How Many Parents Are Dead in YA Books?: Analysis of My 2022 Reads

Everyone knows there are a lot of dead parents in young adult books. People argue it’s easier for the protagonist to grow up faster or to do dangerous things if they have no parental guidance. Or maybe it just cuts down on characters readers need to keep track of. I’m not here to debate whether the parents “should” be dead or relitigate the reasons they all get killed off.

Instead, I’ve been keeping track for a few years how many of the YA books I read have dead — or just essentially absent — parents. I usually do the post in May, so it tracks the books I read for the first 5 months of the year, but I’m doing it later this year because I haven’t been reading as much and didn’t have a good sample size in May.

Time to analyze my 2022 YA reads so far and see how many dead parents there are this year!

Note that there may be spoilers for books if you read the information about the specific titles!

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Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty

  • Both parents are dead.

Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen

  • Both parents are dead.

Forging Silver into Stars by Brigid Kemmerer

  • There are three protagonists/POVs. Five parents are dead.
  • The living father is abusive.

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

  • Mother is dead.
  • Father presumed dead/has never been in protagonist’s life.

Cinder & Glass by Melissa de la Cruz

  • Well, it’s a “Cinderella” retelling, so both mother and father are dead.

Three Kisses, One Midnight: A Novel by Eveyln Skye, Roshani Chokshi, and Sandhya Menon

  • It’s three short stories with three different protagonists. I admit I didn’t find the book memorable, but while a stepdad is mentioned for one of the characters, I don’t think any of the six parents are actually dead. A first.

If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang

  • Both parents are alive! They’re not too in the book because the protagonist lives at school, but they seem generally supportive.

Seoulmates by Susan Lee

  • Both parents are alive, but the father is living abroad and largely absent from the protagonist’s life.

The Dragon’s Promise by Elizabeth Lim

  • Mother and stepmother dead, but father is alive.

A Darkness at the Door by Intisar Khanani

  • Both alive! And good parents!
  • (This is also one of my favorite reads of 2022, so go check the series out!)

Belittled Women by Amanda Sellet

  • Both alive! But father is absent.

How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislynn Brophy

  • Both alive! And involved! What is this trend?

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

  • Both alive but almost completely absent from the story.

Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell

  • Both alive but protagonist is estranged from her mother. Has a great relationship with her father, however.

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrota

  • Sorry, both parents are dead.
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I have 15 books, but there are two books with multiple main characters, so we’ll say a total of 19 pairs of parents for the analysis.

  • There are 9 dead mothers, or about 47%.
  • There are 7 dead fathers, or about 37%. Honestly, this is lower than I expected.
  • There is 1 abusive father and 3 that are basically absent from the book/the protagonist’s life.
  • That leaves 8 fathers who are alive and apparently decent.
  • There’s only 1 mother who’s alive but also a terrible person, leaving several mothers who are actually supportive. Wow!

Overall, I think this tracks with the last two times I did this survey, with nearly 50% of the mothers being dead in all 3 years I kept track. However, I think I saw a few more normal, supportive parents than in the past, so that’s a win for 2022.


19 thoughts on “How Many Parents Are Dead in YA Books?: Analysis of My 2022 Reads

  1. Shaharee says:

    It´s an interesting angle to investigate YA literature. I believe that the new trend you seem to discern may be related to the growing complexity of modern life and an increase in entropy in the current Western cultural society model. In todays world not only teenagers are looking how to fit in, but also an increasing amount of adults are constantly challenged to reinvent themselves.


  2. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    This is interesting stats. I also see lots of YA with dead parents. But I don’t know if I agree with the arguments in both favors or not. I think I’m a neutral party. As long as the book is well writtten in all aspects, I would be fine.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, I don’t know if I really have a strong feeling about whether the parents “should” be dead or not, just whatever works for the story! I just find it funny that about 50% of them seem to be dead in the books I read every year, since certainly 50% of the kids I knew in high school didn’t have a dead parent!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cam @ Vicoli and Caffè says:

    I shouldn’t, and it shouldn’t, but this post cracked me up. And gave me a huge list of books to check out!
    But yes, parents are such a weird subject. If the protagonist come from a dangerous fantasy world, it can happen to the parent to be dead, but what does it mean for the protagonist? I often don’t see if explored enough.
    As a writer too, I gotta admit that sometimes I cut off some parents in my wip projects because otherwise the cast would become too big to take care of, but I try to integrate at least a note that yes, they do have a family and what relationship they have with them


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I do think there’s a tendency to use the dead parents for an explanation of why the characters are independent (in general) or in some specific circumstance like living on the street as a pickpocket, but I agree I don’t see a lot of exploration of emotional effects of losing a parent and possibly having no parental figures at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Siena says:

    This is an interesting observation! Personally, I’ve noticed that the parents are almost always dead/out of the picture in YA fantasy, and in YA contemporary they’re mostly irreverent, though more likely to be alive. This would make for a compelling topic for a discussion.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think that’s true! I tend to read a lot of fantasy, so that probably gives me more dead parents than if I mostly read contemporary lol. Though I was getting a lot of “parents alive but living away from the protagonist” in the contemporary I read this year, which was interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

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