Friday, 22 May 2015

Ju Jabbers: YA Protagonists As The "Backbone of the Family"


"Ju Jabbers" is an original feature in which I have random discussions about books, life, movies, and a myriad of other things. It's an open door to what I hope will be a fun and somewhat thought-provoking little corner of the internet.


I started reading A Court of Thorns and Roses the other day and Feyre's actions in the first chapter reminded me of another hunter girl who was the sole provider of her family: Katniss Everdeen. But just as I was about to brush that aside, it kind of hit me that Katniss wasn't the only one that Feyre reminded me of. She was a lot like Penryn Young from Penryn and The End of Days trilogy as well as Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles, Lochan and Maya from Forbidden and several other heroes/heroines. It's not that they're all hunters. It's that they're all "the backbone of their family"—they're all young adult providers that basically take on the role of a parent.


While ACOTAR is technically New Adult, this trend is pretty widespread and not just in YA dystopia or fantasy since I've seen it in YA contemporary as well. It's everywhere and I admired the idea but now that I think about it, why do I like reading about teenagers who have to substitute the role of a parent? Isn't it kind of depressing that they aren't living their teenage years and instead have to become mature ASAP or their household will crumble? So, why the heck do I like reading about morbid things like that?


In real life, teenagers don't usually have to deal with adulthood until after highschool. Until then, our parents usually handle all the heavy stuff like putting food on the table and dealing with our siblings' problems. But these YA books go totally against that and for some reason, we like it and now I'm wondering why. Do we just like exploring troubled lives? Is it our curiosity about adulthood that makes us want to read about what it'd be like to be in a parental position? Or do we just like reading about teens in positions of power and feeling important and less juvenile? Or are young adults acting like carefree young adults too annoying to read about so we prefer reading about teens who have adapted the mindsets of 30-year-olds? Or is this whole trend just an easy plot device to create motivation for the main character and we're all subconsciously aware of it?


Maybe it's just 2 AM and I'm munching on a strawberry sundae and being a "thinking about life" meme or maybe we all really do have an obsession with protagonists who are defacto parents. What do you think? Have you ever encountered any similar blog posts that discussed this?



21 comments:

  1. Very interesting topic! I am one of those who enjoy stories about mature teenagers because young adults acting like carefree young adults are too annoying to read about on regularl basis. And having mature teenager who is bearing a burden of adult life is just so inspiring to read about.

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    1. Haha yes that is true! Light contemporary reads are the ones with carefree young adults but I guess you can't have dark stories without burdened characters.

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  2. WHOA Love this!!!

    I've actually never thought of it, it's awesome!! As a teen, I've never thought of myself as being the provider and I think a lot of teens can agree. Although, at the same time, there are a bunch of teens who are probably doing just that. I feel like I live in an entitled location and when I read about these characters, it makes me feel like I CAN and should do what they do.

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    1. Glad to see that it interested you!

      We ARE lucky to have some awesome hard-working parents and I do want to see more of these parents in YA but I also love seeing teens being responsible because like you said, it makes me believe I can be responsible too (like if Katniss can raise a family, I'm pretty sure I can trust myself to wake up from my alarm instead of my mom lol well sometimes)

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  3. I LIKE POWER! Hahah just kidding. I think for me, I like reading about characters that have their lives together, even though normal teenagers don't provide for their family like these characters do. And carefree teenagers are too boring and annoying to read about hahahha!

