One of the reasons why I love YA is because so many books explore the complicated time in teens’ lives where many are exploring what it means to be in a relationship for the first time while also becoming more aware of who they are and the world around them. That can also include a shift in how teens view their parents — not as all-knowing adults, but as real people with flaws of their own. Perhaps because I was blessed with wonderfully stable parents, I’ve always been drawn to YA books where the parents make mistakes and those mistakes affect their teens. Lately, I’ve noticed a number of YA books with subplots that involve parental infidelity, which I think is both fascinating and necessary. An informal survey of fellow YA readers and Rioters revealed that many people have been confronted with parental infidelity as teens, and my hope is that these YA books about parents cheating help teen readers feel less alone, so they can make sense of the complicated situations they might find themselves in.
Goodbye From Nowhere by Sara Zarr
Kyle thinks his family is pretty great — not perfect, but what family is? He loves nothing more than when the extended family gathers at his grandparents’ farm for summers and holidays, so he’s devastated when he receives two pieces of news: First, his dad confesses to him that his mom is having an affair. Second, his grandparents are selling the farm. As Kyle finds the rest of his life spinning out of control, he reaches out to the only person who can possibly understand, his cousin who lives on the other side of the state. As they prepare for their last trip to the farm, Kyle also must figure out if his family can be saved.
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura
Sana has a few secrets she’s keeping from her mom. First, she’s pretty sure she likes girls. Second, she knows that her dad is having an affair. And when her father uproots the family from Wisconsin to California, Sana suspects it’s so that he can be closer to his mistress. At first, there are lots of things that Sana likes about California, including making Asian American friends for the first time ever and flirting with Jamie, a cute girl at her school. But the pressure to keep her secrets begins to mount, and Sana finds herself getting more and more stressed by it all. But does she really know the whole truth about her family?
With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand
Ada has just decided to have sex with her boyfriend for the first time ever when she catches him cheating. She’s furious, but she barely has a chance to process the breakup when she’s whisked away on a planned family trip to Hawaii. But the unplanned part? Her stepdad stays behind at the last minute, claiming work needs him. But Ada and her older sister Afton recognize that their parents’ marriage is on the rocks, and this seems like a bad sign. Just as Ada is resigned to spending a week in paradise entertaining her 5-year-old sister Abby, she catches her mom having sex with someone who definitely isn’t her stepdad, and a week of painful secrets and epic miscommunication ensues, building up to a dramatic reveal.
The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
When Susan and her mom move from Saudi Arabia to Canada during her final year of high school, Susan knows that she may be the new girl, but she also has a reputation to uphold of being a good girl. And good girls don’t fall for someone like Malcolm, a known troublemaker. But the two connect, partly because of their troubles at home. Susan’s dad stayed behind in Saudi Arabia and it’s looking more and more like he might not join them. Malcom’s mom died of cancer, but before that he uncovered evidence of his dad’s affair. As they each deal with their family traumas and grief, they find if they have what it takes to make it together.
Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark
Abram and Juliette are neighbors and classmates, but their paths never crossed in any meaningful way until a fatal car accident revealed that Abram’s dad and Juliette’s mom were having an affair. They avoid each other for the most part, until an encounter at the local pharmacy throws them together and, despite all of the pain and awkwardness of the previous year, they find that they’re exactly what each other needs. But when they decide to take a trip to the beach house where their parents often slipped away together, Abram and Juliette are forced to confront their feelings for each other and their grief and anger head-on.
When We Were Strangers by Alex Richards
Evie has a big secret: On the day that her father suffered a fatal heart attack, she found his packed bags and decided to put them away so her mother never has to know her dad planned on leaving them. But then Evie finds out that her dad had been dating his secretary — and that she is six months pregnant. Evie doesn’t mean to stalk Bree at first. She just wants to know more about the woman that her dad was cheating with. Then an emergency forces Evie to actually make contact with Bree, and she learns that there’s so much more to the story than she ever suspected.
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