I’m a huge fan of YA, but one thing I’ve come to realize as I’ve grown older is that older generations are often portrayed in overly simplistic or pretty cliche ways in YA novels. Many grandparents are so elderly that they aren’t an active part of their grandkids’ lives, or they die of natural causes at the ripe age of…70? While it’s true that many teens lose grandparents or don’t get a chance to know older generations, just as many have great relationships with their parents’ parents, or other members of the senior community and those relationships aren’t often highlighted or represented. I really appreciate when YA novels also go beyond a teen’s grandparents to show meaningful relationships with other seniors in a teen’s life, and these three books showcase those relationships wonderfully!
Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize by Margo Rabb
Lucy Clark has never been close with her parents. Raised by her grandmother and then dumped in boarding school after her death, Lucy is miserable…and when a bullying instance drives her over the edge, she finds herself bound for New York City, where she’s to stay with her older cousin and assist an older woman whom Lucy is told is showing early stages of dementia. But once she meets Edith, Lucy isn’t convinced that Edith is losing her grasp on the present. If anything, she’s certain that Edith is as sharp as ever…and Edith is convinced that someone is trying to kill her. Teaming up with Edith’s best friend, an elderly retired actress, Lucy agrees to investigate the mystery and uncover the truth. I loved how the older characters in this book become true friends to Lucy, not just “role models.”
Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Nala is looking forward to a summer of fun and relaxation, but when she meets Ty, who is a community activist and organizer, she tells a little white lie about working at her grandmother’s retirement community in order to impress him. The truth? She just likes hanging out at her grandma’s apartment and listening to her chat with all her friends. But now that Nala is committed and Ty seems interested in her, it’s difficult to walk back the lie. She’ll have to figure out a way to keep her new relationship going without letting anyone in on the truth, or letting her grandma grow suspicious. This is a great book that has some really wonderful moments between Nala, her grandmother, and her grandmother’s friends.
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Daunis is sticking close to home instead of going off to college, hoping to provide a stabilizing influence on her mom and younger brother, but her life is rocked by the murder of someone close to her and the revelation that the FBI is investigating her Ojibwe community. Daunis is dragged into the investigation against her better judgment…and finds help and support along the way from her community of elders. I loved how important the elders of this book were to Daunis and her journey, from her relationship with her best friend’s grandmother to the respect and understanding she has with the elder community. And the elders are very important to the plot, coming in at some very pivotal scenes!
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