Perhaps it is because she notes in the first paragraph that children's books about problems, such as Mama and Daddy Bear's Divorce, that "the enterprise seems doomed from the title." Such creations, which are stuffed in the category of Children's Literature even though they aren't literature, and are written to comfort parents rather than children, are one of my favorite things to deplore.
The oblique reference to Bruno Bettelheim in the second paragraph also charmed me.
Divorce in a young-adult novel means what being orphaned meant in a fairy tale: vulnerability, danger, unwanted independence.Using a problem to set character or to move the plot along is quite different from explaining to children how they are supposed to feel.
I do contest Flanagan's belief that children's literature has focused on intact happy families until recently. The opposite is true. All the way back to Little Women, The Five Little Peppers,Anne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden, the families in children's books often have missing parents or other tragedies. Young girls were always being sent off to live with some relative because their mother was sick or their father was at sea. As Ms. Flanagan doesn't dwell on the point, this chroncentrism, the belief that only we moderns really get it, doesn't muck up the rest of the essay.
The problem with adolescent desire, both male and female, is that it is felt so strongly that it demands to be regarded as important, even when it is banal. The young person cannot put into words quite what the feeling is about; by the time s/he can analyze and explain, s/he is beyond it. We reach the stage where we no longer feel the importance so strongly. The feeling can be illustrated in literature and video, but it cannot be explained - thus the intense identification females who read fiction can have with the protagonists.
Caitlin Flanagan comes closer to "getting it" than most adults, and can draw the curtain back a bit.