something real September 26


Top Ten Worst Parents in Tween Lit by Amy Estersohn

I’ve noticed that my seventh graders take tremendous pleasure in reading about horrible, awful, mean, nasty, and ludicrous parents, no matter the genre, setting, or gender of the main character.  


For all other bad-parent-lovers out there, I’ve collected a list of some of my favorite careless caretakers:


gym candy

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

Mike wants his son Mick to be a star football player so badly that Mick realizes shortcuts to the top are okay as long as it means parent approval.


fake id

Fake ID by Lamar Giles

Tony’s family has been relocated four time as part of Witness Protection because his dad can’t seem to stay away from a life of organized crime even when he’s in hiding.   This last move is the final straw, and Tony ‘s afraid that his father’s suspicious night-time activities mean even more trouble.



Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Jackson’s parents are proud, perhaps too proud to acknowledge that their family is struggling financially.  At what point does insistent optimism that everything’s going to be okay become hurtful dishonesty towards one’s children?


Jack Strong Takes a Stand

Jack Strong Takes a Stand by Tommy Greenwald

You think you’re busy?  You should take a look at Jack Strong’s after-school calendar.  Swimming, baseball, tutors…. there’s barely time in there to be a kid!  Jack’s father is responsible for his over-committed, stressed-out son, who signs him up for activity after activity because his father feels it’s good for the college applications.   It’s not until Jack stages a sit-in and vows not to leave his couch until he can quit some of his after-school activities that Jack’s dad begins to reconsider.



the golden compass

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

Lyra Belacqua leads a cozy life under the care of professors at Oxford University.  She has no formal schooling, she plays with the other neighborhood children, and she has the constant companionship of a shape-shifting animal named Pantalaimon.  While ignorance might be bliss, Lyra will learn more about her power-hungry, manipulative parents and what they are really up to.


Reality Boy

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Gerald Faust’s mother is so caught up in her love for his sister, Tasha, that she finds ways to justify her distance for her son.  Gerald’s mother is convinced that her son is learning disabled and remains willfully blind to Tasha’s abusive and troubling behaviors.


The Sacred Lives of Minnow Bly

The Sacred Lives of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Minnow’s father is so ready to prove himself loyal to the Kevinians that he chops off his daughter’s hands for her transgression of meeting up with a boy from the outside world.


something real

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Chloe arrives home from school one day to see that once again, her house is the set of a reality TV show, despite her mom’s promise that she would never have to be on television again.  



Backlash  by Sarah Darer Littman

When Bree’s mother discovers her daughter created a fake account in order to lure her ex-best-friend Lana into think she had a new friend, her mother joins in on the cyber-bullying.



Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Tom is so ready to leave his itinerant, gambling-addicted father that when the army discovers him for his computer talents, he has no problem leaving his father… and having a chip implanted in his brain.


Readers, what other poor parents out there should be added to this list?
Amy Estersohn teaches middle school in New York and hopes she will never be considered a bad parent.    Occasional reading-related tweets can be found at @hmx_mse.