11.13.10

The Twin’s Daughter Was an Only Child

Posted in Complaining, Random at 6:37 pm by Janet

twin's daughter
I recently read the historical mystery The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. It got a fantastic review in one of the journals, so I put it on hold right away. It was a good read, but not as good as the review made it out to be, possibly because the review offered what turned out to be plot spoilers. I won’t tell you too much about the plot, then, just this little bit: Lucy never knew her mother had a twin, until one day a waifish woman turns up on the well-to-do Victorian family’s London doorstep, saying she’s Lucy’s Aunt Helen.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. What I really want to talk about is only children in books for teens. As both Bridget and I are only children, I think we are uniquely qualified to discuss this topic. (If we’re lucky Bridget will chime in here somewhere.) If I remember right, there are two only children in The Twin’s Daughter: Lucy and her friend/neighbor/love interest Kit. They are prime examples of the two main kinds of only children I have identified in books for teens.

1. Characters intended to be only children. Something has happened to their parents (health problems, divorce, death by Voldemort, running away, etc.). Their parents chose to have one child. Their parents hate children. They are supposed to have solitary adventures on a cold English moor. Etc. Lucy is an old child because her mother can’t have any more children. In fact, the plot hinges on her mother’s inability to have more children. One of the twins gets pregnant, raising questions about mistaken identity. Lucy is definitely an only child by the author’s design.

2. Characters who are only children by default. Perhaps the author got lazy–a sibling is an extra character to be developed. If a story focuses on one character and her friends or her adventures, siblings tend to be eliminated to streamline the story. Adding a sister and a storyline about her and the main character might weigh down the story line. Despite the fact that many Victorian families were large, Kit appears to be an only child. I can’t find a reason for Kit to be an only child, except for the sake of simplicity.

Now, I have met a few people in my lifetime. Of all the people I’ve met, I can think of six other only children, tops. As for the rest of these people, I know some of their siblings. I know some of those siblings well, some of them not so well. I don’t know some of their siblings, and that’s ok. Their siblings live somewhere else, there’s a big age difference, or maybe they’re just not close. What I’m saying is, it’s ok to have an adventure and not include siblings. Sometimes people’s brothers and sisters just aren’t involved. Instead of dropping in another character just for reality’s sake, authors leave the siblings out, for fear of reviewers complaining about undeveloped secondary characters.

But what some authors don’t realize is that a family’s size can influence family dynamics. Only children tend to get LOTS of parental attention, which, let’s face it, can cut down on adventures. I say, bring on the siblings, fleshed out or not.

So, think about this. There are a lot of teen lit only children. Lucy and Kit. Bella. Harry Potter. Thinking of books I’ve reviewed here–both Will Graysons, Rebecca in Ruined, Allie in Vinyl Princess. I could go on and on. But I’ve gone on long enough. Now I want to know what YOU think.

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