Welcome, to the magical world of 'found family' books. For those new to the term, found family is a literary trope where a group of individuals, not biologically related, end up becoming as close, if not closer, than a traditional family.
Whether our characters are leading a solitary life, enrolled in a local private school, or dealing with an estranged father, the concept of found families remains a heartwarming testament to the power of human connection.
You may wonder, "Why should we care about these found families? Don't we have our own families to ponder upon?" A valid question indeed, but we believe the charm of found family books lies precisely in their reflection of our own family experiences and dynamics. Whether it's the bond between close friends who become a little family or the mutual support between a group of people surviving together, these stories capture the essence of familial love in its most genuine form.
In our own lives, we often find that our extended family isn't just bound to us by blood. We might find a 'family' in our neighborhood book club or among our best friends. It's these relationships, cherished and nurtured, that form the basis of found families.
For our children, found family books can be a gentle introduction to the idea that family is not just about who you share your DNA with. It can be the treasure hunter duo who adventured together in their wildest dreams, the six dangerous outcasts who came together for an impossible heist, or even the criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker and his trusty crew. Reading about these characters and their unconventional families encourages empathy, understanding, and a broader view of what 'family' can truly mean.
So join us today as we delve into the magical world of found family books. We're not just exploring new life scenarios here; we're also embarking on a journey filled with love stories, dangerous children residing in fantasy worlds, and world-building that stretches far beyond our own understanding of 'family'. By the end of our journey, we hope you'll come to see these books as more than just stories – they're lessons in love, resilience, and the power of chosen families.
Why Found Family Books Matter
As we move along this exciting journey, it's vital to consider the heart of the matter - why do found family books matter? Why should we, as parents and individuals, care about a group of outcasts in a YA fantasy novel finding solace in each other’s company? Or, why should we invest in the story of a child who leaves a lonely life and finds an unexpected family in a government-sanctioned orphanage?
The answer lies within the concept of found families themselves.
At the core, these books hold up a mirror to our society. They explore the concept of a chosen family, shining a light on the power of choice and the boundless capacity of humans to care for one another, even when they are not biologically related.
For kids and adults alike, these narratives offer a powerful message of inclusivity and acceptance. They show that families come in all shapes and sizes and that love and connection are not exclusive to blood relations.
These books contribute significantly to world building in literature, introducing readers to a wide variety of family structures and dynamics, and taring down the myth of "normal".
For example, they might depict a young girl suddenly finding herself in a prestigious company due to a highly classified assignment she was assigned out-of-the-blue one day. Or a teenager who, following a tragedy that strikes his biological family, finds comfort and camaraderie in a group of fellow students at a local private school.
They encapsulate the true essence of familial love, proving that family isn't about blood, but about created bonds.
Additionally, these types of books can serve as excellent tools for discussing and understanding other complex issues.
For instance, the concept of foster care, which might seem intimidating and confusing to some kids at first, can be gently introduced and explored through these narratives. The story of an estranged father reconciling with his child could serve as a starting point for a conversation about forgiveness and understanding as well as boundaries and mental health.
In essence, books about found family act as a lighthouse in the literary sea, guiding us through the tumultuous waves of life's varied relationships.
They reassure us that even if we're dealing with a dangerous life, facing challenges beyond our wildest dreams, or living a life far removed from what we initially planned, we have the potential to find or build a family of our own, one bound by love, respect, and mutual support.
So let's celebrate these books and the life lessons they offer.
They are not just stories; they are a testament to the human spirit's resilience, our ability to adapt, and the strength of love in all its forms.
Because in the end, it's not just about having a family - it's about creating a home.
