Disrespect in YA Families

As most of you know, it was only recently (when I met Andi and Veronica) that I really started searching out and actively reading YA contemporary novels. This week, I wanted to discuss one thing that really irks me about YA, and why I’m still a bit leery of the genre as a whole – disrespectful protagonists and spineless parents. 

As a teacher, I’ve had to deal with disrespectful students from time to time, and I can honestly say that if they were my kid they’d have some cell phones taken away and a five paragraph essay about respect to write. I won’t rant so much since it’s not the point of this discussion, but basically my thoughts are, everyone is deserving of respect, and everyone is capable of giving it. 

So when I see all these protagonists in YA contemporaries completely disrespecting and ignoring their parents, it gets my blood boiling a bit. I was always raised to be polite, even if I don’t agree with someone, and if I had a problem, to diplomatically and calmly approach the issue. And in my own life experiences, I’ve always thought to make sure I treat others with kindness, because I never know what they’re going through, and a kind word versus a burst of anger can really make a difference. It just seems like a normal human curtesy to me. Don’t be an asshole, basically. Plus, isn’t it exhausting to constantly be angry at the world?

Okay, back to my point. One: why is it so commonly accepted that teens are “naturally going to hate their parents and be disrespectful” and that parents “should just be understanding about it.” Two: why is it so hard to find a functional family in YA? I get that families have issues, and some are seriously screwed up, but wouldn’t it be… I don’t know… helpful??? to give young readers a picture of a happy family? That it’s a possible picture of what life could be like?? I’m not saying lollipops and sunshine all the time, but can’t we get a mother daughter relationship that’s halfway healthy for once? One where respect is given from both ends, and the parents actually parent instead of sitting back while their teens go crazy? Am I reaching for too much here?

Hopefully this made sense, and I’m not just rambling aimlessly. Or, prove me wrong, and give me a bunch of books to read with healthy families!


18 thoughts on “Disrespect in YA Families

  1. I both agree with you and disagree. On the side of the teenagers, I think the disrespect is…not okay but its okay to be portrayed. I come from a very happy, well functioning family (and that’s considering the amount of drama, the divorce, and all that stuff), and I was a TERRIBLE teenager. My siblings weren’t much better. We were hormonal, disrespectful, rude, we disobeyed, and such. Its hard for me, honestly, to see teenagers that aren’t like that. I think that’s more of the abnormal, if you don’t mind the term. That being said, we are all really great kids, and I’m not just saying. We work hard, we go to school, we really haven’t gotten into that much trouble, considering. The worse would be missed curfews, ditching school, really light things.

    That being said, I do think the lack of parental discipline is weird. While the teenage approach is realistic, all the parents that just deal with it is laughable and weird. I said I was a terrible teenager, and my siblings were the same…but my dad threw DOWN on us. Cell phones taken away, grounded, internet gone, no friends, all of that sort of thing. The teenage disrespect and rebellion doesn’t bother me, but the parents lack of response to it in the novels does. My parents were WAY opposite. The fact that the parents allow it to happen, yeah, that definitely does bother me.

    • I absolutely agree that it should be presented! There’s a huge variety in how teens act, and how their parents act too. I just wish there was a bit of balance! Let’s have a little hope for parent-child relationships, is all I’m asking for 😉

    • I think the only one that I truly enjoyed was Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, but those weren’t the protagonists biological parents (which in my opinion isn’t a huge issue, since blood doesn’t really weigh too much in my opinion). As far as biological parents being positive, I’d have to say The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry had a good mother-son relationship. Very sweet 🙂

  2. You’re so right, there are a lot of crappy families in contemporary YAs. I guess on the whole, that might be because it’s sometimes more interesting to read about a family where there are problems, and they have to work through them rather than, you know, a perfect but boring family.

    That being said though, have you read My Life Next Door? While the mc’s family is pretty bad, the love interest’s family is freaking awesome.
    Okay I just spent like 5 mins trying to think of another example of an awesome family in a contemp YA and I’m stumped. I feel like there probably are others, but the book amnesia is kicking in haha.

    • That’s true. Family drama definitely gives something to read about. Maybe we could have a strong family that has to deal with some sort of outside drama? That would be interesting I think.

      I’ve been meaning to read it, but always buy a different book instead 😛 I’ll keep it in mind!

      • I was talking about your post with my coblogger today and she said that the family in TFIOS is a pretty good one. I have to say that I agree- and the whole cancer thing would count as outside drama, I guess?

  3. I agree so much. I can get the whole absent parent thing in paranormal/dystopian books in a sense, kind of hard to save the world and defeat evil if you’re grounded, but it makes no sense in contemporary unless it’s part of the plot. I don’t think I could name 5 YA contemporary families I liked.
    As mentioned, The Boy Next Door. I also really liked the Walker family in Lost and Found(but that’s more New Adult than YA), The Silent Swan was really good for family. All the others I can think of that have a parent present, it’s more the child is the responsible one and the parent is lost and taken care of by the child(annoying!)

    • That’s part of why I like sticking to fantasy/sci-fi – no family problems to worry about! Though then we get into the awful romances, and that’s a whole other blog post for another day and rant 😛

      I’ve never heard of Lost and Found (though I’m not too well-versed in NA), or The Silent Swan. I’ll look them up!

  4. I’ve just recently gotten into more YA and contemporary stuff as well, but so far – I COMPLETELY AGREE. It is rather annoying.
    Oh, and I really agree with Sara. I know that teens do have a tendency to go through a “phase” where they’re just starting to become independent but aren’t mature enough to be fully so – however, it is not okay for a book to portray a family in such a way that excuses that behavior. The parents have to be there to show the way. That’s their job.

    • I totally agree about the “phase” – I know I was a demon at 14. Though my parents pretty much told me it wasn’t okay and it wasn’t acceptable behavior so I calmed down soon after xD

      I think the worst is when the child becomes the parent. I’ve read so many books where the mom/dad is single and a drug addict, and the kid has to cover for them. Again – it happens, and I know that, but can’t we for once show a relationship that ISN’T reversed?

  5. There’s not a lot of happy families in the YA books I’ve discovered so far. I really want to read a happy family story. I know they’re not everyone has a happy family, but a bit of happiness in a story doesn’t hurt!

  6. You’re right! There are some where I’m like ok, these families need to be dysfunctional and some I’m like ohhh no you didn’t lol. Ally Carter always writes books where the family is a big thing, even family between people that are not blood related. I love her. The books she writes you probably won’t like. It’s all spies and con mans stuff. I like that stuff. I think Sarah Ockler is also good at addressing family stuff. Ex: The Book of Broken Hearts. But yeah, some books, I feel like parents don’t even exist. Okay, done rambling.

  7. I can’t stand constant disrespecting either. I wouldn’t stand for that if I was a parent, and my parents didn’t take it from me the few times I smarted off. I definitely agree that a family could be portrayed more positively without it resorting to Cleaver family levels.

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  9. Hmmm. I personally think it’s normal to have conflicts within a family. And I know I gave my parents a hard time so that’s normal too. Maybe the absence of parenting is quite strange sometimes, but do the parents know what’s going on? I know I’ve done a couple of things I’ve gotten away with. Lol. Sometimes it’s really just a phase we go through. It’s kinda hard to think of examples now.

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