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    1. I LIKE THE POWER TOO! lol but yeah sometimes characters who are still in control even though the whole world seems to be against them can be inspiring ^^

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  4. THIS. Wonderfully written discussion post Juwairiya. I feel like authors do this constantly in YA without even really thinking about it. I think it might be to make readers sympathize with their characters and prove to us that they're "kickass" and "selfless," but, like you said, after a while it's a troupe that kind of starts to get a little overdone and unnecessary. Thank you for sharing this and, as always, fabulous discussion! ♥

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

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    1. Aw thank you Zoe! It is starting to feel overdone and is it just me or the whole selflessness thing is a bit too stretched? People are selfless in real life but why are YA characters so pure that they'd lay down their lives for people who don't care about them (the Cinderella trope)? idk but I guess I want to see more people with conflicted morals

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  5. I haven't realized this, but suddenly you made me overthink about it now, haha. ^_^" I think this trope really depends on the book genre because, if you look at it, this specific feature mostly occurs in fantasy/dystopian novels, and not really much in contemporary. Maybe it's the author's way to to make the protagonist more likable instead of them being reckless so that readers may tend to approve of them more :)

    Great post! You made me think about it now, lol. :)

    Jillian @ Jillian's Books

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    1. I think it shows up in dark contemporary that deal with neglected families but there are definitely less of those. Reliable protagonists are more likable than reckless ones, true, but there are evil villains who are reliable and still couldn't care less about their family haha but I'm glad I made you think about this!

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  6. I have read a lot of books that do this for sure *nods* although I wouldn't say it's an overly huge trend. It definitely is there though! More in the epic and action/adventure books, right?! I wonder if it IS an exploration for us of "what will happen when we become adults!" which I guess is a question a lot of teens want to know. (Although I'm not a teen anymore, but duuude, adulting is hard.)
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

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    1. Definitely more in dystopia! There's always some family member who is being kidnapped or needs care and the main character has to be their aid haha I'm only 18 but so far, I'd prefer going back to being 8 or 12 instead of dealing with adulthood

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  7. I've noticed this trend in books although it's solely getting popular but you did make me think now! It kind of does seen unrelistic, but I like reading about teenagers who are selfless and the powerful/badass heroines are one of my favorites :) I'm not a teen anymore but these characters are more likable. Great post though, I haven't thought about this before <3 Benish| Feminist Reflections

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    1. Haha I don't mind the occasional villainous selfish protagonist but only if they have reasons for being like that! Otherwise, the strong selfless adult-teens get to me too

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  8. This is such an interesting discussion! It's definitely a trend, and I think sometimes it's even more prominent in contemporaries -- when, of course, it's real life and the gravity of the situation is so much more serious.

    I think you're on to something when you say "we just like reading about teens in positions of power and feeling important and less juvenile." I think teens in the real world constantly feel undervalued, underestimated, and looked down upon by adults and society. We (well, I'm 19, so still a teen?) feel like we're capable of handling so much more and like we're ready to move on to bigger things. It's tough living in a kind of transitional life stage. I think we're drawn to these types of protagonists, then, because they're doing what we believe ourselves to be capable of, whether the situation was forced upon them or not. Great post! :)
    - Lina @ Every Book a World

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    1. Omg I just saw this comment sorry! My notifications are so jumbled (>///<)

      Your point is so well-written and I agree so much. Teens can be quite intelligent and skilled, especially nowadays with the internet at their fingertips and making clever ideas boundless, and yet adults don't tend to see this. YA can counteract that and even be inspiring, even if it's told through a dark spin.

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  9. I think it's a trend. I think when authors see that something worked for a book, they use it as well because they think it will help to sell their own book. I personally prefer normal teenager who don't have their life together because I find it easier to relate to them (I don't have my life together either, lol). But I don't mind it if they're like Katniss and have to provide for their family. For me as long as there's a structured plot and interesting characters, I can accept almost anything.

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    1. Haha yes, I definitely still think it's a trend thing. A lot of people feel inspired by these strong family leader teens so I guess that's why it's popular.

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  10. But , I think the reason we like "adult" teenagers, is because the story in which these type of characters appears are actually good and the characters themselves are believable. Besides, IDK, but it's always nice to see someone who's able to overcome hardship in their life.

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    1. Hmmm, I wouldn't say it's realistic because this rarely happens in real life unless you live in poverty or an unstable house but some authors really do know how to make it believable.

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    2. Oh yes, I didn't mean believable as in it happen regularly. I was more talking about the author's ability to make their characters believable, lol.

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