Grandparents’ Day is celebrated this weekend in the U.S., and even though it’s not as widely commercialized as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, it’s a great opportunity to show your love and appreciation for your grandparents if they are in your lives. I lost all four of my grandparents by the time I was 13, so I really regret not having the chance to get to know them as I grew into an adult. I love reading about YA books where grandparents play an active role in the protagonists’ lives, because our elders have so much to teach us about ourselves, our families, and life, but I think oftentimes we tend to forget just how influential they can be. Here are five YA books with great grandparents that you’ll not want to miss!
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Emoni Santiago is a teen mom who has become accustomed to making tough decisions ever since she got pregnant her freshman year. Now she’s a senior in high school, and the pressure is monumental. She must figure out what she’s going to do after school, and it must be something that supports her child, because her abuela, who raised her, isn’t getting any younger and Emoni can’t expect her to help forever. Emoni is drawn to cooking, and as impractical as it may seem, she has a true gift for taste and flavor. But will it be enough to justify taking a risk to follow her dreams? I really loved that Emoni and her grandmother’s relationship was a complex one that dealt with boundaries and expectations while all the while Abuela was supportive of Emoni and her daughter, even if that support looked like stepping back at times so Emoni could figure out how to solve her own problems.
Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest
Evie is the granddaughter of Evelyn Conaway, a Hollywood film legend whose breakout role is considered a classic. But just as Evie is about to launch her own exciting career, a mistake sends everything crashing down. Evie heads to New York City to try and get her grandmother’s help to get things back on track. She discovers her reclusive grandmother has a very cute teenage guy named Milo living in her spare room, and just as Evie begins to worry that he’s taking advantage, her grandmother disappears. Now, Evie is tasked with tracking her down with Milo’s help before time runs out on her new opportunity. I think this is an excellent book about how a teen character begins to see an adult in their life as another human being, capable of mistakes and misunderstanding, and I really enjoyed how Evie’s journey had her reconciling what she knew of Evelyn Conaway as a grandmother and mother, a famous movie star, and a person.
Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Nala has big summer plans, and they include hanging out with friends, Netflix marathons, and eating as much ice cream as she can. She doesn’t expect to fall for Tye, the cute community organizer she meets through her cousin’s activism work. Wanting to impress Tye, Nala implies that she works at her grandmother’s retirement community, helping provide enrichment opportunities for seniors. The reality is she just likes hanging out with her grandma and her friends. But it does the trick in impressing Tye, and soon Nala has spun a web of lies and half-truths about her summer activities that threaten to ensnare her and topple her new romance. I loved that Nala has this very chill, relaxed relationship with her grandmother and prioritizes spending time with her, and what’s more is that her grandmother clearly loves hanging with her, but also holds Nala accountable for her mistakes.
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Darius is a Persian American teen who has grown up in the U.S. feeling like he doesn’t fit in, even among his own family. When his family receives news that his grandfather is ill, they pack their bags and head to Iran for what might be their last chance to see him. For Darius, it’s also the first time he’s been to his mother’s homeland, and his first opportunity to meet his maternal grandparents IRL. In Iran, Darius experiences a combination of joy at finally seeing the parts of himself not accepted in the U.S. fitting in, but even here he doesn’t appear Persian enough. By getting to know his grandparents better, finding a friendship in their teenage neighbor, and finally connecting with his father, Darius learns important truths about himself and his family. I enjoyed the scenes with Darius and his grandparents because even though they don’t always understand one another, you can sense their love for him and their joy at finally being connected in person.
The Wide Starlight by Nicole Lesperance
On the surface, I’m not certain that anyone would categorize the grandmother in Nicole Lesperance’s YA debut as loving or wonderful, but I picked this book because of the layers of nuance in her character. Ellie’s mother was swept away by the northern lights ten years earlier, but no one believed her. Now at 16, Ellie’s mom seems to have returned to her, but she’s no longer the same. When she vanishes again just as mysteriously, Ellie and her father travel to her mother’s homeland of Norway, where they reconnect with Ellie’s estranged grandmother. She comes across as stiff, hostile, and impatient at first, but the more time Ellie spends trying to figure out just what happened to her mother, the more she learns about her grandmother. I loved the scenes where Ellie and her grandmother connect over a shared passion for knitting, and how they both understand the act of making something for someone is a beautiful expression of love.
Want more 3 on a YA Theme? We’ve got you covered.