Understanding Families, Divorce, and Adoption (page 2)
Relationships with parents and other family members are important to young adults. Differences of opinion over dress, curfews, and length and color of hair, as well as more serious concerns such as excessive alcohol consumption (either among the parents or the young person), physical or sexual abuse, or neglect, can exact a considerable toll on both adults and young people. While the two-parent family with a couple of children still exists today, many different family makeups and even some dysfunctional or disintegrating families also occur. One-parent homes, as well as homes with stepparents, foster children, and other family arrangements, are common today and are therefore reflected in books that young adults read.
Several authors of young adult novels deal with the problems found in contemporary families. Tracy Mack explores divorce in Drawing Lessons (2000), while Ian Lawrence observes a disintegrating family in The Lightkeeper’s Daughter (2002). Trial separation is a theme in Carolyn Mackler’s Love and Other Four-Letter Words (2000), and Gary Paulsen explores a single-parent family in The Glass Café (2003). Orphans and family tensions are central to the story in Patricia Reilly Giff’s Pictures of Hollis Woods (2002), and adoption plays an important part in Ingrid Tomey’s The Queen of Dreamland (1996). The Applewhites are a nontraditional family of writers and artists who take in a juvenile delinquent in Stephanie Tolan’s Surviving the Applewhites (2002).
A number of young adult realistic fiction novels examine father-son or father-daughter relationships. Although each differs in more than one way, the circumstances are usually the same—differences exist between the parent and the young adult and both have to gain an understanding of himself/herself and the other. For example, Jean Ferris tells the story of Brian and his father in All That Glitters (1996). In Walter Dean Myers’ classic Somewhere in the Darkness (1992), Jimmy Little is surprised when his father returns from jail. Seek (Fleischman, 2001) tells the story of Rob Radkovits, who is looking for his father’s voice in his life. In a book of family relationships (particularly father-daughter relationships), Kate must cope with being a preacher’s daughter as she tries to get into MIT in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Catalyst (2002).
Families also play a part in a number of other books. Mel Glenn’s Split Image (2000) is a multi-voice story told in poems that focus on a young Asian American girl who is caught between her parents’ expectations and the freedom of America. In Miracle’s Boys (2000), Jacqueline Woodson writes about three brothers and the pressures of the inner city that keep trying to pull them apart. Ellen Wittlinger’s Hard Love (1999) uses a modified magazine format to explore a young boy growing up and coping with his parents’ divorce. Other stories about a wide range of families include Tangerine (Bloor, 1997), Like Sisters on the Homefront (Williams-Garcia, 1995), the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and the works of Todd Strasser and Walter Dean Myers.
Family relationships also spill over into other categories of realistic novels as they touch on alcoholism, the death of a family member, spouse abuse, a gay parent, parents embarrassing young people, and a host of other topics. Any problem that some family has experienced or is experiencing has probably been addressed in young adult realistic fiction. For example, Michael Cadnum’s Taking It (1995) discusses shoplifting and sexual relationships; Marion Dane Bauer’s A Question of Trust (1994) explores the issue of trust between parents and children; and Thelma Wyss’s classic Here at the Scenic-Vu Motel (1988) tells about the Bear Flats, Idaho, school board’s decision to stop bussing seven children to town to the high school and, instead, to have them live at the Scenic-Vu Motel during the week.
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