Thursday, July 19, 2012

Maybe I just haven't come across the right books, but recently I noticed an obvious lack of animal friends in teen literature. Now, I’m not talking about centaurs, dragons, pegasi or hippogriffs. There are plenty of mythological beasts, fantasy creatures, and animals that possess human attributes. I’m talking about Fido and Felix—good old fashioned pets.

Pets of all shapes and sizes are prominent in children’s lit and middle grade (with an emphasis on horses and dogs, it seems), and they often pop up again in popular adult fiction (THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, THE HORSE WHISPERER and MARLEY AND ME).

But offhand, I can only think of a few true teen books that include animals in a significant way: THE HUNGER GAMES (Prim’s cat Buttercup), S.E. Hinton’s TAMING THE STAR RUNNER, and a title I spied recently at the bookstore called THE OUTSIDE OF A HORSE by Ginny Rorby, which looks wonderful.

We know real-life teenagers love their pets every bit as much as kids and adults, yet pets seem to be conspicuously absent in YA books. It makes us wonder… why the gap? If you have a theory on this or know of some other teen titles that do include pets, let us know! We'd love to read them.


P.E. said...

That's a good observation. I can think of two books with animals off the top of my head. The Clique series (which may be MG depending on who you ask), where the MC has a dog and a horse, and The Beginning of After (there are cats and dogs).

I didn't really notice an absence of animals since I don't have any (my parents are against cats and dogs, and I don't like buying fish since they always end up dead :'( ). It's kind of the same as how there are very rarely siblings in books, or you don't often see characters doing chores or having good relationships with their parents. It's the kind of fictional stuff in YA.

I don't think authors intentionally say "No pets!" but maybe, since a lot of YA is trending paranormal or dystopian, they don't add it unless it affects the plot. If there is a pet in a book, I've noticed they're usually a big part of the book. So in, let's say your typical paranormal romance, what would a pet like maybe a dog do besides barking whenever the love interest shows up mysteriously in the girl's bedroom at night? That would kill the kind of meaningful love declarations we usually read about then. However, I do think pets should be more in contemporary novels.

Does that make sense? I feel like I rambled too long. Great post btw :p

Elissa J. Hoole said...

I really enjoyed the pet plotline in Hannah Moskowitz's GONE, GONE, GONE! I have a main character who is fostering guinea pigs, but even adding in the piggies was something that didn't come out in the first draft of the book, and I realized that both of my main characters in my current WIP are petless without reason, except that maybe then it seems like you have to develop another character? Hmm, interesting point!

iLuvReadingTooMuch said...

Wow...I never actually thought about that! You're completely right– there's a lack of animal companions/pets in YA lit. Quite sad, because I do love animals in books! I can only think of a couple of books where there's an animal present, like THE CITY OF BONES (Mortal Instruments series) where there's an immortal church cat (whose name escapes me...but again it's a "magical" cat). I'm literally glancing at my shelf, and NO ANIMALS come to mind. Like I said before, quite sad. Hopefully, there'll be more animals in YA in the future to come :) Love your post!

Andria Buchanan said...

I can't think of a single one. But then again I never noticed until you brought it up.

Ingrid Palmer said...

P.E., you're right. There's an absence of siblings and to a lesser extent, parents in YA as well (I have some theories on that, but will save for another post).

Elisa, I'll check out Gone, Gone, Gone. Yay for including guinea pigs in your WIP! I agree that developing a strong pet presence is like taking on another character, so maybe that's why it's seldom done.

I'm writing some pets into my next book, simply because it seems natural for the family. But my first two manuscripts didn't include pets, either. And I love animals!

Thanks for commenting, everyone!

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



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The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
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Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

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