Display This: Sibling Stories

Over the last year or so, there have been an exceptional number of YA stories about siblings published (or ones that will be published soon). Besides just stories of brother-sister, brother-brother, and sister-sister relationships, there have also been a number of stories about twins published/to be pubbed soon. What makes these stories engaging is that, despite tackling sometimes similar subject matter, they still show the differing dynamics that occur within these family bonds. These sorts of stories fascinate me to no end because I didn’t grow up with my siblings so these are stories about experiences I’ve never had nor never will have.

The bulk of these stories explore somewhat standard sibling relationships, so I would love any suggestions you might have of stories about siblings which aren’t as common. I’d love stories about step/half siblings, about sibling bonds that don’t necessarily form naturally or smoothly. Some of these books tackle the sibling relationship as the plot while others make use of that relationship as a major subplot — it’s more than just a relationship that exists but one that advances both the character and the story in some way. All descriptions are from WorldCat and all of these are titles published/publishing in 2011 and 2011 (I snuck in a couple late 2010 titles, too). These are YA titles only, as I think the sibling relationship trend is much less prominent in YA than it is in middle grade or younger titles. I know I’m missing a bunch, so as always, feel free to add any others you can think of in the comments.

For extra fun, I’ve starred titles that feature twins.

Irises by Francisco X Stork: Kate, eighteen, and Mary, sixteen, must make some adult decisions about the course their lives should take when their loving but old-fashioned father dies suddenly, leaving them with their mother, who has been in a persistant vegetative state since an accident four years earlier.

Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill: When a new glassblower arrives to help in the family business, the attraction Maria feels for him causes a web of conflicting emotions to grow even more tangled.

Split by Swati Avasthi: A teenaged boy thrown out of his house by his abusive father goes to live with his older brother, who ran away from home years ago to escape the abuse.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma: Two years after sixteen-year-old Chloe discovered classmate London’s dead body floating in a Hudson Valley reservoir, she returns home to be with her devoted older sister Ruby, a town favorite, and finds that London is alive and well, and that Ruby may somehow have brought her back to life and persuaded everyone that nothing is amiss. (Review)

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt: Although they have never gotten along well, seventeen-year-old Levi follows his older brother Boaz, an ex-Marine, on a walking trip from Boston to Washington, D.C. in hopes of learning why Boaz is completely withdrawn. (Review)

Never Enough by Denise Jaden (July 2012): Sixteen-year-old Loann admires and envies her older sister Claire’s strength, popularity, and beauty, but as Loann begins to open up to new possibilities in herself, she discovers that Claire’s all-consuming quest for perfection comes at a dangerous price.

*All These Lives by Sarah Wylie (June 2012): Convinced that she has nine lives after cheating death twice as a child, sixteen-year-old Dani tries to forfeit her remaining lives in hopes of saving her twin sister, Jena, whose leukemia is consuming their family.

Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown (July 2012): Seventeen-year-old Kendra, living in the shadow of her brother’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, takes a life-changing road trip with him.

Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John: Sixteen-year-old Luke Dorsey is sent on a cross-country tour to promote his bestselling spiritual self-help guide accompanied by his agnostic older brother and former girlfriend Fran, from whom he learns some things about salvation. (Review)

* Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis (May 2012): In alternating chapters, sixteen-year-old twins Ysabel and Justin share their conflicted feelings as they struggle to come to terms with their father’s decision to dress as a woman.

* Bumped by Megan McCafferty: In 2036 New Jersey, when teens are expected to become fanatically religious wives and mothers or high-priced Surrogettes for couples made infertile by a widespread virus, sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony find in one another the courage to believe they have choices. See also Thumped. (Review)

Brother/Sister by Sean Olin: Told in alternating perspectives, Will and Asheley relate the events of the summer and explain how their lives became violently out of control.

