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  • Writer's pictureRachel Paige

Quality Parents and Platonic Friends

Young adult is well-known for two things. Romance and non-existent or terrible parents.

For some reason, it seems to be an unspoken rule that every guy/girl relationship in a young adult novel has to result in the pair dating, trying to date, kissing, sleeping together, etc. They're not allowed to just be friends.

Another unspoken rule is about the parents. In a YA novel, the parents usually don't exist/are dead, are abusive, uninvolved in the characters' lives, or are perfectly fine but never mentioned for unknown reasons.

I despise both of these rules. I know I'm not the only one who does.

I am lucky to have wonderful parents. If I was writing a book about my own life as a young adult, I would have no choice but to include them as major and positive characters. I understand that many people cannot say the same thing. I also know many people can. And yet, the majority of YA novels don't show that.

They instead show a teen with a difficult home life turning elsewhere for acceptance. Probably to their opposite gender friends in the form of a romance.

Leaving parents out of YA novels, or making them terrible people, makes me sad. Because it makes it seem like all parents are awful. Or like parents get in the way of life. Or like no exciting story would happen if parents are present. If you think that's true, you aren't using them well in your story.

The same goes with opposite gender friendships. It makes me sad when they turn romantic because it perpetuates the idea that opposite gender relationships always end romantically. That isn't true. Sure, it happens, but there's a lot of guy/girl friends who stay just that... friends.

In my novel Chaos in G Major, the parents play a huge role in the story and they're wonderful. They are supportive and loving and involved in every aspect of their kids' lives. This didn't impede on the story at all. It actually made it better. Without them there, it would have been my protagonist panicking and making bad decision after bad decision. Her parents being involved prevented her from doing that, which helped raise the tension of the story. In a good way!

In my other novel, Definitions of Life, two of the main characters, Evie and James, have been friends for about 12 years. At the end of the novel, they are still friends. Nothing more. Why? Because they'd be terrible as a couple. They are perfect as friends and to try to make their relationship something else would ruin it. They had a falling out at the beginning of the novel and the reconstruction of their friendship is one of the main plot lines.

I had so much fun writing them. The dynamics of a guy/girl relationship are a blast to play around with. I got to do it in Chaos in G Major a bit with my narrator, Olivia, and her brother, Sam. Obviously not romantic (gross), but they are each other's best friend. That's the fun dynamic.

In my current work-in-progress, I have two narrators, Hallie and Kaden, who are swiftly becoming good friends and that will be the end of that.

Why is this so important to me? I think young adults need to see that parents don't exist to make their lives miserable. I think they need to see that attentive and loving parents exist and that exciting stories can still happen with them. I think they need to see that it's okay to be friends with someone of the opposite gender. I think they need to see that it's possible to say "I love you" to someone of the opposite gender and not mean that in a romantic way.

I think it's important for them to see relationships and parents differently than how they usually show up in fiction. Because not everyone's lives are like that. Not everyone's parents suck. Some friends stay friends. YA stories don't have to revolve around romance and neglectful parents.

For the record, I'm not saying romance is never okay and writing crummy parents is always bad. Sometimes characters will have a friendship turn into something more. Sometimes parents are uninvolved or abusive. Just don't make those the only ones you show. And don't force those things to happen. If you characters have no reason to start dating, let them stay friends. If their parents are great, let them be in the story.


How are the parents in your YA story? How do your opposite gender friendships end?

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