Study Guide

The Parents in A Little Less Girl

By Tess Oliver

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The Parents

Both Jake and Dani have pretty involved parents. And in both cases, their parental involvement isn't always welcome or helpful. Or good…

Sex, Drugs, and Dani's Mom

Dani's doesn't know her dad at all, but her mom is a bit of a nightmare. Dani spent most of her childhood watching out for her mom, whose main hobbies seemed to be getting strung out on drugs or hooking up with some loser or another. Dani pretty much blames her mom for all the problems in her life and, let's face it, she's kind of right. Having an addict as a mom is no fun at all.

But in Raynesville, Dani's mom is able to get clean and stay on the straight and narrow path. Dani even notices that she's starting to act more like a mom. Buying groceries. Cooking dinner. Not shooting up heroin. It's the little things, you know? And when Dani's mom meets a nice boyfriend, even Dani has to admit that her mom has really changed her ways. It's all a little bittersweet, though:

[Dani] shrugged. "Life is never dull with my mom. But lately I think she's trying to grow up and I'm sad." She laughed. "I don't know if I'm ready for it." (31.66)

Times are changing. Dani is really happy for her mom but also sees this as a big change for her. She hopes she can hold onto her newfound sense of sobriety and motherly responsibility. We're rooting for her, too, Dani.

Sins of the Father

Jake's parents are a little more traditional than Dani's mom in that they aren't drug-addicts. That's one point in their favor. Jake's mom is pretty darn nice—she makes breakfast and even sticks up for Jake sometimes. Yes, she really wishes he'd cut his long hair, but that's just classic mom stuff right there.

His dad, on the other hand, is a whole different story. See, Mr. West doesn't seem too amused by his son's melancholy phase. He's annoyed that his once popular, sports-star son seems to be throwing his life away over some random girl's suicide. As far as he's concerned, Jake needs to get his head out of the sad clouds and back into the pool pronto:

He stood and glared at me. "Bottom line is you're going to get back on that swim team. He also needs you to help coach. Funds are short this year, so he won't be hiring anyone from the university to assist."

"So I'm stuck with it?" I shook my head. "I'm not interested." I turned to leave.

"I didn't ask you if you were interested. I've already told him you'll do it." (3.14-16)

Jake notices the same thing when he slices his hand. His dad is totally freaked out about this screwing up his swim season, but not really so worried about the fact that his son got, you know, stabbed by a crazy stalker. Jake's starting to feel that his dad only cares about the things he does and not who he is as a person. This guy really needs to get his priorities straight.

In the end, Jake's dad still keeps his gruff demeanor, though he does manage to compliment him for saving Dani when she cramps up in the pool. And for his part, Jake starts to understand his dad a little better:

We had not always had this much friction between us, but once I'd let my grades and my swimming slip, I'd set off a series of disappointments for my dad, and he didn't know how to cope with it. (31.9)

Hey, no one said being a grown-up or a dad were easy. Jake is willing to cut his parents some slack and that really does make all the difference.

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