I find it a little unbelievable when I read YA books in which the parents are perfect paragons of human wisdom. Not to say some parents in real life aren’t wise and filled with unfailing loving kindness—er, at least part of the time. It’s just that books featuring parents who screw up, occasionally or all the time, seem more realistic. Besides, having inept parents makes life more challenging for the characters.
A lot of it has to do with plain old good plotting sense. Fiction is more exciting and more satisfying when the main character has to solve the central problem by him- or herself. Another good reason for stories featuring bumbling, absent, or downright irresponsible parents is that in real life, teens often have a sense of facing problems to which their elders are oblivious. Parents are forever worrying about whether their kids have on clean socks while the kids are facing life-and-death situations, or at least what feel like life-and-death situations.
What’s your take? Do you prefer fictional parents who set a good example for teen readers—and who provide a backdrop of security and order? Or would you rather see your characters work out all their own problems without the net of parental grace to catch them if they fall?