Moms deserve more credit than they sometimes get in children’s and teen literature. There was a time in kid and YA lit where out-of-sight at best and gone-before-the-book-began at worst parents were the norm. In 2010, Publishers Weekly even wrote about this phenomenon of “The Ol’ Dead Dad Syndrome”. And I get it, for some fantastical adventures to happen in a novel, it may be necessary to say make the parents heavy sleepers so their child can sneak out every other night. It’s easier still to write out the parents completely. But truthfully, unless the story centers around a fraught parent child relationship, a well written parent in middle grade and teen literature can truly round out a book and make it read more authentically.
So in honor of Mother’s Day, here is just a small handful of the BEST moms in middle grade and teen literature! Some are idealized, while others are more down-to-earth. Whatever the case may be, it’s wonderful to see these literary moms portrayed as present and positive influences in their stories!
- Kate from The Mighty Heart of Sunny St.James by Ashley Herring Blake. The book begins with 12-year-old Sunny recovering from a successful heart surgery with her incredible guardian Kate by her side. When her biological mother surfaces for the first time in years, Sunny spends the summer sorting through her feelings about a mother who wasn’t around while holding space for Kate, her mother in all things but blood.
- Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The mother of the seven Weasley children, and motherly figure to our hero Harry, had my heart from the hand knit sweater she made Harry for Christmas in book 1, and never failed to disappoint in the books that followed. She knits, she cooks, she does magic and fights death eaters! Molly Weasley is a mom of all trades.
- Marmee from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The quintessential literary mother! She kept a busy household running while her husband was away at war, and still managed to find time for charity work while being the best mom she could be to her four daughters.
- Min Soo Bae from The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. This book features two main characters and while Natasha’s mother is a presence, it’s Daniel’s mother Min who I wish had a whole book of her own. As Daniel’s story unfolds, he discovers that there’s far more to his mother than he really knew. In learning about the life she gave up in Korea to start her family in America, Daniel begins to see her for the incredible person she is.
- Patty & Nadine from The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. In this book that takes place in the Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda universe, twins Cassie and Molly have two of the realest moms in YA fiction. They’re written as a real family unit, showing up frequently throughout the story to talk with, discipline, and, you know, parent their children!