If you are starting your YA novel with the intention of delivering some moral lesson, then STOP! I guarantee you, no matter how subtle you think you are being, any agent, any editor, even your seasoned critique partners will pick up on it instantly. The purpose of YA literature, contemporary YA lit in particular, is not to deliver some moral message or teach a valuable lesson. Let’s face it, teens aren't reading our books to learn and grow; they are reading them to escape their own lives, to live in someone else's reality for a few hundred pages.
It is equally important to remember that YA books are about our teen MCs themselves not, I repeat NOT, their parents. A couple of days ago a YA editor tweeted that “parents in YA lit should be treated like eyeliner. Use it sparingly.” I couldn’t agree more. YA contemporary books revolve around an issue, problem, or incident that propels or MCs into action. These conflicts can be external or internal, or more likely a combination of both. But it is our teen MCs who need to wade through the crap. They are the ones that need to struggle, make some heinous mistakes and eventually grow as a character. If you have a parent who is hovering, always involved, always there to guide them and intervene before things spiral out of control, then where is your MC's struggle. In other words, how is your MC going to descend into their own personal hell and resurrect themselves if a concerned parent is always there to pick them up and carry them to safety!
Am I proposing that every YA contemporary novel have a MC who is adopted, whose parents are conveniently dead, or has been shipped off to a boarding school? Hell no. In fact, I am a big proponent of parents in YA literature; I just think they need to say in the background, sprinkled in very sparingly to heighten a conflict or explain a MC’s living situation. And trust me; this doesn’t take pages or even entire chapters to accomplish.
PS I recycled this title from a previous post of mine dealing with the same issue. You can find it here!