YA Books About Divorce: A Reading List

Divorce might seem like it’s fairly common culturally, but YA books about divorce are not.

Growing up, one of the reasons I related so much to Dawn from The Baby-Sitters Club was that her parents were divorced. Mine had divorced when I was young, and I spent much of my young life shuffling between two homes. One was mine—I lived there with my mom and grandparents during the week—and one was where I’d visit—where my dad lived with his new wife and (eventual) new kids. Despite the fact that the ’90s were a time when more families had divorced parents, I found myself to be among the few my age who had these two separate lives. I didn’t like it, and when I made the decision to cut ties with my dad in high school, I never looked back.

 

YA Books About Divorce: A Reading List | BookRiot.com | YA Books | Books | Reading | #YA #YAReads #YABooks

 

Today, when I see YA books about divorce, I feel a sense of connection to those young protagonists, but more, I feel thrilled that teens see themselves in more of the books they’re reading. It might not be representative of the reality of a 40–50% divorce rate in America, but it’s seen more now than it was even a decade or two ago.

Divorce is wide-ranging. In some instances, it’s clean and amicable. In others, it’s messy and complex and unwittingly puts children in the middle. The books below showcase a variety of flavors of what divorce looks and feels like, both when the split is new and fresh and when it’s been a long-time part of a teen’s life.

Worth noting: some of the divorces showcased in these books aren’t apparent from the start. I don’t believe divorce to be a spoiler-type situation, but it can become a significant plot point within these books without being clear from the description. Likewise, not all of these books may end with a finalized divorce, but the family struggles with that decision play a significant role.

These YA books about divorce range from new titles to more classic, offering up both frontlist and backlist stories with teen voices that will resonate.

Divorce in YA Books

Boy by Blake Nelson

In the style of Blake Nelson’s cult favorite, Girl, comes a brand-new story about the moments in life that change how you see everything and everyone you always thought you knew—including yourself.

Every school has them: the cool kids. The insiders. Gavin Meeks is one of them. He lives an easy life of parties, girls, snowboarding adventures and whatever else comes his way.

But when dark, dramatic Antoinette crash-lands at Evergreen High, the entire school feels the impact. Antoinette has seen things, been places, experienced deep tragedy first-hand. She’s not just a rebel, she’s a force of nature. Gavin, for one, is captivated and is soon pursuing interests he never knew he had. With a camera in hand, he finds a way to express his own truth, including his feelings for his favorite subject: Antoinette.

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sanctuary for bonobos, she’s not thrilled to be there. It’s her mother’s passion, and she’d rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Fade Out by Nova Ren Suma

If this were a movie, you’d open to the first page of this book and be transported to a whole other world. Everything would be in black and white, except maybe for the girl in pink polka-dot tights, and this really great music would start to swell in the background. All of a sudden, you wouldn’t be able to help it—you’d be a part of the story, you’d be totally sucked in. You’d be in this place, filled with big lies, mysterious secrets, and a tween girl turned sleuth…

Zoom in on thirteen-year-old Dani Callanzano. It’s the summer before eighth grade, and Dani is stuck in her nothing-ever-happens town with only her favorite noir mysteries at the Little Art movie theater to keep her company.

But one day, a real-life mystery begins to unravel—at the Little Art! And it all has something to do with a girl in polka-dot tights…Armed with a vivid imagination, a flair for the dramatic, and her knowledge of all things Rita Hayworth, Dani sets out to solve the mystery, and she learns more about herself than she ever thought she could.

Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade

Caroline Sands has never been particularly good at making friends. And her parents’ divorce and the move to Arizona three years ago didn’t help. Being the new girl is hard enough without being socially awkward too. So out of desperation and a desire to please her worried mother, Caroline invented a whole life for herself—using characters from Felicity, an old show she discovered online and fell in love with.

But now it’s time for Caroline to go off to college and she wants nothing more than to leave her old “life” behind and build something real. However, when her mother discovers the truth about her manufactured friends, she gives Caroline an ultimatum: Prove in this first semester that she can make friends of the nonfictional variety and thrive in a new environment. Otherwise, it’s back to living at home—and a lot of therapy.

Armed with nothing more than her resolve and a Felicity-inspired plan, Caroline accepts the challenge. But she soon realizes that the real world is rarely as simple as television makes it out to be. And to find a place where she truly belongs, Caroline may have to abandon her script and take the risk of being herself.

Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis

Teenage twins Ysabel and Justin Nicholas are lucky. Ysabel’s jewelry designs have already caught the eyes of the art world and Justin’s intelligence and drive are sure to gain him entrance into the most prestigious of colleges. They even like their parents. But their father has a secret—one that threatens to destroy the twins’ happy family and life as they know it.

Over the course of spring break, Ysabel and Justin will be forced to come to terms with their dad’s new life, but can they overcome their fears to piece together their happy family again?

He Forgot To Say Goodbye by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don’t appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called “Dizzy Land.” His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother’s shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.

An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay

As their senior year approaches, four diverse friends joined by their weekly Dungeons & Dragons game struggle to figure out real life. Archie’s trying to cope with the lingering effects of his parents’ divorce, Mari’s considering an opportunity to contact her biological mother, Dante’s working up the courage to come out to his friends, and Sam’s clinging to a failing relationship. The four eventually embark on a cross-country road trip in an attempt to solve—or to avoid—their problems.

Told in the narrative style of Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMAN, AN INFINITE NUMBER OF PARALLEL UNIVERSES is at turns geeky, funny, and lyrical as it tells a story about that time in life when friends need each other to become more than just people that hang out.

The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan

It’s the summer after his senior year, and Briggs Henry is out the door. He’s leaving behind his ex-girlfriend and his parents’ money troubles for Lake Michigan and its miles of sandy beaches, working a summer job as a personal assistant, and living in a gorgeous Victorian on the shore. It’s the kind of house Briggs plans to buy his parents one day when he’s a multi-millionaire. But then he gets there. And his eighty-four-year-old boss tells him to put on a suit for her funeral.

So begins a summer of social gaffes, stomach cramps, fraught beach volleyball games, moonlit epiphanies, and a drawer full of funeral programs. Add to this Abigail, the mystifying girl next door on whom Briggs’s charms just won’t work, and “the lake effect” is taking on a whole new meaning.

A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian

If you can’t trust your friends, who CAN you trust?

Ruby’s turning sixteen…but the day doesn’t turn out as sweet as it’s supposed to. Her long-lost father shows up, and Ruby doesn’t want anything to do with him. She wants to hang out and eat cake with her friends—loyal Beth, dangerous Katherine, and gossipy Maria. They always have plenty of advice for her, and they have A LOT to say about her dad’s return. But Ruby’s not sure what to think or feel. Especially when a cute new boy named Charlie comes into the picture…and Ruby discovers not all of her friends are as truthful as they say they are.

Pushing Pause by Celeste O. Norfleet

Fifteen-year-old Kenisha Lewis has it all: good friends who also live to dance, a hot boyfriend headed for the NBA, loving parents and a bling-filled home in the burbs.But all that changes when her dad drops a bomb: he wants a divorce—and his pregnant girlfriend is moving in. Suddenly, Kenisha and her mom are squeezed into her grandmother’s small house in the city, and Kenisha’s sharing a bedroom with a cousin she barely knows. Could she hate her life any more? Yeah. Because her boyfriend dumps her, her friends are acting weird, and her mother is getting more and more depressed. Time for Kenisha to push the pause button on her life and take a long, deep breath…

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel

Almost seventeen, Rani Patel appears to be a kick-ass Indian girl breaking cultural norms as a hip-hop performer in full effect. But in truth, she’s a nerdy flat-chested nobody who lives with her Gujarati immigrant parents on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i, isolated from her high school peers by the unsettling norms of Indian culture where “husband is God.” Her parents’ traditionally arranged marriage is a sham. Her dad turns to her for all his needs—even the intimate ones. When Rani catches him two-timing with a woman barely older than herself, she feels like a widow and, like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. Her sexy bald head and hard-driving rhyming skills attract the attention of Mark, the hot older customer who frequents her parents’ store and is closer in age to her dad than to her. Mark makes the moves on her and Rani goes with it. He leads Rani into 4eva Flowin’, an underground hip hop crew—and into other things she’s never done. Rani ignores the red flags. Her naive choices look like they will undo her but ultimately give her the chance to discover her strengths and restore the things she thought she’d lost, including her mother.

Saints and Misfits by SK Ali

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tight-knit Muslim community think of her then?

Still Life with Tornado by AS King

“I am sixteen years old. I am a human being.”

