The Absent / Busy / Bad Parent
Usually characterized by a single parent, who is caught up in his/her own life, sometimes because of work, sometimes because of social. (Wicked Step-Mother also fits into this category.)
In Janitors, the MC's mom is a single parent who is gone a lot. In Ophelia, her father is in the middle of curating a display for a museum, and extremely busy with that over the course of the book. In Gregor, his mom is very sick, and his dad is busy trying to keep everything in order.
- It's easy to get kids off on an adventure believably. Tons of kids come from single-parent homes where the parent is rather busy and gone a lot (or even double parent homes where they both work a lot), leaving kids free to go on whatever adventures / mischief they'd like. So it's not a stretch for kids to believe that the kids are off doing things on their own.
- Many kids have parent(s) who fall into this category, so it's very relatable.
- It can annoy the gatekeepers. Middle grade books get read out loud by teachers / parents / guardians / other adults quite a bit. And let's face it: we kind of get tired of the adults in the stories making us look bad.
- It's been done a lot. So, just like with orphans that we discussed on Friday, it's a little more difficult to make it feel fresh and new.