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The Best and Worst Fathers in YA Literature

June 19, 2012

Since I wrote a post for Mother’s Day last month, I figured I should do the same for Father’s Day. The same limitations I discussed in that post apply here –  good parents usually just get in the way when it comes to YA and Children’s literature. But I scoured my book lists and came up with a list of notable fictional fathers.

The Best

1. Arthur Weasley: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – There are going to be a lot of similarities to the list of mothers, and I might as well kick it off with the counterpart to the first on that list. Loveable Arthur Weasley works for the Ministry of Magic, is a member of the Order of the Phoenix, loves Muggles and their technology, and is fascinated by things like spark plugs. Can you even imagine the Harry Potter series without the Weasley family?

2. Hans Hubermann: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak – Liesel’s foster-father is perhaps one of the best parts of The Book Thief, and there are a lot of great parts. I’m getting a little teary-eyed just thinking about Hans. Teaching Liesel to read, playing his accordion, defying the Nazi regime in his own quiet way.

3. Ben: Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness – Again, Ben is Todd’s foster-father, not his actual father, but I think we can agree that it amounts to the same thing, particularly in this case. He’s the only father Todd has ever known and he’s the most important person in Todd’s world. He risks everything to protect Todd from the powerful Mayor Prentiss and the other men of Prentisstown.

4. Atticus Finch: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – It’s been a long time since I read this book, but when I think of great literary fathers, I think of Atticus Finch. Compassionate, just, and a model of morality, he teaches Scout and Jem about tolerance and the meaning of courage.

5. Bobby: The First Part Last by Angel Johnson – This feels a little like cheating since Bobby is the teenage protagonist of this book about teenage pregnancy, but I’m sticking with it because while Bobby struggles at first with the challenges of being a single parent while trying to finish high school, he shapes up to be a loving father, devoted to providing the best life possible for his daughter.

The Worst

1. Marcus Eaton: Divergent by Veronica Roth – Marcus is a government leader in the dystopian world of Divergent, and a member of the Abnegation faction, devoted to selflessness, but his abusive treatment of his wife and son is at odds with his pious, morally upright persona.

2. Sir Peter: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – I already covered Ella’s stepmother in the Mother’s Day post, but her father is nearly as bad. He pays very little attention to his daughter, except to send her to finishing school to make her more of a proper lady, and to feed her enchanted mushrooms so she would agree to marry a wealthy man and improve their financial standing. Not to mention that he leaves her with her horrible stepmother while he goes away on business and refuses to come back even after hearing of how poorly Ella is treated.

3. Lord Asriel: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – At first glance, Lord Asriel seems a much better father than Mrs. Coulter is a mother – he is largely absent from Lyra’s life, but he is good to her when he does see her and makes sure she is cared for at Jordan College. However, without giving away any more than I already have, his actions after she risks her life to find and help him are nothing short of despicable.

4. Mayor Prentiss: Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness – The Mayor is a power-hungry tyrant, bent on taking over control of the human population on New World, and though he tries to act as a kindly father figure to Todd, his disregard for his own son is a clear indication of his true character.

5. The Pride: Runaways by Brian K. Vaughn et al – I already covered this in the list of mothers, I know, but this group of super-villains is made up of both the mothers and fathers of the titular teenage superhero team. It doesn’t get much worse than super-villain parents.

Who did I miss? Feel free to comment with your own contributions!

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