Actually Sarah is several human beings. At once. And only one of them is sixteen. Her parents insist she’s a gifted artist with a bright future, but now she can’t draw a thing, not even her own hand. Meanwhile, there’s a ten-year-old Sarah with a filthy mouth, a bad sunburn, and a clear memory of the family vacation in Mexico that ruined everything. She’s a ray of sunshine compared to twenty-three-year-old Sarah, who has snazzy highlights and a bad attitude. And then there’s forty-year-old Sarah (makes good queso dip, doesn’t wear a bra, really wants sixteen-year-old Sarah to tell the truth about her art teacher). They’re all wandering Philadelphia—along with a homeless artist allegedly named Earl—and they’re all worried about Sarah’s future.

But Sarah’s future isn’t the problem. The present is where she might be having an existential crisis. Or maybe all those other Sarahs are trying to wake her up before she’s lost forever in the tornado of violence and denial that is her parents’ marriage.

Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake

“Just let it go.”

That’s what everyone keeps telling Hadley St. Clair after she learns that her father cheated on her mother. But Hadley doesn’t want to let it go. She wants to be angry and she wants everyone in her life—her dad most of all—to leave her alone.

Sam Bennett and his family have had their share of drama too. Still reeling from a move to a new town and his parents’ recent divorce, Sam is hoping that he can coast through senior year and then move on to hassle-free, parent-free life in college. He isn’t looking for a relationship…that is, until he sees Hadley for the first time.

Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret that could ruin everything. Should he follow his heart or tell the truth?

Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana

Summer officially sucks. Thanks to a stupid seizure she had a few months earlier, Haley’s stuck going on vacation with her dad and his new family to Disney’s Fort Wilderness instead of enjoying the last session of summer camp back home with her friends. Fort Wilderness holds lots of childhood memories for her father, but surely nothing for Haley. But then a new seizure triggers something she’s never before experienced—time travel—and she ends up in River Country, the campground’s long-abandoned water park, during its heyday.

The year? 1982.

And there—with its amusing fashion, “oldies” music, and primitive technology—she runs into familiar faces: teenage Dad and Mom before they’d even met. Somehow, Haley must find her way back to the twenty-first century before her present-day parents anguish over her disappearance, a difficult feat now that she’s met Jason, one of the park’s summer residents and employees, who takes the strangely dressed stowaway under his wing.

Seizures aside, Haley’s used to controlling her life, and she has no idea how to deal with this dilemma. How can she be falling for a boy whose future she can’t share?

This Impossible Light by Lily Myers

Fifteen-year-old Ivy’s world is in flux. Her dad has moved out, her mother is withdrawn, her brother is off at college, and her best friend, Anna, has grown distant. Worst of all, Ivy’s body won’t stop expanding. She’s getting taller and curvier, with no end in sight. Even her beloved math class offers no clear solution to the imbalanced equation that has become Ivy’s life.

Everything feels off-kilter until a decision to change the way she eats gives her a boost in confidence and reminds Ivy that her life is her own. If she can just limit what she eats—the way her mother seems to—she can stop herself from growing, focus on the upcoming math competition, and reclaim control of her life. But when her disordered eating gives way to missed opportunities and a devastating health scare, Ivy realizes that she must weigh her mother’s issues against her own, and discover what it means to be a part of—and apart from—her family.

Trouble Is A Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

The first time Philip Digby shows up on Zoe Webster’s doorstep, he’s rude and he treats her like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to.

But before she knows it, Zoe’s allowed Digby—annoying, brilliant, and somehow…attractive? Digby—to drag her into a series of hilarious, dangerous, and only vaguely legal schemes all related to the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that might be connected to the tragic disappearance of his little sister eight years ago. When it comes to Digby, Zoe just can’t say no.

But is Digby a hero? Or is his manic quest an indication of a desperate attempt to repair his broken family and exorcize his own obsessive-compulsive tendencies? And does she really care anyway?

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

ADAM’S GOALS:
Grow immediately.
Find courage.
Keep courage.
Get normal.
Marry Robyn Plummer.

The instant Adam Spencer Ross meets Robyn Plummer in his Young Adult OCD Support Group, he is hopelessly, desperately drawn to her. Robyn has an hypnotic voice, blue eyes the shade of an angry sky, and ravishing beauty that makes Adam’s insides ache. She’s also just been released from a residential psychiatric program–the kind for the worst, most difficult-to-cure cases; the kind that Adam and his fellow support group members will do anything to avoid joining.

Adam immediately knows that he has to save Robyn, must save Robyn, or die trying. But is it really Robyn who needs rescuing? And is it possible to have a normal relationship when your life is anything but?

What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Since her parents’ bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother’s new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

 

What YA books about divorce do you recommend? Hit the comments to share your favorites.

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