Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everyone! This weekend is Valentine’s Day, and I am a big Valentine’s Day fan–red, hearts, chocolate, bring it on. So for today’s Friday Fifteen, I’m going to change it up a little and make some book recommendations.

When I was a teen, I never dated anyone. I had a ton of guy friends, but there was never anyone I was interested in dating, so my closest relationships were with my friends and family. And I’m guessing I wasn’t the first nor the last teen to feel this way. When people get down on Valentine’s Day for being all about couples, I want to remind them that love exists in all kinds of relationships, and that love is just as real as romantic love. Today, I want to share fifteen favorite YA/children’s lit book recommendations that put the focus on friend and family love.

  1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: the ultimate book about kindred spirits and sometimes you have to find your family.
  2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: in case you didn’t cry enough at Anne of Green Gables.
  3. A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle: four generations of women come together to help one move on in this beautiful portrayal of family.
  4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: about being sisters, being friends, and learning how to grow apart and together.
  5. The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: DJ Schwenk is my favorite, and this is the Dairy Queen book that focuses most on her family; so genuine and so touching.
  6. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki: a touching, beautiful story about growing up and realizing your family is more complicated than you thought.
  7. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty: forever my go-to book about how friendships form and grow and change.
  8. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr: love Zarr’s look at grief and loss and hope and how families can evolve.
  9. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma: the complicated and dangerous devotion of two sisters who can only rely on each other.
  10. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: a devastating story of bravery and friendship and all my feels.
  11. Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler: even when their paths may be diverging, Reagan and Victoria’s supportive friendship rings so true to me.
  12. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt: this story about the messiness of grief and love and illness sticks with me.
  13. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: this layered story of generations of friends wrecked me in the best way.
  14. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth: I got to the end of this book and thought, “Oh my gosh, this is a family love letter.”
  15. Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker: fighting for your family with a creepy Southern gothic style.

Other favorite non-romantic love stories? Share them in the comments. Happy Valentine’s day, everyone!

Think of the Parents

A good reminder that parents should occasionally make an appearance in YA novels:

“I’m always a little bugged when I read YA books where the parents are absent, either by killing them off for no reason, or by sending the teen away to boarding school. Now I have to admit, some of my favorite books are set in boarding school and many of them require the setting, but in a lot of cases, it’s just a way to get rid of the parents so that the kids can run wild and have their own adventures.  There aren’t many kids who have either had their parents die or are sent to live at boarding school (okay, my husband has had both of those things happen – and he says that Hogwarts aside, life in a co-ed boarding school in England was as awesome as it sounds) but there are lots and lots of kids out there who have to deal with their parents every day.”

I know that it’s easy to think that less parental interaction means more adventure/freedom for your main character, and in part that’s true. You don’t necessarily want your main character to have to sit at home every night because their parents are watching them constantly. (Although that might be a good excuse for a character to rebel.) But as CJ mentions, most readers can relate to dealing with parents on a day-to-day basis. That’s not to say they need to be present on every page, but they should at least be a part of your character’s life.

A recent example of parents handled well in a novel would be John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Although they’re not uber-present they’re still a big part of Hazel’s life and feel like real people. (I won’t give away details, but one quote from Hazel’s mom was heartbreaking.)

How do you handle parents in your YA/children’s novels?

(image: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

Love Advice from a Nobel Prize-Winning Author

A few years ago I read East of Eden and loved it. It was thrilling and engaging and touched on major emotional issues. So this letter from John Steinbeck to his son Thom about the nature of love warmed my heart. The whole letter is beautiful and touching, but here’s one part in particular I liked:

“There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.”

Make sure to read the whole letter. I want to print it up and post it above my desk, it’s so lovely (the letter, not my desk). It’s from Steinbeck: a Life in Letters, which I am putting on my immediate to-read list. Usually I don’t delve into the private life of authors, but in this case I think I’ll make an exception.