Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

20 Books for People Without a Father

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Annika Barranti Klein

Staff Writer

Annika Barranti Klein likes books, obviously.   Twitter: @noirbettie

Since my father died in March, I have been dreading Father’s Day. Not the holiday itself, which has been, for me, about my husband for the last 13 years, but the ceaseless marketing. Thank you for suggesting a new grill pan/a tie/a fancy knife/whatever. My father would have hated it, and we would have had a good laugh. (I did once buy him a tie for Father’s Day. He was not at all sure how to react, but we laughed about it for almost 30 years.)

Below are 20 books about people who don’t have a father. They run the gamut from books about losing a father to books in which the main character simply does not have a father, whether they have a single mom, two moms, or were raised by grandparents. The books are both fiction and nonfiction, span middle grade, young adult, and adult categories, and are all genres from fantasy to murder mystery.

May contain spoilers, as I have noted the nature of the characters’ fatherlessness.

America by Gabby Rivera

Superheroine America Chavez was raised by her mothers in the Utopian Parallel.

American Street by Ibi Zaboi

When Fabiola and her single mother Valerie come to America from Haiti, Valerie is detained by immigration and Fabiola has to go live with relatives she doesn’t know.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Esme’s father is an American who doesn’t know she exists. Esme’s attempts to find him are a major secondary plot in the book.

Broken Places by Tracy Clark

Cass Raines investigates the murder of father figure Father Ray Heaton.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Rachel Chu, who doesn’t know her birth father or anything about him, spends the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend and his family. (In the second book in the series, Rachel meets her birth father.)

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Willowdean is raised by her mother and aunt; her father is not in the picture, and if I recall correctly is not even mentioned.

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Eddie’s father dies by suicide just before this book begins; it is the story of her search for answers.

Fence by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad

Nicholas trains as an elite fencer hoping to join the world of his father, a fencing legend he never knew.

A Friend at Midnight by Caroline B. Cooney

Lily and Michael’s parents are divorced; she lives with their mom and he lives with their dad. Then one day their dad abandons Michael and it’s up to Lily to rescue him.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka

In this graphic memoir, Jarrett is raised by his grandparents and grapples with his mother’s addictions while trying to learn who his father is.

The Honey Bus by Meredith May

A memoir of beekeeping with her grandfather, who raised her after her parents’ divorce.

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

The book takes place in the aftermath of Steph’s death, and flashes back to Steph thinking about how the Notorious B.I.G.’s music helped him through his dad’s death, only for Biggie to die, too.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordon

Magnus was raised by a single mother and has lived on the streets alone for two years when he finds out that his father was the Norse god Frey.

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

The narrator lives with his aunt and uncle. His mother is dead and he doesn’t have a father anyone talks about. Also he might be a werewolf.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Antonia’s father dies by suicide in the opening of this novel, which is a single(ish) generation family epic.

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Bri attempts to win a rap battle in hopes of emulating her father, an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big.

Tiger Eyes by Judy Bloom

Davey’s father dies in a robbery and her mother takes her and her brother to stay with family in New Mexico, where Davey meets a boy who understands her.

To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

In this retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” Lira is the siren daughter of the Sea Queen, who is basically an AU Ursula the sea witch.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Macy’s father died during a morning run with her, and she has given up running. This book is about her recovery from the loss and attempts to move on with her life despite witnessing his death.

Unstoppable Wasp by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier

Nadya is raised in the Red Room until she escapes and goes looking for her father, Hank Pym, only to find that he is more or less dead (technically his soul is trapped, I think?).