Via Neil Gaiman's Facebook post, here's an interesting article from the New York Times about the "problem parent" in YA novels. When I was a kid, I didn't like the genre of "problem novel" very much -- I had plenty of my own problems which I found every day when I rolled out of bed, thank you very much, and I sure didn't want to waste good reading time on reading about other kids and their too-close-to-home problems. If you're going to do that sort of thing, at least be creative about it, which is exactly what Neil Gaiman does in Coraline.
You have to wonder how the distracted, failing parent became such a ubiquitous image in pop culture. In Neil Gaiman’s novel “Coraline,” from 2002, the lonely title character wanders into danger in a creepy new house because the parents are busy and preoccupied. “Go away,” the father says cheerfully the minute she appears. This theme was made more explicit in the 2009 movie version, in which both parents seem to be transfixed by their computers. “Hey Mom, where does this door go?” Coraline asks, and her mother replies without looking away from the monitor: “I’m really, really busy.” Near-fatal adventures ensue with terrifying “other parents” in the alternate world behind the door — who begin by offering Coraline delicious meals and toys, but actually want to turn her into a kind of soulless rag doll with button eyes — because the real parents are on deadline writing a gardening catalog.
The author of the article makes this sound like such a bad thing...
Not that I don't agree with the cynical outlook -- believe me, I haven't forgotten the way kids think about their parents, and quite often, it ain't good in the best of times. Getting the parent(s) out of the way so the kid can begin to live and/or have an adventure is a problem all writers face (if this is the sort of writing you do). Anyway, an good article if you're interested in YA books, or if, like me, you want to portray kids and their lives accurately.