11 YA Books With Mother-Daughter Relationships That Explore The Complexities Of This Bond
Like any other relationship, the dynamics between mothers and daughters can be complicated. Whether you have a wonderful relationship with your mom or not, the truth is that there are so many unique factors at play when it comes to the way moms and their daughters relate to one another. And YA books about mother-daughter relationships don't tend to hold back when exploring all of this, if the 11 books below are any indication. Each of these books explores a different type of mother-daughter relationship — they're beautiful, messy, and emotionally wrecking. Ultimately, each one is a testament to the power of this bond and how much this relationship can affect your future.
If you've been looking for a book to share with your own mom or a mother figure in your life, look no further than this stack. Any one of these young adult novels will open up some important conversations between you, and can maybe even help shift your perspectives about one another — for the better. And if nothing else, they'll give you a really good excuse to crack open a bottle of wine for a little mother-daughter book club. Here are 11 YA novels that explore mother-daughter relationships in all their complexities:
'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson has always been at home in her own skin — but that doesn't mean she's always understood or even been able to relate to her former beauty queen mom. But when Willowdean (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her mom) decides to join her town's beauty pageant it starts her on a journey to see herself and her mom in a whole new light.
'The Poet X' by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara's mother is determined to make her follow the laws of the church — even if that means verbally and physically abusing her into submission. But when X begins to find her voice through poetry and performing, she knows she can't go back to the way things used to be. This exploration of art and its ability to change lives is at its strongest when taking an unflinching look at the complicated, but ultimately loving, relationship between Xiomara and her mom.
'In Search Of Us' by Ava Dellaira
To 17-year-old Angie, who is mixed-race, Marilyn is her hardworking, devoted white single mother. But Marilyn was once young, too. When Marilyn was 17, she fell in love with Angie's father, James, who was African-American. But Angie's never met him. So she sets off on a journey to find him, and along the way, uncovers some hard truths about herself, her mother, and what truly happened to her father.
'Emergency Contact' by Mary H.K. Choi
All Penny wants to do is graduate from high school and leave her high maintenance mom behind. Why can't Celeste stop trying to be Penny's best friend — stop trying to dress like her and talk like her and date all of her classmate's dads — and just be the mom? Here, Choi explores what happens when mothers and daughters don't see eye to eye... on just about everything.
'Moxie' by Jennifer Mathieu
It's Vivian's close relationship with her mother that is at the center of Moxie — from Viv's choice to follow in her mom's Riot Grrl footsteps and start a 'zine about her highschool's rampant sexism to her exploration of what it means to be a feminist after her mom starts dating a Republican. Moxie is not only a love-letter to girl power, but to all of the women in our lives to help shape and influence who we become.
'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell
Though Fangirl's main focus is on Cath — her journey through anxiety, her love of writing, her growing pains as a freshman in college — family is truly at the heart of the story. All of Cath's family bonds come to a head in the novel, but it's the emotional look her mother's abandonment and the life-long consequences thereof that make this a powerful look at the truth about the way mother-daughter dynamics can have a lasting effect on our lives, both good and bad.
'Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined' by Danieille Younge-Ullman
In Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined we get to learn more about the complicated relationship between Ingrid and her former opera singing star, Margot-Sophia. As Ingrid treks through the wilderness, she writes letters to her mom, who forced Ingrid to come on the trip in exchange for tuition to a performing arts school. Legacy and expectations, and all the different kinds of grief and loss are put under the microscope here, to emotional results.
'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Maurene Goo
Though it's the father-daughter relationship that takes center stage in Goo's third book, she has a lot of interesting things to say about motherhood, too. Here, Clara is being raised by her single dad but she worships her high-flying, world-traveling mother. Is everything Clara thinks about her mom real, or has she been tricked by the facade and Instagram filters? How we see our parents — especially our mothers — verses who they really are is one of the biggest themes in this book.
'When Dimple Met Rishi' by Sandhya Menon
Dimple's mother seems to have many traditional expectations for her — dress like a lady, act like a lady, get married to a respectable boy that her parents have chosen for her. But Dimple just wants to spend the summer at tech camp in peace. This tug of war between the two is at the center of this novel, as Dimple comes to learn that she might just be wrong about what her mother wants for her daughter.
'I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter' by Erika L. Sanchez
At the heart of Sanchez's debut is Julia's journey to finding out just why exactly what made her mother the cruelly strict woman who just doesn't understand her. Powerful revelations about faith, culture, and the lengths that immigrants must go to in order to make a life in America are all here, in an unflinching take on traditional meets modern, mother meets daughter, and past meets present.
'To All The Boys I've Loved Before' by Jenny Han
Though Lara Jean's mom has passed away before the beginning of this book, her memory and influence runs strong throughout the entire series. Through the Song sisters' constant memories of their mother and Han's choice to explore just how complicated it can be to see a parent remarry, her series is a beautiful tribute to the enduring strength of mother/daughters relationships.