Top 10 Must-Read Found Family Books in 2023
It's time to dive into the magical worlds these authors have created for us. So, cozy up in your tiny house, join your book club, or simply snuggle in your favorite reading nook. Here are our top ten must-read found family books of 2023 that we simply can't wait for you to discover:
1. "Magic for Liars" by Sarah Gailey
"Magic for Liars" by Sarah Gailey is a captivating debut novel (a 2020 LOCUS AWARD FINALIST FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL) that combines elements of mystery and fantasy. The story follows Ivy Gamble, a private investigator, who is hired to solve a murder at the Osthorne Academy for Young Mages, where her estranged sister works as a teacher. Ivy has a complicated relationship with her sister and with magic itself, as she was born without magical abilities. As she delves into the investigation, Ivy uncovers secrets, navigates the dynamics of the magical school, and reconciles with her past.
The main themes explored in the book include identity, sibling relationships, jealousy, and the consequences of living in a world of magic. Ivy's journey is a central story arc as she confronts her own insecurities and comes to terms with her place in a world of magic that she has always felt disconnected from. The theme of "found family" emerges as Ivy navigates her relationship with her sister and forms new connections with the characters she encounters during her investigation. It emphasizes the importance of acceptance, understanding, and the support one can find outside of blood ties.
Reviewers have praised "Magic for Liars" for its unique blend of genres and its ability to surprise and captivate readers. Gailey's writing has been commended for its depth, avoiding clichés, and bringing fresh perspectives to familiar themes. The book has been appreciated for its engaging plot, intriguing characters, and the skillful exploration of human emotions within a magical setting.
2. "Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos" by Nash Jenkins
"Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos" by Nash Jenkins is a sprawling debut novel that delves into the tragic scandal at an American prep school through a millennial lens. The story revolves around Foster Dade, a transfer student at an elite boarding school in 2008, as he navigates adolescence and unravels the mysteries surrounding his parents' scandalous divorce.
The narrative is presented as a literary investigation conducted by an unnamed narrator who inherits Foster's old dorm room. Through interviews with former classmates, blog posts, playlists, and the narrator's own imagination, a story unfolds, raising questions about personal narratives, self-mythologizing, privilege, power, and toxic masculinity.
One of the main themes explored in the book is the concept of privilege and its effects on individuals and their relationships. It also delves into the expectations and pitfalls of masculinity and the formation of personal mythologies. The story arc revolves around Foster's past and the investigation undertaken by the narrator, intertwining personal growth, adolescent struggles, and the complexities of boarding school life.
In terms of "found family," the book examines the friendships and connections formed among the characters within the boarding school setting. While biological families may be fractured or absent, the characters find solace and support in their chosen relationships, creating a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
Reviewers praise the novel for its witty and emotionally intense portrayal of adolescence. They appreciate the exploration of privilege, power dynamics, and the complexities of masculinity. The writing style is often described as beautiful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. Readers compare the book to works like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and note its bittersweetness and realism. Overall, reviewers find "Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos" to be a compelling and deeply resonant coming-of-age story.
3."Ancillary Justice" by Ann Leckie
"Ancillary Justice" by Ann Leckie is a science fiction novel set in a distant future where an AI named Breq seeks revenge against the oppressive empire she once served. The story explores themes of identity, justice, power, and the blurred boundaries between human and machine.
The notion of "found family" plays a significant role in the book. Breq forms connections and alliances with diverse characters, building a makeshift family of individuals who support and rely on each other in their shared struggles against a common enemy. The theme of found family highlights the importance of human connection, loyalty, and the strength derived from coming together in the face of adversity.
Reviewers have praised "Ancillary Justice" for its compelling storytelling, intricate world-building, and thought-provoking exploration of gender and identity. The book has received numerous accolades, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke awards. Many reviewers consider it a groundbreaking work in science fiction and applaud Leckie's ability to challenge established norms and conventions within the genre.
4."The Gravity of Us" by Brittainy C. Cherry
"The Gravity of Us" by Brittainy C. Cherry is a captivating and emotionally charged romance novel. (We have to represent a variety of interests here after all 😉) The story revolves around Lucy and Graham, two individuals who come from different worlds but find solace and healing in each other's presence. As they navigate their complicated relationship, they discover the power of love, forgiveness, and second chances.
