Family-Focused YA Reads for Your Thanksgiving Trip Home

As we all venture into crowded airports, packed train stations, and traffic-riddled highways on the biggest travel days of the year, it's helpful to have a good book at our sides for the journey. And as traveling for Thanksgiving evokes memories of home, parents, siblings and other family members, it can be a good time to reflect on the family in particular. These seven novels are as diverse as families themselves and will hit upon themes most important around the holiday.

So when you're stuffed in the middle seat on an airplane or when you're stuffed from too much pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, retreat into these books centered on the bonds of family, how they can break, how they can be revived, and what keeps them together — they might just make you even more thankful for the family you have.

Image: sanbeiji/Flickr

by Caitlin White

'Fingerprints of You' by Kristen-Paige Madonia

Kristen-Paige Madonia's debut novel tells the story of high school senior Lemon, who finds herself pregnant by one of her mother Stella's many boyfriends, a skeezy tattoo artist. This predicament sends Lemon on a journey to find the father she never knew and struggle with the notion that she, like Stella, is bound to be a young, unmarried mother. The story is beautiful and delves into the imprint our family makes on us and the ones we might make on our new generation — certainly a reflection worthy of thought on a trip back home.

'How I Live Now' by Meg Rosoff

When Meg Rosoff's debut novel How I Live Now was published in 2004, it was one of the most talked about books of the year. The story centers on Daisy, a 15-year-old Manhattanite living with her widowed father and stepmother who is sent to a farm in England to live with her aunt and cousins when a war breaks out. But when her aunt is stranded elsewhere and bombs go off in London, it's just Daisy and her cousins on the remote farm, which becomes occupied by soldiers. Daisy and her youngest cousin Piper must stick together to survive. While How I Live Now is superficially about war, it is also about the bonds of family, particularly cousins — who can be the overlooked family members in YA novels. And although it includes a bit of social taboo surrounding cousins you may not want to mimic over Thanksgiving, it does give a healthy reminder to give thanks for the cousins you may have.

'Jacob Have I Loved' by Katherine Paterson

A mainstay on middle and high school English class curriculums, Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved takes a biblical reference to the most famous of siblings, Jacob and Esau, to tell the story of two rival sisters.

Sara Louise was constantly taunted by her grandmother with "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," knowing the former was a reference to her twin sister Caroline, the selfish, but beloved one. Paterson pits Louise and Caroline against each other in jealousy, rivalry, fighting for what each believe they deserve, with Caroline often triumphing over Louise. But Louise grows to understand her own role in who she becomes, and it is a reminder that family is only part of who we are; it does not determine everything about who we aim to be.

'Under the Mesquite' by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Garcia McCall draws from her own experiences to tell the story of Lupita, a poet in a Mexican family that immigrated to America. As Lupita's mother learns she has cancer, Lupita takes up household responsibilities and cares for her seven younger siblings — all while trying to deal with the ups and downs of teenage life and realizing that her mother may not be there for her graduation. Under the Mesquite is told in part in lyrical poetry and free verse, and it includes a Spanish-to-English dictionary. It's about the strength of familial bonds, even across borders, and finding identity in a large family, but will resonate with anyone as their family changes and adapts to the swings of life.

'The Opposite of Hallelujah' by Anna Jarzab

Ever since she was 8 years old, Anna Jarzab's protagonist Caro considered herself an only child, and she was happy that way. Her considerably older sister Hannah left to join the Sisters of Grace convent, and Caro told friends that she had died. But The Opposite of Hallelujah tells about what happens when Hannah returns in bad shape, and Caro continues to lie about her while her parents struggle with how to handle both of their daughters. It should grab at readers that have a complicated past with a sibling and are dealing with how to move forward with that relationship.

'Fall for Anything' by Courtney Summers

Courtney Summers takes a break from her female leads that have been described as "mean girls" to tell the tale of Eddie Reeves, a girl seeking answers on the supposed suicide of her beloved father. From his suicide note to the information from her father's photography protégé Culler, Eddie knows that there's more to his death than seen on the surface and sets out for answers. While deaths in the family aren't quite the themes for a holiday, Eddie's story can make you thankful for your own family, as crazy as they may be.

'If You Find Me' by Emily Murdoch

Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me tells the story of a bond between two sisters, Carey and her younger sister Jenessa. Jenessa hasn't spoken since one traumatic night that neither of the sisters acknowledge, and their mentally ill and drug-addicted mother disappears and reappears in their lives until one day she leaves and doesn't come back. If You Find Me is about the best and worst of family bonds and the events that tear family apart and bring it together. It reminds readers to look to your left and right during Thanksgiving, because your siblings are in similar boats that you are.