Family can be a loaded bag, but it can also be a warm, safe place to land. Many young adult books feature summer romances, sports, mental illness and other themes. But my favorite theme, hands down, is family stories. On this list of YA books about family, I’ve rounded up books about family relationships, secrets, dysfunction, reunions, and discovery. You’re in for a treat!
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20 Heartwarming YA Books About Family
Here are 20 sweet and moving books about family:
Twice As Perfect
Published: July 26, 2022
She thinks the only things worth doing are those that will lead to success.
For seventeen-year-old Adanna Nkwachi, life is all about duty: to school and the debate team, to her Nigerian parents, and even to her cousin Genny as Adanna helps prepare Genny’s wedding to Afrobeats superstar Skeleboy. Because ever since her older brother, Sam, had a fight with their parents a few years ago and disappeared, somebody had to fill the void he left behind. Adanna may never understand what caused Sam to leave home, but the one thing she knows is that it’s on her to make sure her parents’ sacrifices aren’t in vain.
One day, chance brings the siblings together again and they start working to repair their bond. Although she fears how their parents will react if they find out, Adanna’s determined to get answers about the night Sam left―Sam, who was supposed to be an engineer but is now, what, a poet? The more she learns about Sam’s poetry, the more Adanna begins to wonder if maybe her own happiness is just as important as doing what’s expected of her.
Love Is a Revolution
Published: February 2, 2021
When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.
You Have a Match
Published: January 12, 2021
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents ― especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
Far From the Tree
Published: October 3, 2017
Being the middle child has its ups and downs.
But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—
Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.
And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.
Clap When You Land
Published: May 5, 2020
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
My Sister’s Big Fat Indian Wedding
Published: April 19, 2022
Zurika Damani is a naturally gifted violinist with a particular love for hip hop beats. But when you’re part of a big Indian family, everyone has expectations, and those certainly don’t include hip hop violin. After being rejected by Juilliard, Zuri’s last hope is a contest judged by a panel of top tier college scouts. The only problem? This coveted competition happens to take place during Zuri’s sister’s extravagant wedding week. And Zuri has already been warned, repeatedly, that she is not to miss a single moment.
In the midst of the chaos, Zuri’s mom is in matchmaking mode with the groom’s South African cousin Naveen—who just happens to be a cocky vocalist set on stealing Zuri’s spotlight at the scouting competition. Luckily Zuri has a crew of loud and loyal female cousins cheering her on. Now, all she has to do is to wow the judges for a top spot, evade getting caught by her parents, resist Naveen’s charms, and, oh yeah . . . not mess up her sister’s big fat Indian wedding. What could possibly go wrong?
Published: May 31, 2022
Serene dreams of making couture dresses even more stunning than her mom’s, but for now she’s an intern at her mom’s fashion label. When her mom receives a sudden diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, all that changes. Serene has to take over her mother’s business overnight while trying to figure out what happened with her dad in Beijing. He left before she was born, and Serene wants to find him, even if it means going against her mom’s one request—never look back.
Lian Chen moved from China to Serene’s mostly white Southern California beach town a year ago. He doesn’t fit in at school, where kids mispronounce his name. His parents don’t care about what he wants to do—comedy—and push him toward going to MIT engineering early. Lian thinks there’s nothing to stick around for until one day he starts a Chinese Club after school . . . and Serene walks in.
Worlds apart in the high school hierarchy, Serene and Lian soon find refuge in each other, falling in love as they navigate life-changing storms.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Published: April 15, 2014
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?
Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance
Published: July 13, 2021
Radha is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest kathak dancers in the world . . . until a family betrayal costs her the biggest competition of her life. Now she has left her Chicago home behind to follow her stage mom to New Jersey. At the Princeton Academy of the Arts, Radha is determined to leave performing in her past and reinvent herself from scratch.
Jai is captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, ranked first in his class, and is an overachiever with no college plans. Tight family funds means medical school is a pipe dream, which is why he wants to make the most out of high school. When Radha enters his life, he realizes she’s the exact ingredient he needs for a show-stopping senior year.
With careful choreography, both Radha and Jai will need to face their fears (and their families) if they want a taste of a happily ever after.
10 Blind Dates
Published: October 1, 2019
Sophie wants one thing for Christmas―a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship.
Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.
When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.
This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever . . . or is it?
Published: August 1, 2017
Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he’d give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy, including the loss of his mother. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming Blade will become just like his father.
In reality, the only thing Blade and Rutherford have in common is the music that lives inside them. And songwriting is all Blade has left after Rutherford, while drunk, crashes his high school graduation speech and effectively rips Chapel away forever. But when a long-held family secret comes to light, the music disappears. In its place is a letter, one that could bring Blade the freedom and love he’s been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.
One True Loves
Published: January 4, 2022
Lenore Bennett has always been a force. A star artist and style icon at her high school, she’s a master in the subtle art of not giving a . . . well, you know what. But now that graduation is here, she’s a little less sure.
She’s heading to NYU in the fall with a scarlet U (for “undeclared”) written across her chest. Her parents always remind her that Black kids don’t have the luxury of figuring it out as they go—they have to be 110 percent prepared. But it’s a lot of pressure to be her ancestors’ wildest dreams when Lenore’s not even sure what her dreams are yet.