The main themes in the book include love (shocker!), redemption, personal growth, and the healing power of human connection. Both Lucy and Graham undergo transformative journeys as they confront their past traumas and learn to trust and open their hearts to one another.
The concept of "found family" is intricately woven into the narrative. Lucy and Graham both come from broken family backgrounds and have experienced emotional pain and loss. Through their relationship, they find a sense of belonging and create a new support system with each other and the people they care about.
The theme of found family highlights the importance of choosing the people who uplift and love us, regardless of blood ties.
Reviewers praise "The Gravity of Us" for its powerful emotional impact and compelling storytelling. The book is often described as a heartwarming and heart-wrenching journey that resonates with readers.
5. "The Hunger Games" Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
"The Hunger Games" trilogy by Suzanne Collins is set in a dystopian world where kids are forced to participate in a televised fight to the death. The main themes in the trilogy include survival, rebellion against oppressive systems, sacrifice, and the effects of power and manipulation. The story arcs follow the journey of the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, as she becomes the symbol of hope for the oppressed districts and leads a revolution against the tyrannical Capitol.
The concept of "found family" is present throughout the series. Katniss forms close bonds with her allies, including her fellow tribute Peeta Mellark, her mentor Haymitch Abernathy, and other rebellion members. They become her chosen family, supporting and relying on each other in the face of adversity.
Reviewers of "The Hunger Games" trilogy have praised Collins' gripping storytelling, compelling characters, and the exploration of societal issues. The trilogy has been praised for its thought-provoking themes and its ability to captivate both young adult and adult readers.
6. "The Raven Boys" by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Boys" is the first book in "The Raven Cycle" series by Maggie Stiefvater. The story follows Blue Sargent, a non-psychic girl from a family of clairvoyants. Every year, Blue stands with her mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past, but she has never seen them herself. Until one year, when she sees a boy named Gansey emerge from the darkness and speak to her. Gansey is on a quest that involves three other Raven Boys: Adam, Ronan, and Noah. As Blue becomes entangled in their mysterious world, she realizes that her life and her beliefs are about to change.
The main themes in "The Raven Boys" include friendship, destiny, identity, and the search for something greater than oneself. The story arcs revolve around the quest for the legendary Welsh king Glendower, the characters' personal struggles and growth, and the exploration of magical and supernatural elements.
The concept of "found family" is an important aspect of the book. The characters, despite their differences and backgrounds, come together and form a strong bond, supporting and caring for each other like a chosen family. This theme emphasizes the power of connection and belonging beyond blood ties.
Reviewers say: "The Raven Boys" is praised for its intricate and deep characterization, unique storyline, atmospheric setting, and beautiful writing. The relationships between the characters, the slow-building romance, and the sense of mystery and adventure are highly appreciated by readers.
7. "Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City" by Jane Wong
"Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City" by Jane Wong is a brand new (as of May 2023) memoir that explores the author's experiences growing up as a restaurant baby in New Jersey, the challenges she faced due to her father's gambling addiction, and the dynamics within her Asian American working-class family. Wong delves into themes of identity, resilience, cultural expectations, and the search for belonging.
The book follows a non-linear narrative, offering glimpses into Wong's childhood and her journey to adulthood. She reflects on her relationships, both romantic and familial, and candidly discusses the impact of abandonment, racism, and misogyny on her life.
Wong's writing is poetic, combining humor and vulnerability to convey her experiences and emotions.
The concept of "found family" is interwoven throughout the memoir. Wong's close bond with her mother and brother provides a sense of support and strength amidst adversity. While exploring her personal relationships, Wong grapples with the question of what it means to find love, acceptance, and a sense of belonging within chosen relationships beyond biological ties.
The memoir is seen as a powerful exploration of personal growth, cultural identity, and the impact of family dynamics. Readers find it relatable, moving, and thought-provoking, highlighting the author's skill in crafting a compelling narrative.
