Are Fathers absent or wonderful in YA Fiction?

Read modern young adult literature today and you’ll find an interesting phenomena–most stories don’t have parents, let alone fathers. With Father’s Day yesterday I began to think of fathers in stories. Very few exist, even in classic young adult fiction. I couldn’t find what blog I recently read that discussed this in detail, but mainly it boiled down to the fact that if parents exist in young adult stories, they’ll keep the characters from doing what needs to be done.

Father’s in Classic Young Adult Fiction

The Phantom Tollbooth has Miles escaping through a tollbooth to travel another land while his parents know nothing of his adventures. Little Women have an absent father in the war as does the Chronicles of Narnia. These stories show children in action, but not with parents. They do have guiding characters who help the young people on their way.

Father’s in Modern Young Adult Fiction


Absent Fathers

Modern fiction isn’t much better. In D. J. MacHale’s Pendragon series, Bobby’s trying to find his parents while Mark and Courtney’s parents are present but not active. Brandon Mull’s Beyonders series isn’t much better. Jason’s parents don’t understand or know about the other world he falls into. Both of these authors do have characters who help mold and shape our young heroes. Bobby has his Uncle Press, and Jason has the Blind King. Jace and Clary in the Mortal Instruments don’t have fathers to assist them on their way.

Present Fathers

Some of my favorite young adult books have good fathers. This year I introduced a class of sixth and seventh graders to Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. My students loved reading the story and even some non-readers wanted to learn more about the Logan family. What struck me the most was the powerful father-figure the children had in Papa. He worked hard and held them to strict respect and obedience and yet at the same time he loved them unconditionally.

In Cornelia Funke’s books parents have a good role. The Inkheart trilogy introduces Mo and Meggie, a father and daughter duo who can read characters and items out of storybooks into the real world. Even with a father around watching over her, Meggie still manages to have interesting adventures. In The Dragon Rider Ben doesn’t have a father, but he meets Professor Greenblum who is a father and acts as a father-figure to Ben, while in The Thief Lord the children are searching for parents.

The Redwall series is another strong set of books with role models for young readers. Mariel and Joseph the Bellmaker are just one set of father and child pairs that play an important part in the plot. Peter and the Starcatchers shows Molly Aster and her father working together to save the world, while Peter ends up mixed up in the whole mess.

Father’s in Indie Young Adult Fiction

<img="father">Indie authors seem to have more involved fathers. The first indie authored book I heard of was the Inheritance Trilogy. Eragon’s fatherhood created a driving plot, but the book also showcased other successful fathers with Garrow and Roran and Ajihad and Nasuada. In the Godsland series, Catrin and Wendel Volker have a strong relationship, and Catrin’s love for her father drives her to return from her mission. The first trilogy also shows several good relationships between the young characters and older male characters.

If those two larger names aren’t enough to show you how indie authors showcase fathers, let’s look at two other series. L. R. W. Lee’s Andy Smithson series has Andy’s parents as a key to his whole adventure. Andy doesn’t have his parents right with him for most of his journey, but he has others who are like parents supporting him as well. Lea Doue tells the story of twelve princesses and their coming of age. With the advances of an unwanted suitor, the oldest inadvertantly entangles her sisters in a wizard’s web. It is with the help of their father they are rescued.



The teen years are the ones where parents and children conflict the most. Mark Twain said when a boy turns twelve to put him in a barrel with a knot hole, but when he turns sixteen block the hole. Parents with teens can laugh at this and yet relate. However, I say, if you can build a relationship with your child between seven to twelve years old, you can salvage many of the potholes of the teen years. Give your child books to read with good parents as role models. and you’ll be able to give them a hunger for good relationships with you.

What's your take?