Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

YA Books About Family and Self Discovery

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Abby Jamison

Staff Writer

Abby Jamison, a graduate from the University of Missouri- Kansas City and a full-time Editor, lives in Kansas City, MO with her partner and two cats. She enjoys reading YA novels, writing her always-in-progress novel and posting about her life on Instagram. You can find her at @abbsjay and @bookwhimsies.

Family can be complicated. Whether yours is by blood, home-grown, or found, who raises us, helps us, and loves us makes us who we are, and finding the beauty in that is powerful. It’s not always pretty: messy conversations and misunderstandings, forgiveness and grudges, secrets and broken promises. But no matter what it is, through it all there’s this tinge of something that keeps you fighting for your family. I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s loyalty or love or some powerful unknown source, but the people who make us us create stories that can be breathtakingly beautiful in all of their complicated glory.

The characters in these YA books about family may be very different from one another, but they all deal with the trials and worries that come with complicated families. How they let their families make or break them, well, you’ll just have to read to find out. Maybe you can relate to these YA books about family, but regardless, I hope these poetic and deep-rooted young adult stories can take you on an atmospheric journey to your own self discovery.

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Ingrid has lived two very different lives: one from her younger years, traveling Europe at her mother’s side as she graced stages as a world-class opera singer. Then everything changed. Now this is Ingrid’s life: a summer wilderness trek for at-risk teens. She doesn’t feel like she belongs with these delinquent kids, but she’s there, and she has more than just the physical trials to combat. With flashbacks to her old life, this mysterious story begins to unravel as Ingrid starts to deal with the trauma of her life, connect with her fellow hikers, and find the courage to follow her dreams, no matter what.

With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

High school senior Emoni Santiago deals with more than your average teenager. She’s a mom to a 2-year-old and lives with her grandma. Her relationship with her dad is complicated. She clings to what little she knows about her own mom. She’s trying to graduate high school, but doesn’t know what comes after that. Oh, and she’s one hell of a cook. Juggling life, raising her daughter, and trying to provide for her family, Emoni hasn’t had time to dream for herself. With new opportunities, love, and her family to back her up, Emoni has to make the hard decisions on what’s best for her family and for herself.

The Smell of Other People's HousesThe Smell Of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

Living in 1970 Alaska brings on a life very different than those of other teenagers. Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank live very different lives from one another, but they are all tangled in the web of family, faith, loss, and desire. With secrets, broken families, and a setting that’s both dreamy and ominous, these four teens’ lives intertwine in ways they couldn’t have imagined. A story full of heart, suspense, and a deep sense of discovery, it’s the Alaskan narrative you never knew you needed.

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

Nima Kumara-Clark feels painfully ordinary. She’s been hopelessly in love with her straight friend, feels lost in her seemingly boring home town, and has unresolved feelings towards her mother, who walked out on her and her father unexpectedly. But then Nima stumbles into a different kind of community while at the annual summer festival, her world is turned upside down. With the help of drag queens, kings, and yes, everything in-between, Nima discovers a part of her town, and her self, that opens her up to all kinds of new life, love, and joy.