Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Families in YA

One of the most common elements of children or young adult novels is absent or neglectful parents. This is understandable. Without the presence of strong parental influence, the main characters have the freedom to be the heroes. Everything depends on the kids. It's why the orphan theme is so popular - think Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and more.

Yet I love books with strong families. I particularly love books with a big, loving family full of diverse personalities. When a family is done well, it makes the book stands out.

Twilight comes to my mind first. While I am a fan of Bella and Edward, what really took my feelings for this series from mere like to complete obsession is the Cullens. I love that there is this big family who work together as a team to solve their problems. I love that each character has a distinct personality and history that unfolds throughout the series. (Twilight does have the typical absent parent types in Bella's parents).

More recently, I fell in love with the "family" in Die For Me by Amy Plum. I love the group of revenants who live together as a family. Like the Cullens, they are a big team and have all sorts of different personalities. You have fun-loving Jules and Ambrose, nervous Gaspard, lovable Charlotte, and more. That's not even including  Vincent, the handsome love interest. (Full review to come soon)

Other books with strong families that come to mind:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (the Weasleys)
Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta (actually almost all her books have family elements)

What books can you think of with well-developed family characters?


  1. I think it's kinda funny you said the orphan type was typical and then used two examples of it (die to me literally an orphan, twilight she might as well be). I sorta see where you are coming by using the revenants and the cullens as families, but at the same time there isn't the same parents looking over your shoulder when you are several hundred years old and so I don't feel like it can replace the more traditional family in literature (the absent parents in so much YA is a personal pet peeve!).

    Families I love include the ones in the sisterhood of the traveling pants series and I really loved the father/daughter relationship in Stay by Deb Caletti.

  2. Ah! I thought your examples were a little funny for that reason. I totally agree about loving the diverse and rich large families and it is always a good reminder that sometimes the best families aren't the ones we are born with but the ones we make (as in the case of those two books).

  3. The Chronicles of Narnia books feature a strong family bond between the siblings, but they also have absent parents.

    Tuck Everlasting is another story that features a close and unusual family. Their relationship adds a special dimension to the book.

  4. I love the Weasley family in Harry Potter, they are such a great family!

  5. Really interesting post and l totally agree.
    Being honest, at the moment, it's so predictable to pick up a book and find the parents aren't alive any more. It's getting a bit 'old' and l like seeing how the different families interact with each other and all different personalities.

  6. I agree about the trend in books to not have the family around or have them totally clueless. I love your examples though. I like that you showcased families that weren't born with each other but came together to form a family unit. It just goes to show you that family is who takes care of you, who is there and whom you care about. The Weasley's in Harry Potter are one of my favourites!

  7. Janette rallison god mother books have families in it. I love the weasly family too.

  8. The Dark Divine trilogy, particularly the first book, has a well-developed family. What I like about that family is that Grace's parents aren't absent and they're not perfect either. They still feel the pain going on around and they still have to deal with everything Grace does; they just deal with it differently (or not at all in Grace's mom's case).

    The one thing that bothers me with families in books is when the parents are absent (e.g. Shiver) and then all of a sudden have an interest in their child because they find out the child is doing something they don't like (e.g. Linger). I'd rather have the parents not be there at all because that's the way they were in the beginning.

  9. I loved the families in "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman as well as "Flash Burnout" and "Mermaid's Mirror" by L.K. Madigan. While some may say that the families are idealized, I thought they were warm and added an additional layer to the story.

  10. I'm really drawn to stories that have strong/big family units, there's just something inherently interesting in reading about that dynamic and how different people relate to one another. One I read recently was Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini, I adored that one and the parents/families were really important:)

  11. I agree with Rummannah: If I Stay and The Mermaid's Mirror (which also features a very warm relationship between a girl and her stepmother, how often do you find that in books?) are very good examples of strong families. I think it's easier or more convenient to have no parents or absent parents, but it really adds to the story if you do have them and I always appreciate it.
    Great topic!

  12. I love big families too. That was one of my favorite things about Twilight. I think you're going to love Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini if you haven't already read it. Nice big family that reminded me of the Cullens.

    When I think of family books I always think of the Penderwicks (by Jeanne Birdsall). They're like a modern Little Women.

    I've heard Heather Dixon's Entwined also has a good "big family" thing going on, but I haven't read that one yet.

  13. A lot of books have absent families. I like books where there's a strong parent child relationship. I love the relationship between the girls and their mother in the Blood Coven books.


  14. Hi Alison!
    I completely agree with you about the draw of families in literature. It's so much more interesting to read about a variety of characters working as a unit, as opposed to just the same character over and over. I loved the Cullens too and I loved all the sisters in Little Women! I'm planning on re-reading Little Women sometime soon :)...

    Hope to see you back around my blog soon!


  15. What an awesome topic, Alison! I'm so glad you posted about this...I hate when YA books lack family. I was actually really drawn into the family dynamics of Then I Met My Sister recently. While I didn't really love them all - it was real. I also LOVE the Harry Potter families, of course ;)

  16. After reading The Piper's Son, I really wanted to join the Mackee family. Marchetta did a stunning job in relating the characters in an authentic way. It wasn't a perfect family unit, but it was one full of love.

    How said it is that I can't really think of another book illustrated a strong family unit? I think I would also put If I Stay by Gayle Forman up there. I'm teary eyed just thinking about Mia's loss because her family was so dynamic.

    I've been really wanting to read Die for Me and you just gave me another reason to look forward to it. Thanks Alison.

  17. Just finished the Piper's Son, and I did love the family element. And I wish my family were half as close as the Weasleys! Great points made here... now I really want to read Die For Me. :)

    Kat @ A Myriad of Books

  18. I agree! I love books with strong families. I can't stand when books have disappearing parents. It drives me nuts because I'm very close to my parents. Some great books with families are: Twilight, definitely Little Women, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Haunting Emma series (there's a lot of caring adults in that one), and The Iron Fey (Meghan's big into helping her family.)

  19. The strong family was really portrayed well in Die For Me. I think I enjoyed that factor a lot as well. It's a bit cliché, the abusive or neglecting parents and the child going off to be a hero in some fantasy land or save the world, or you know, run into trouble.

    I'm a new GFC follower btw ;)
    Kind regards,
    I Heart Reading

  20. Being a new book that I have read Crave has really jumped to the top of a lot of lists for me; it surpasses Twilight in a lot of ways, and that says something knowing how much I like Twilight. All the same, they illustrate a strong family, not for Shay the main female character, her family is broken. However, Gabriel has such a strong and strong bonds to his family that you can see it in the way he feels and remembers each of them. I don't know if the same theme will continue into the sequel or not but it is there through the first book :)

    ★ Leila


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