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We Are Family: Sibling Stories in YA Lit

we are family imageI did not begin my career as an older sister on a very positive note. In fact, it is difficult to find an video of my brother’s infant years without having the footage interrupted by a bouncing three-year-old who springs into the frame to sing out some variation of “Look at me!”

Happily, despite some rough patches, my relationship with my brother is one of the most stable and significant aspects of my life.  He’s my friend, fellow sci-fi television & folk music fan, joint owner of favorite childhood books, cooking idol, and one of my all around favorite people on the planet. Consequently, I have a soft spot for stories featuring siblings.  Just as there are many different kinds of families and individuals, so too are there many different kinds of sibling relationships and all are complex & fascinating.

personal effectsPersonal Effects – E.M. Kokie (2013 Best Fiction For Young Adults; 2013 Rainbow List)

Since his beloved big brother T.J. was killed in action in Iraq, Matt has been moving through his quickly collapsing life in a daze.  Between failing classes, getting in fights at school, and trying to avoid his dad’s anger and disappointment, Matt feels like his purpose disappeared with T.J.  But when his brother’s personal effects are finally delivered, Matt is convinced that he might finally be able to understand T.J.’s death.  But T.J.’s possessions contain certain shocking revelations that force Matt to wonder how well he really knew his brother.

imaginary girlsImaginary Girls – Nova Ren Suma (2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound)

It isn’t uncommon for younger siblings to believe that their elder sisters are extraordinary, but Chloe knows she’s far from the only person to recognize that her sister Ruby’s someone special. Ruby is the girl that everyone longs to touch–the girl everyone wants to be.  When Ruby wants something to happen, it does.  She’s untamable, unpredictable, and almost unbelievable.  But after a night out with Ruby & her friends went horribly wrong, Chloe was sent away. Now, two years later, they’re reunited–but Chloe can’t help wondering exactly how far Ruby was willing to go to get her back. 

i'll give you the sunI’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

At age thirteen, twins Noah and Jude were inseparable.  But as introverted Noah was sketching furiously and falling in  love with the boy next door and daring Jude was surfing & testing their mother’s patience with her fashion choices, something began to shift–and then everything fell apart. Three years later, they barely speak to each other.  Noah doesn’t draw or daydream anymore while Jude attempts to become invisible.  Can unexpected encounters with a heart-broken sculptor and a cocky, damaged photographer finally force Jude & Noah to confront the painful secrets they’ve been hiding from each other?

to all the boys i've loved beforeTo All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

Lara Jean loves being one of the Song sisters.  Sandwiched between the dependable Margot and mischievous Kitty, Lara Jean feels secure playing the supporting role of shy & quirky middle sister.  But now Margot is heading off to Scotland for college and Lara Jean must try to become the family caretaker.  Then Lara Jean’s secret stash of letters composed to past crushes are mistakenly mailed out.  Suddenly, Lara Jean must also navigate her shifting relationships with the first boy she kissed, the boy next door (who’s also Margot’s ex-boyfriend), and her beloved sisters.

summer of the mariposasSummer of the Mariposas – Guadalupe Garcia McCall (2013 Amelia Bloomer List)

Odilia and her four sisters find a dead man floating in their favorite swimming spot in the Rio Grande, they immediately begin to debate their best course of action.  Call the police? Plan for their inevitable television appearances? They decide to return the man’s body to his family in Mexico–and perhaps see their grandmother, who might know where their father has gone since leaving their family behind almost a year ago.  Assisted by the ghostly La Llorona, the sisters embark on an epic journey and face supernatural dangers including witches, warlocks, and even chupacabras.

see you at harry'sSee You At Harry’s – Jo Knowles (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults2013 Rainbow List)

Fern is sick and tired of her overcrowded and exhausting family. Between grumpy eighteen year old Sara stuck helping at the family restaurant Harry’s, unhappy Holden starting high school with new secrets, and annoying three year old Charlie, Fern mostly feels like she’s invisible. To make things worse, her dad starts his newest deeply embarrassing marketing campaign for Harry’s just weeks before Fern starts seventh grade. However, when a tragedy turns all of their lives upside down, Fern must find her place in a world that will never be the same and within family that’s falling apart.

sistersSisters – Raina Telgemeier

When she first learned she was going to be a big sister, Raina was thrilled.  But from the first time her parents bring infant Amara home, Raina finds her high expectations for sisterhood difficult to meet, especially when Amara grows from a grouchy baby into a particular toddler who prefers to play alone.  Several years and one younger brother later, their relationship hasn’t gotten much better but as they head out for a family road trip with the sense that something strange is going on between their parents, Raina & Amara slowly realize that they have more in common than they think.

J mech IDrums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie – Jordan Sonnenblick (2005 YALSA Teens’ Top Ten)

Thirteen year old Steven lives a fairly ordinary but generally contented life.  He plays drums, he has a crush on the most popular girl in eighth grade, and he is constantly trying to negotiate life with his adorable but occasionally embarrassing five year old brother Jeffery.  Then Jeffery is diagnosed with leukemia and everything about Steven’s life becomes the opposite of ordinary. Overwhelmed by the terrifying reality of Jeffery’s illness, his parents’ very different reactions to the situation, and his own constantly shifting cycle of emotions, Steven struggles to remain the good older brother he’s always tried to be.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon and Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

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I am a librarian at an independent girls' school in the DC-Metro area. I am a compulsive baker, book addict, and genre fiction fan with passion for social justice. Find me on Twitter as @onesmartcupcake.