When her family embarks on a post-graduation Mediterranean cruise, her friend Tessa is sure Lenore’s in for a whirlwind romance. But Lenore knows that doesn’t happen to girls like her.
Then she meets Alex Lee. After their parents bond over the Cupid Shuffle, she ends up stuck with him for the remainder of the cruise. He’s a hopeless romantic and a golden boy with a ten-year plan. In short, he’s irritating as hell.
But as they get to know each other during the picturesque stops across Europe, Alex may be able to help Lenore find something else she’s been looking for, even if she doesn’t want to admit it to herself: love.
Where the Rhythm Takes You
Published: May 11, 2021
Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at the Plumeria, her family’s gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It’s been two years since Reyna’s mother passed away, two years since Aiden—her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything—left the island to pursue his music dreams.
Reyna’s friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even Daddy seems to want to move on, leaving her to try to keep the Plumeria running.
And that’s when Aiden comes roaring back into her life—as a VIP guest at the resort.
Aiden is now one-third of DJ Bacchanal—the latest, hottest music group on the scene. While Reyna has stayed exactly where he left her, Aiden has returned to Tobago with his Grammy-nominated band and two gorgeous LA socialites. And he may (or may not be) dating one of them…
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling
Published: November 10, 2020
Anna Chiu has her hands full. When she’s not looking after her brother and sister or helping out at her father’s restaurant, she’s taking care of her mother, whose debilitating mental illness keeps her in bed most days. Her father’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could be a normal teen.But when her mother finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as her mother’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling is a heart-wrenching, true-to-life exploration through the often neglected crevices of culture, mental illness, and family. Its strong themes are balanced by a beautiful romance making it a feel-good, yet important read.
Salaam, with Love
Published: January 4, 2022
Being crammed into a house in Queens with her cousins is not how Dua envisions her trip to New York City. But here she is, spending the holy month of Ramadan with extended family she hasn’t seen in years.
Dua struggles to find her place in the conservative household and to connect with her aloof, engaged-to-be-married cousin, Mahnoor. And as if fasting the whole day wasn’t tiring enough, she must battle her hormones whenever she sees Hassan, the cute drummer in a Muslim band who has a habit of showing up at her most awkward moments.
After just a month, Dua is surprised to find that she’s learning a lot more than she bargained for about her faith, relationships, her place in the world—and cute drummers. . . .
Lulu and Milagro’s Search for Clarity
Published: February 8, 2022
Overachiever Luz “Lulu” Zavala has straight As, perfect attendance, and a solid ten-year plan. First up: nail her interview for a dream internship at Stanford, the last stop on her school’s cross-country college road trip. The only flaw in her plan is Clara, her oldest sister, who went off to college and sparked a massive fight with their overprotective Peruvian mom, who is now convinced that out-of-state-college will destroy their family. If Lulu can’t fix whatever went wrong between them, the whole trip—and her future—will be a waste.
Middle sister Milagro wants nothing to do with college or a nerdy class field trip. Then a spot opens up on the trip just as her own spring break plans (Operation Don’t Die a Virgin) are thwarted, and she hops on the bus with her glittery lipsticks, more concerned about getting back at her ex than she is about schools or any family drama. But the trip opens her eyes about possibilities she’d never imagined for herself. Maybe she is more than the boy-crazy girl everyone seems to think she is.
On a journey from Baltimore all the way to San Francisco, Lulu and Milagro will become begrudging partners as they unpack weighty family expectations, uncover Clara’s secrets, and maybe even discover the true meaning of sisterhood.
The Rest of the Story
Published: June 4, 2019
Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when Emma was twelve. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.
Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family that she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.
When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is also divided into two people. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.
Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.
For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her—Emma or Saylor—will win out?
How to Live Without You
Published: May 17, 2022
When her sister Rose disappeared, seventeen-year-old Emmy lost a part of herself. Everyone else seems convinced she ran away and will reappear when she’s ready, but Emmy isn’t so sure. That doesn’t make sense for the Rose she knew: effervescent, caring, and strong-willed. So Emmy returns to their Ohio hometown for a summer, determined to uncover clues that can lead her back to Rose once and for all.
But what Emmy finds is a string of secrets and lies that she never thought possible, casting the person she thought she knew best in a whole new light. Reeling with confusion, Emmy decides to step into Rose’s life. She reconnects with their childhood best friend and follows in Rose’s last known footsteps with heart-wrenching consequences.
I Love You So Mochi
Published: May 28, 2019
She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother disapproves, and when they get into an explosive fight, Kimi’s entire future seems on the verge of falling apart. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life. When she arrives in Japan, she’s met with a culture both familiar and completely foreign to her. She loses herself in the city’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival — and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And what begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.
This Side of Home
Published: February 3, 2015
Maya Younger and her identical twin sister, Nikki, have always agreed on the important things. Friends. Boys. School. They even plan to attend the same historically African American college.
But nothing can always remain the same.
As their Portland neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, Maya feels her connection to Nikki and their community slipping away. Nikki spends more time at trendy coffee shops than backyard barbecues, and their new high school principal is more committed to erasing the neighborhood’s “ghetto” reputation than honoring its history. Home doesn’t feel like home anymore. As Maya struggles to hold on to her black heritage, she begins to wonder with whom–or where–she belongs. Does growing up have to mean growing apart?
There they are: 20 of the best YA books about family! Which of these books have you read? What did I miss?