Sometimes it seems like parents in YA (at least one, if not both) are either checked out or dead. So it’s always nice to come across a fictional parent or two that not only exist as an actual presence in their children’s life, but also act like totally normal parents—in other words, completely and utterly embarrassing, all of the time. Whether it’s too much parenting or too little, here are some YA parents who give us a case of secondhand shameface; we’re not sure we’d survive owning up to them in public.
Tabitha’s parents from Life By Committee, by Corey Ann Haydu
Tabby’s parents seem like your run-of-the-mill adults, except for two things: first, they own the local coffee shop/teen hangout, and second, her dad is a major pothead. It’s bad enough that she has to live up to their too-cool-for-school, caffeine-slinging ways, but to have her dad getting stoned in front of her classmates? That’s going to be tough to live down. It’s hard not to be embarrassed by your parents when half the student body orders their daily latte from them—and sees them fight in public.
Cal & Eliot’s parents from Scrambled Eggs at Midnight, by Brad Barkley
This is a double deal, since this book includes TWO sets of terrible parents. First, there’s Cal’s mom, a Renaissance Faire groupie who sells up-cycled jewelry. Could be cool, except like all parents devoted solely to their own interests, she’s so focused on her own traveling whims that she has no energy to give to being a mom at all. That plus her terrible taste in men make her a rough sell as a mother figure. Then there’s Eliot’s dad, who runs a combination Jesus/Diet camp for kids. If you’ve ever been mortified by your parents’ outdated opinions on things (who hasn’t?), you know what Eliot’s going through as he struggles to tell his dad you can’t just pray the fat away.
Frankie’s parents from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, by E. Lockhart
Frankie Landau Banks is the absolute bomb, but, unfortunately, her parents just aren’t aware of it. They suffer from a classic case of cradle vision: Mr. and Mrs. Banks don’t realize Frankie has grown up. From ignoring all of her fabulous hijinks (“Hi, Mrs. Banks, did you know your daughter is anonymously masterminding the actions of an all-boys club?”) to continuing to call her by her childhood nickname, “Bunny,” they exude that condescending babying quality that drives growing kids nuts.
Jubilee’s parents from Let it Snow, by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
What’s worse than calling your kid Bunny? Naming your kid after an awfully cheesy hobby…for example, Christmas Village–building. That’s exactly what Jubilee’s parents did, and the fun doesn’t stop there–her parents are so caught up in their Hallmark-style obsession, they actually get arrested. It’s no big deal, really, but you know if you had Jubilee’s parents, you’d be rushing all your friends past them before they had a chance to bring up the newest Christmas Cottage or Holiday Hotel.
Ellie’s parents from Avalon High, by Meg Cabot
Ellie’s parents are almost not mortifying. Almost. The problem is they just know too much. Everybody’s parents are overinformed on some topic or other (my dad knows way too much about allergy medication to be healthy), but Ellie’s are professors, which means they are over-overinformed, and their topic of choice happens to be Medieval swords. And poetry. Neither of which make it very enticing to leave your crush alone in a room with them.
Astrid’s parents from Firecracker, by David Iserson
Astrid’s mom and dad (known as Vivi and Dad, respectively) suffer from the extreme plight of being too rich. It’s not a common problem (at least, not one that I’m familiar with), but it has the unfortunate effect of making them act like children. Too much like children, in fact, to do much parenting. So even though Astrid’s parents aren’t embarrassing in the traditional sense–they’re not buzzkills or overprotective nuts–they just can’t act like adults. What would you do if your parents were basically rich children who never grew up? (Live in a rocket ship, probably.)
Paperback $15.29 | $16.99
Luna Lovegood’s dad from Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
Xenophilius Lovegood is one weird dude. He lives in his own little world, one where it’s probably okay to mix paisleys and plaids and there are Nargles EVERYWHERE. Luna, of course, is way past the point of being embarrassed by her dad, but that’s okay, because we’re a little embarrassed for her. (Though we do have to give him props for turning out a kid as awesome as Luna pretty much on his own.) But just what did he think he was doing, sitting around waiting for Luna’s safe return? And more importantly, what ON EARTH is he going to do with all those dirigible plums?
Hardcover $16.99 | $17.99
Vivian Apple’s parents from Vivian Apple at the End of the World, by Katie Coyle
What’s the proper procedure when your parents are part of a cult? Do you still talk to them, and hope they don’t launch into a blush-inducing tirade on the apocalypse? Or do you just avoid them as much as possible? Can you even afford to be seen with them in public? Well, Vivian doesn’t have to worry about that any more, since her parents have disappeared completely. Which you’d think might be a dream…except, it turns out, it’s not.
Who do you think are the most mortifying parents in YA?