8. "The House in the Cerulean Sea" by T.J. Klune
House in the Cerulean Sea is a heartwarming and whimsical novel that follows the story of Linus Baker, a government worker who is sent on a special assignment to observe magical kids on a secluded island. As Linus gets to know the unique and diverse group of children under the care of Arthur and Zoe, his perspective on life and the value of love and acceptance undergoes a profound transformation. Filled with themes of found family, acceptance, and the power of compassion, this book explores the beauty of embracing differences and the importance of standing up against prejudice.
Living a life of tranquility and solitude, Linus Baker finds comfort in his minimalist home, sharing space with a crafty devious cat companion and his cherished collection of vintage records. As he turns forty, his professional role as a Case Worker in the Bureau for Magical Youth places him in charge of ensuring the welfare of magical youngsters housed in government-sanctioned orphanages.
His new mission is both peculiar and highly confidential: he is to visit Marsyas Island Orphanage, an unusual sanctuary for six dangerous children, including a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an indefinable green entity, a were-Pomeranian, and the one who bears the title of the Antichrist. Linus is faced with the daunting task of setting his trepidation aside to assess if these kids possess the capacity to trigger an apocalypse.
9. "The Gilded Wolves" by Roshani Chokshi
The main themes in "The Gilded Wolves" include found family, historical fantasy, heist adventures, and diverse representation. The story revolves around a group of treasure-hunting societal outcasts who form a found family and embark on a dangerous mission to steal a powerful ancient artifact in Paris during the Exposition Universelle World Fair. They face danger, deception, and puzzles while navigating the opulence of the city.
The concept of found family is central to the narrative, as the characters, who come from different backgrounds and face rejection from society, find solace and support in each other. They form a tight-knit group and rely on their unique skills and abilities to overcome challenges.
Reviewers have praised the book for its immersive world-building, evocative writing, and well-developed, diverse characters.
It has been compared to works like "Six of Crows" and "The Da Vinci Code," blending elements of historical fiction, fantasy, and one impossible heist narratives.
The representation of marginalized characters and the exploration of their personal struggles have been welcomed with open arms by readers.
10."Six of Crows Duology Box Set" by Leigh Bardugo
The "Six of Crows" boxed set includes the books "Six of Crows" and "Crooked Kingdom" by Leigh Bardugo. These books are set in the same world as Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy and follow a group of outcasts as they attempt a deadly heist.
The books have received positive reviews and are known for their engaging characters and intricate plot.
The main themes include heists, loyalty, friendship, redemption, and overcoming personal demons. The series also delves into the themes of identity, sacrifice, and the consequences of one's choices.
The story arcs revolve around a group of six outcasts known as the Dregs, led by Kaz Brekker, as they undertake daring and dangerous missions in the gritty city of Ketterdam. Each character in Kaz's crew has their own personal journey and struggles, and the books explore their growth, relationships, and the challenges they face as they navigate a world of crime, power struggles, and magic.
Favorite Found Family Book Characters
In the world of found family books, characters often become much more than just the protagonists of a story. They become our friends, our allies, our confidants. They become a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, offering us glimpses of ourselves and of the possibilities that can unfold when we open our hearts to others.
Let's meet some of our favorite characters who've shown us the power of chosen families!
1. Kaz Brekker from "Six of Crows"
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One of the reasons to love Kaz is his depth and complexity. Beneath his tough exterior and ruthless reputation as a criminal prodigy, he harbors a tragic past that has shaped him. He carries emotional scars and trauma, which make him a complex and multi-dimensional character. Despite his flaws, Kaz shows vulnerability and struggles with his inner demons, making him relatable and human.
Kaz is fiercely loyal to his crew and a proud member 0f the Dregs. He values their trust and camaraderie, and he would go to great lengths to protect them.
Despite his dark and morally ambiguous nature, Kaz also displays glimpses of compassion and empathy. He is not entirely devoid of goodness, and his actions sometimes reveal a sense of justice and fairness.
This complexity and the constant struggle between light and darkness within him make him a fascinating character to follow.
