’t be happy about it. It’s incredibly frustrating and stupid and just plain mean.

The Fitzroys, Rosalinda Fitzroy’s parents, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan  – Rose wakes up in a stasis tube after being left there, accidentally, for sixty-two years, because her parents were killed in an accident and had been the only ones who knew her location. Everyone assumes she was put into stasis to protect her from the plague going around back then, and after her parents died, was stuck. But it’s later revealed that Rose’s parents treated her like a doll, a toy that was fun sometimes, and put her into stasis whenever having a child was inconvenient. They want to spend a year in Paris? Put the kid in stasis and she’ll be the same when they return. It takes her almost 30 years to hit age 15, because she’s frozen for months or years at a time by her selfish parents who don’t want to bothering parenting. I can’t say this of many YA characters, but she’s lucky her parents are dead.

 The Absentee Too-Busy-Grieving and Possibly Depressed to Parent Mom – As seen in The Hunger Games (Katniss and Prim’s mom), The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Mary’s mom, although Mary is so annoying and selfish I’d be busy grieving too), and countless other novels. On one hand, I sympathize with these mothers because they’re obviously mentally ill and too depressed to function. But on the other hand, wake up and parent, damn it! (I know it’s not that easy, and often they exist in worlds without medication and treatment options.) If nothing else, it’s better than the alcoholic parent, if only by a little.

Which moms do you love in fiction? Which moms drive you nuts? Which deserve to be on this list? Let me know what you think!


Review: Destined by Aprilynne Pike

Basically this review should be a video of me doing a fangirl flail, but I don’t feel like putting on make up, so just picture a big pink Kermit flail of joy. That would be me.

I’m going to post most of this review after a Spoiler!Cut, so if you’ve read it and want to chat, please go there and comment, because I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS. It’s really hard to put my reaction to this book into spoiler-free words; basically it was happy happy crack and I am happy. Also 😀 Seriously, I still grin so hard my face wants to fall off when I think about it.

I’ve been waiting for Destined for so long. I read Aprilynne Pike’s Wings series last year, under the impression that it was a trilogy, only to reach the end of Illusions and freak out because talk about your cliff hanger.

Short spoiler-free version: Fans of the series should be satisfied with this conclusion. It ties up loose ends and everyone gets some closure. It’s also super-intense and stressful from the constant danger our heroes find themselves in. Chelsea especially continued to knock my socks off, with her determination to help. It was awesome and I feel happy with it as a ending.

SPOILERS BELOW. BIG ONES. Proceed with caution. (Spoilers probably in the comments, too, but if you’ve read it, let’s discuss. What your feelings and thoughts?)

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I saw The Hunger Games and I have FEELINGS

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Spoiler-Free Quick & Dirty Thoughts: It was incredible overall. Every actor sold their character to me. They all embraced the world they were in and ran with it, from the irritating airhead Effie Trinket to the nicely-bearded Game Maker Seneca. (My friend Ben left wanting a similar bread. Go, make up crew!) The costumes were gorgeous, the Capitol was basically what I’d envisioned, and the cast was spot on.

My only real complaint was the overuse of Shaky Cam, because it gave me a headache. There were moments when it worked to convey the chaos of violence and the confusion of the situation, but there were times I wanted them to pull back and give us a wide-shot already.


And now, Thoughts With Spoilers Behind The Cut

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The Appeal of the Dystopia

There was an article in The Guardian recently asking why dystopian novels are so popular right now, especially in the young adult section. It’s not, thankfully, one of those alarmist articles decrying YA as evil and bad and destroying our children. It was written by a YA author, Moira Young. She concludes that the chaos of a dystopian environment mimic the chaos of being a teenager, and that anxious adults who worry about the future construct these worlds to work out their own fears. And of course, even the darkest of dystopias have hope (see, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins).

I don’t disagree with Young, but it got me thinking. While I was reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver last week, I was asking myself “Why do I love dystopias? Why do I chomp at the bit to read about evil future governments and worlds being rebuilt and people fighting the status quo?”

There’s something to Young’s assertion about anxiety for the future. America is a strange, transitional place right now, where the people are protesting corporate rights and tax cuts for the wealthy and occupying their cities. I certainly hope something breaks and leads to massive change, but let’s not get into politics. The fact is, it could go badly and I could extrapolate a whole slew of future dystopias, like in Repo: The Genetic Opera, where a corporation finances organ donations and then reposesses them. So there’s something to that.

But for me, it’s also this idea of human nature. Most of these worlds are built out of the ashes or remains of a society failed. Whether due to plague, or war, or god only knows what, society has fallen. Like Orwell’s Animal Farm (my 10th grade English teacher would be so proud right now), the people who invent the governments or environments that turn evil are usually well intentioned. They try to single out what went wrong and fix it by implementing rules or changes or districts or monitoring or matching.

In Delirium, for example, the US has built electric fences over its major cities and set up militaristic police. Unspecified years before, they termed love a disease (Amore Deliria Nervousa) and found a cure. Which is, as best as I can tell, a partial lobotomy that robs people of deep feelings of any kind. It’s supposed to ensure focus and save you from the pain of the Deliria that would otherwise distract and ruin you, and eventually kill you. Romeo and Juliet is told as a cautionary tale of the dangers of infection of love. And of course, the children (who can’t get the cure until they’re 18, because of the risks) are drilled with this idea that love and feelings are disease, sickness, and dangerous. They do raids to make sure no one is doing anything that indicates they can have fun or be happy. People underage have a curfew so they don’t covort with the opposite sex (or the same sex, as the case may be; apparently the “cure” also fixes homosexuality by killing sex drive altogether, and babies are made out of obligation to society, which decides how many kids you will have).

While the book is slow to start; it takes most of it to convince our protagonist, Lena, to really understand how evil the government is after she falls in love with Alex, who’s faked his cure. It’s understandable, since she was raised with all of the propaganda, but for the first part it’s hard not to want to shake her and say “The cure is NOT a good thing!”

Regardless, you have to think someone somewhere, when this whole thing started, really believed Curing Love was a noble goal. The book even says when it was offered to the public, people lined up (probably a lot of spurned lovers and people who had lost their loved ones).

I’m also fascinated with the insane measures these governments take to keep people in line (the pills in Matched, the Games in The Hunger Games) and all of the little quirks, and lies, and fake histories and systems they set up to keep their grip on this insane society they’ve concocted. It’s amazing the things authors come up with that will help keep people in line and under control.

And then it comes back around to human nature, which is to be free, and that’s what starts the rebellions, however small, and make the novels even better. How can one person or a small group fight these insanely complex governing entities?

Do you read dystopias? Do you like them? Which ones, and why? What about them is appealing to you?