LonCon3 #11: Kill the Parents (young adult)

Panellists: Todd McCaffrey, Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J Maas, Amy McCulloch, Sophia McDougall

The extreme measures we take to remove responsible adults in order to empower children in stories – whether it’s J.K. Rowling starting poor Harry off an orphan, or C.S. Lewis exiling an entire family to the country, or Suzanne Collins forcing Katniss Everdeen to become the adult in her mother’s own house… Panelists will discuss the importance, or lack thereof, of parents in YA stories.

Disney kills mothers. Bambi, Finding Nemo, Cinderella. Being without supervision from authority figures forces the young to learn self-reliance, to think about what it means to be an adult, and encourages them to build support networks on which they can rely on when in need. It’s vital that this lesson is taught to young adult audiences because “We all eventually become orphans,” says Todd.

“How many parents have I killed?”, each panellist asks themselves. Maas points out that her orphaned teenage protagonist Celaena at the opening of Throne of Glass is a prisoner slaving away in the saltmines and can be interpreted as a metaphor for the desire to escape high school, something every teenager can relate to.

Temporarily removing parents from the situation, as opposed to killing them, can provide escapism, a wide-eyed and possibly perilous adventure away from disapproving eyes and sees them return to the reassuring familiarity of home, in Mary Poppins and E.T., for example.

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