Mother’s Day was this past weekend, and since that day may be a complicated subject for many people, it got me thinking about YA books that portray complicated relationships with moms. There are plenty of great moms in YA, which I love, but sometimes the complicated relationships speak to me more—after all, mothers are humans first, and none of us are perfect. Here are three great books that celebrate and explore complicated mother-daughter relationships.
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
This graphic memoir starts out with an event that’s nearly unforgivable: Robin and her mother leave South Korea for a vacation to the United States, and once there for a few days, Robin’s mom informs her that this is their new home—they won’t be returning to Seoul. Robin is devastated, and considers this the ultimate betrayal. As she struggles to assimilate to the U.S., her mom struggles to stand on her own and provide for them—but when she enrolls Robin in art classes, Robin begins to slowly make friends and feel more comfortable in her new home. Robin is transparent about writing and illustrating this memoir as a way to try and understand her mother and why she made the decision to move them so suddenly, and as she excavates her childhood memories and her mom’s past, she finds perhaps not a clear-cut explanation, but peace with her mother’s actions.
The Babysitter’s Coven by Kate Williams
This might be an unconventional pick, but bear with me: Esme is a teen who has a babysitter’s club. She knows that it’s a little lame, but she enjoys babysitting and she’s good at it—and what’s more, she knows that her mom was a babysitter at her age as well. Esme’s mom has an undiagnosed mental disorder that makes it difficult for her to take care of herself, so she lives in a resident care facility not too far away, and Esme and her dad visit often…but Esme can’t help but wonder what life would be like if her mom were truly present in her life. When strange things start happening to Esme and a string of kidnapping attempts rattle her, she discovers that she’s inherited a lot more from her mom besides a talent for childcare.
Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
This is a powerful novel about three generations of women: Katie, Caroline, and Mary. Katie is a teenager with a big secret: she’s gay and she doesn’t know how to tell her mom, Caroline. Caroline is the type of mom who always has things under control and does’t like disorder or mess, especially since Katie’s dad left. But when the grandmother Katie barely knows, Mary, winds up in the hospital suffering from dementia, there’s nowhere to take her but home with them. Caroline doesn’t want her mother to stay, but Katie doesn’t understand why they can’t care for her grandmother—or what secrets Mary and Caroline might be concealing. This is a fantastic novel about family, memory, and forgiveness.
What are some of your favorite YA mother-daughter stories? Share with us on our YA Instagram page!
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