Rock On by Denise Vega: High school sophomore Ori Taylor, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter in a nameless rock band, has always been known as the easily-overlooked younger brother of Del, a high school sports star, but when Del suddenly returns home from college just as Ori is starting to gain some confidence in himself, Del expects everything to return to the way it used to be.

Stick by Andrew Smith: Thirteen-year-old Stark “Stick” McClellan’s brother has always defended him against those who tease him for his thinness and facial deformity, so when Bosten, having admitted he is gay, must leave home and their abusive parents, Stick sets out to find him.

Without Tess by Marcella Pixley: Fifteen-year-old Lizzie Cohen recalls what it was like growing up with her imaginative but disturbed older sister Tess, and how she is striving to reclaim her own life since Tess died. (Review)

Zen and Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan: Two teenaged sisters try to come to terms with the death of their mother in very different ways.

* Pretty Bad Things by CJ Skuse: When they were six years old, twins Beau and Paisley were famous for surviving on their own after their mother died of a drug overdose, and now, at sixteen, they escape from their abusive grandmother to look for their father, who is out of prison and, unbeknownst to them, has been writing them letters since he was put away.

Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser: Four teenagers from two families–sisters Katie and Julie and brothers Alex and Kyle–meet every summer at a lakeside community in upstate New York, where they escape their everyday lives and hide disturbing secrets. (Review)

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott: When her older, “perfect” sister Tess has a car accident that puts her in a coma, seventeen-year-old Abby, who has always felt unseen in Tess’s shadow, plans to bring her back with the help of Eli, a gorgeous boy she has met at the hospital, but her plans go awry when she learns some secrets about both Tess and Eli, enabling her to make some decisions about her own life.

The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez (October 2012): Seventeen-year-old Amelia feels like her life might be getting back on track after a bad break-up when her younger sister’s pregnancy gets them both banished to Canada, where new relationships are forged, giving Amelia a new perspective.

Personal Effects by EM Kokie (September 2012): Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, seventeen-year-old Matt Foster feels like he’s been sleepwalking through life — failing classes, getting into fights, and avoiding his dad’s lectures about following in his brother’s footsteps. T.J.’s gone, and the worst part is, there’s nothing left of him to hold on to. Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on T.J.’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma: Sixteen-year-old Maya and seventeen-year-old Lochan tell, in their separate voices, of their confusion and longing as they fall in love with one another after years of functioning as parents to three younger siblings due to their alcoholic mother’s neglect. (Review)

I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler: Brainy Tess Smith is the younger sibling of the beautiful, popular, volleyball-scholarship-bound Kristina. When Kristina is diagnosed with bone cancer, it drastically changes both sisters’ lives. Sometimes the things that annoy us the most about our siblings are the ones we’d miss the most if we lost them.

Then I Met My Sister by Christine Hurley Deriso: Summer Stetson has always lived in the shadow of her dead sister, knowing she can never measure up in any way, but on her seventeenth birthday her aunt gives her Shannon’s diary, which reveals painful but liberating truths about Summer’s family and herself.

Sass & Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler: Unlike her romantic sister, Gabby is down-to-earth and does not put her trust in relationships, but when the richest boy in school befriends her, she discovers that emotional barriers might actually be getting in the way of her happiness.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington: After her sister’s suicide, Harper Scott takes off for California with her best friend Laney to scatter her sister’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean.

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Tera Elsa McVoy: When teenaged sisters Daisy, Violet, and Calla spend their last summer together at Camp Callanwolde, the decisions they make–both good and bad–bring challenges to their relationship as well as opportunities to demonstrate their devotion to one another.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks: After an idyllic childhood of homeschooling with her mother and three older brothers, Maggie enrolls in public high school, where interacting with her peers is complicated by the melancholy ghost that has followed her throughout her entire life.

* Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan:  When their parents announce they are taking in a fellow student for a month, 16-year-old twins Kyle and Judy sit up and take notice. Kyle has just come out of the closet to his family and fears he’ll never know what it is like to date a guy. Judy is pretending to be born-again to attract a boy who heads a Bible study group. And Garret Johnson is new in town– a mysterious loner who claims to be a vampire. Both twins are intrigued.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood: In an alternate New England of 1900, where the Brotherhood dominates and controls society, sixteen-year-old Cate Cahill has struggled since her mother’s death to keep secret that she and her younger sisters are witches, but when a governess arrives from the Sisterhood, everything changes.

* Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman (August 2012): Eighteen-year-old identical twins Alice and Rachel have always shared a very special bond, so when one is abducted the other uses their connection to try to locate her.

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  1. says

    As an only child, I'm simultaneoulsy fascinated and confused by books about sibling relationships. On this list, I really liked Saving June. I'd add The Year of the Beasts as an interesting look at siblings and rivalry and mental health.

  2. says

    Good topic! I'm an only child, and although I enjoy it, I do feel like I miss something when I read about siblings– there's just a bond there that I don't quite absorb. Alas! But I've really enjoyed some of the titles you listed.

  3. says

    I love this post! I added quite a few of these to my "to-read" list on Goodreads. I enjoyed Breathless by Jessica Warman: a girl has to deal with her mentally ill older brother. I'm the oldest of four and I love reading about sibling relationships. I have a close relationship with my brother who's only 18 months younger than I, but not so much with my two younger siblings, who happen to be adopted. For several years I've thrown around the idea of writing a book about adopted siblings, but I'm not sure where I'd even go with it. It's hard to untangle my feelings about everything. If anyone knows of any novels with adopted siblings in them, I'd love to hear about them!

    • says

      Breathless was a good one, too, and a great suggestion.

      I wouldn't be surprised if writing about the adopted sibling experience would help untangle some of those feelings — I mean, part of why people write is to explore those scary questions and ideas.

      I'm now determined to find a couple of books featuring adopted siblings because they have to be out there.

    • says

      More from me (not through twitter now):

      Brother & Sister: Breaking Beautiful, My Beating Teenage Heart, Wither, Dark of the Moon

      Sisters: This Is Not a Test, Siren (Rayburn)

      Brothers: Benny Imura series, Reckless (Funke)

      Step: Newsflesh trilogy (Not YA, but so applicable), Cinder

    • says

      Funny because some of these were ones I debated including in the list (TINAT and the Benny Imura series were even in the original draft of this one, but I took 'em out for brevity's sake). I'm glad you brought them and a bunch more to the comments!

    • says

      Yes! This one definitely has a sibling relationship. But something Liz Burns pointed out to me (and note both of us really loved this book) — these characters are really young. Mathematically, Cora is probably around 12, so it's a little surprising this one's targeted at the YA range. But this is a good sibling story nonetheless!

  4. says

    I'm glad you had this post, because you reminded me of some of the books on my wish list, namely Tanita's book and Friends with Boys.
    Um, is it me or does the cover of Imaginary Girls and All These Lives feature the same model?

    • says

      I think they're different models, but they look kind of similar, don't they? They tread pretty different territory though.

  5. says

    A few years ago I read the NF book You Were Always Mom's Favorite by Deborah Tannen which is about communication between sisters, and in it she pointed out something that kind of blew my mind although it's totally logical – the longest relationships you will have in your life are with your siblings. You (hopefully) will outlive your parents, your kids will outlive you, you didn't meet your spouse for the first 20-30 years of your life, but your siblings are going to be around from almost when you were born to almost when you die. It's one reason sibling relationships can be so frought with tension – you are tied to this person forever. It was a pretty neat realization.

    • says

      It's also a sort of scary one for those of us who don't have/don't have relationships with our siblings for one reason or another. I often feel like I'm missing out on something special, particularly for reasons like Tannen mentions.

  6. says

    This is a really useful list, Kelly. When I'm discussing YA topics in schools, it's really handy to have a resource like this so that I can suggest other comparable titles. Thanks!

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