As Mother’s Day approaches and I work on revisions for my Cry of the Sea sequel, which features a strained relationship between my main character, Juniper, and her mother, I find myself thinking about the role mothers play in novels for kids and young adults. A lot of the time Moms are absent from these stories altogether. She is often dead at the beginning of the story or dies early on. Sometimes she has divorced the father and disappeared. Sometimes, like in The Lightning Thief, she is kidnapped.
Why have the authors done this? Well, children in books have to have their own adventures. Real moms tend to be protective of their children. They wouldn’t let their kids wander off on their own to solve mysteries, have dangerous adventures, or deal with personal crises. There might be moms like that, but I’m not one nor do I know any moms like that. We want to help our kids, almost to the point of preventing them from learning how to be independent enough. A child who is orphaned or only being raised by father with his own troubles makes for a child who will perhaps be more capable of handling the crazy things that happen to kids in middle grade and young adult books. It’s more believable that these lonely kids, who’ve taken on more responsibility than is normal, will be able to fight monsters, bullies, or their own inner demons.
There are moms that exist in some books that are not wonderful but are necessary for the plot. The mother in That Time I Joined the Circus is a horrible woman who abandoned her daughter and simply can’t redeem herself. The mother from Out of the Easy is too concerned with her own welfare to care about her daughter. There is no redemption for her. The mom in Faking Normal frustrated me by not being aware of the trauma through which her daughter was suffering. As a mom who reads YA, I wanted to shake these women back to their senses and show them what wonderful daughters they had.
That said, every now and then, we encounter an amazing mother in MG, YA or NA books. Hazel’s mom in The Fault in Our Stars is full of love and support as her daughter suffers with cancer and first love. Mia’s mother in If I Stay is also loving and understanding when she chooses to play cello instead of being a rocker like her parents. Tris’s mom in Divergent winds up being so much more than Tris ever knew, fierce and sacrificial.
So, for fun this month, I’ve decided to alter my revision theme to being about mothers. I’ve invited some authors to come visit, and all of us are going to write new summaries of our books from the moms’ point of view. It should be fun. Authors that will be visiting are, Pippa Jay, Ey Wade, Ann Rothman and Kenneth Hicks, and Brenda Hiatt. Please come back and check out what we’ve done. At the end of the month I will also post a preview scene of Juniper and her mom from Whisper of the Woods (my Cry of the Sea sequel).
What are you favorite or least favorite moms from MG or YA books? Please leave a comment.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.