2. Breq from "Ancillary Justice"
Ann Leckie's 'Ancillary Justice' is a captivating science fiction narrative set in a far-off future, centered around an Artificial Intelligence known as Breq.
Breq, bent on avenging the tyrannical empire she was once part of, is a potent symbol of the blurred lines separating humans and machines, as well as a harbinger of themes concerning identity, justice, and power.
The concept of a 'chosen family' is deeply ingrained within the fabric of this story. Breq forms bonds and alliances with an assortment of characters, essentially forming an improvised family unit composed of individuals who depend on each other while confronting their shared adversary.
This theme of a chosen family underscores the significance of human bonds, loyalty, and the power that emerges when disparate individuals unite in the face of trials and tribulations.
3. Linus Baker from "House in the Cerulean Sea"
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In "The House in the Cerulean Sea," Linus Baker emerges as an initially reticent government worker tasked with appraising an orphanage inhabited by remarkable children.
His evolution throughout the narrative renders him both endearing and admirable. Linus is characterized by his deep-seated empathy and compassion, which are laid bare as he connects with the children, looks past their extraordinary exteriors, and battles against biases and discrimination.
Throughout the story, Linus experiences significant personal growth that transforms him from a reserved rule-follower into a courageous advocate for the children's rights.
Confronting his own prejudices, he embraces their unique gifts and individual stories, exhibiting fortitude and integrity when faced with adversity. His unyielding commitment and tenacity in standing up for his beliefs, even when met with resistance, make him a compelling protagonist.
His vulnerability and journey of self-discovery further underscore his humanity, making him highly relatable. Linus's internal struggles, self-doubt, and introspective moments remind us of the universal themes of acceptance, love, and the importance of cherishing the unconventional. Linus Baker, with his transformative journey, compassion, and steadfast dedication to the children's welfare, becomes an inspirational figure in "The House in the Cerulean Sea," a character we find ourselves rooting for and learning from.
These characters are not just parts of a story. They are embodiments of the lessons we hope to impart to our children - that the concept of a family extends beyond biological ties, and that love and understanding are the foundations of any real family, found or otherwise.
The magic of found family books lies in their ability to reflect the diversity and resilience of human connections. These books teach us that family isn't just about who we share our DNA with - it's about who we share our lives with. They remind us that love, empathy, and understanding can turn a group of people into a makeshift family. And they show us that families can be found in the most unexpected places - in a tiny house, among a crew of six dangerous outcasts, or even within an unidentifiable green blob and a devious cat!
These stories of chosen families are not just captivating tales of adventure and fantasy. They are life lessons wrapped in pages, guiding us to understand and appreciate the various forms of familial love. And in the process, they often lead us to discover more about our own families, and about ourselves.
As parents, we're always seeking ways to educate and inspire our children, to help them navigate the world with kindness and understanding. Found family books can be valuable tools in this journey. So, whether it's for your book club, or just for yourself, we hope you'll dive into these magical stories. Let's keep exploring, keep learning, and keep discovering the magic of found families together.
We leave you with this:
Family isn't always what you're born into, it's often what you find. And remember, even when life throws you into the wildest of dreams or the deadliest of heists, you're never alone - your family, found or otherwise, is just a story away.
Until our next journey, happy reading!
Questions and Answers Related to Found Family Books
What does found family mean in books?
In books, the concept of "found family" refers to a theme or trope where characters form close-knit and supportive relationships with individuals who are not their biological or blood relatives.
Found family emphasizes the idea that family can be chosen and created through bonds of friendship, loyalty, and shared experiences. It explores the notion that a sense of belonging, platonic love, and support can be found outside of traditional familial relationships.
Found family narratives often involve characters who come together under challenging circumstances or in unconventional situations, like in the midst of an adventure, in a group home, or through a shared goal or mission. These characters build deep connections and form an emotional support system, providing each other with care, understanding, and a sense of belonging. The found family trope is popular in various genres, including fantasy, young adult fiction, and contemporary literature.
