Tithe 3: YA Parenting Tips

After a run-in with magic and a literal faerie knight, Kaye’s life returns to the mundane. For the most part, anyway. The majority of this chapter gives us a snapshot of what Kaye’s life looks like now that she’s in New Jersey. There’s only a few hints of otherworldly fae in this chapter at all. The first comes at the beginning of the chapter, when Kaye dreams of the old faerie friends that visited her as a child. It’s a weird and eerie scene, and I’m still not sure what some of the images in it are supposed to represent. But, it’s a dream, and doesn’t have to make sense.

The only other instance of magic is when Kaye receives a note from her old friends, delivered via acorn. The note informs her that one of her fae friends is “gone” and that “everything is danger”.

One thing I realized I liked about this book as that Kaye never really stopped believing in her so-called imaginary friends, Spike, Lutie, and Gristle. When she comes back to New Jersey, she still looks for them and wants them to come see her. Janet has accused Kaye of making up stories about them, saying they weren’t real, but Kaye never says they were fictional. This saves us a lot of time: she doesn’t need to be convinced they are real so that she can start the adventure. There’s no point in denying them, since the reader already knows that this is a fantasy story that will involve faeries at some point.

Throughout the day, Kaye contemplates the note, but mostly ends up daydreaming about Roiben. This is something I would normally give a female protagonist crap for, but I was a sixteen-year-old girl once, doing the same kind of thing. Coming home giddy after finding common ground with a boy and quickly developing crushes were just part of my repertoire of tricks. But I think Kaye is balanced out better than other lovestruck teenage girls in YA novels. Her romance with Roiben is the B-plot of the book, and there’s enough pushing her – finding out what happened to her friend Gristle, for instance – that her story’s interesting, and not all about the boy. So I’ll allow some daydreaming on her part.

And though Kaye acts like a teenager, so does her mother. This is a trend I’ve noticed in YA novels: the majority of the time, the protagonist’s parents are totally incompetent, out of the picture or distant, if they even bother appearing in the story at all.

I paused while writing this to take a look at the YA and middle-grade novels sitting on my bookshelves and think about the protagonists’ parents in each one. In several of them, the parents are dead or mysteriously absent throughout. In fact, the only novel I could find (though I’m sure there are others) which heavily featured parents was The Book Thief, where Liesel’s strong bond with Hans is one of the book’s main themes.

Kaye’s father is absent, but Kaye’s mom doesn’t really fit any of the aforementioned categories. She loves her daughter and stays in her life, but she’s also selfish and immature. She’s been drunk or drinking in all her appearances so far, and still dreams of the day she “makes it” as a musician. She even looks down on old friends who have gone “respectable” by starting a business of their own and leaving music. In some ways, she’s more childish than her teenage daughter. That said, I do like her relationship with Kaye. She obviously cares for her daughter, even if she doesn’t understand just how to take care of her.

I only noticed this trend after a friend (who is also a mom and a YA author) asked just why so many parents are so bad at taking care of the protagonists. That is, if they haven’t died horribly before story begins. The best answer I could come up with is that parents who are really paying attention to their kids lives are not going to let them go off to magical danger zones so they can save the world.

Dead parents are a catalyst for adventure, neglectful parents allow the adventure to happen, and dedicated parents are obstacles.

So if you discover that your child is part of some world-saving prophecy, just leave ’em alone. They’ll be fine.

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