Through the found family theme, books explore the importance of unconditional love, acceptance, and the power of chosen relationships. They often celebrate diversity, portraying characters from different backgrounds, identities, and experiences who find solace and strength in their found family. This trope resonates with readers because it highlights the transformative nature of relationships and the idea that family can extend beyond blood ties.
The concept of found family in books offers readers a sense of hope and inspiration, showcasing the possibilities of building meaningful connections and finding support in unexpected places.
It appeals to readers who may have experienced challenges or disconnection within their own biological families, providing them with a sense of identification and affirmation that they can find a sense of home and belonging through the relationships they form.
Is found family a love trope?
Yes, found family can be considered a love trope in books. While it may not always involve romantic love explicitly, it often explores the theme of love and deep emotional connections between characters who have chosen to form a family unit. The love portrayed in found family narratives goes beyond traditional romantic relationships and focuses on the bonds of friendship, loyalty, and support that develop between individuals who may not be related by blood.
Found family stories often depict characters who find solace, acceptance, and a sense of belonging in their chosen family. These relationships are built on mutual care, understanding, and unconditional love. The emphasis is on the strong emotional connection and the love that grows between characters who become each other's support system and create a sense of home and belonging.
While romantic love can exist within found family narratives, it is not the sole focus. Instead, the emphasis is on the platonic love and deep connections formed between characters who become like family to one another. Found family stories celebrate the power of love and the idea that love can be found and cultivated beyond traditional family structures.
The exploration of love within the found family trope resonates with readers because it showcases the importance of connection, acceptance, and support in our lives. It highlights the capacity for individuals to create meaningful relationships and find love and belonging outside of biological or romantic ties.
Why do people like the found family trope?
People like the found family trope in books for several reasons. Here are a few possible explanations:
1. Sense of Belonging
The found family trope resonates with readers because it explores the theme of finding a sense of belonging and acceptance. It highlights the idea that individuals can create deep connections and form their own support systems outside of traditional family structures.
2. Emotional Resonance
Found family stories often evoke strong emotions. They depict characters who come together and develop strong bonds based on love, trust, and mutual support. These emotional connections can be uplifting and heartwarming, creating a sense of warmth and comfort for readers.
3. Representation of Chosen Relationships
The found family trope portrays relationships of choice rather than obligation. It reflects the reality that not all families are built solely on blood ties. Many people have chosen relationships that hold a special place in their lives, and the found family trope celebrates and validates these connections.
4. Exploration of Identity and Self-Discovery
Found family narratives often involve characters who have experienced hardships or felt like outsiders. Through their journey, readers witness the characters' growth, self-discovery, and the realization that they can find love, acceptance, and a sense of identity within their chosen family.
5. Themes of Loyalty and Support
Found family stories emphasize loyalty and unwavering support among the characters. These narratives show the power of standing by one another, even in the face of challenges. This theme resonates with readers who value deep and meaningful connections in their own lives.
Overall, the found family trope provides a compelling and hopeful narrative that explores the bonds of love, support, and connection. It allows readers to see the transformative power of relationships formed outside traditional family structures and celebrates the idea that family can be found and cultivated through choice and shared experiences.
How do you find a children's book you can't remember the name of?
Finding a children's book when you can't remember the title can be a challenge, but here are a few strategies you can try:
1. Online Book Communities
Joining online book communities like Goodreads or LibraryThing can be helpful. Describe the book as much as you remember, including plot details, characters, or any unique aspects. Other members might recognize the book and provide you with the title or author.
2. Children's Book Databases
Explore online databases dedicated to children's books, such as WorldCat or the International Children's Digital Library. You can search using keywords, themes, or even specific details you recall from the book. These databases often provide information about the book's content, author, and publication details.
3. Local Libraries and Bookstores
Visit your local library or bookstore and ask the librarians or booksellers for assistance. They have extensive knowledge of children's literature and might be able to help you identify the book based on your description. They may also have access to resources and catalogues that can aid in the search.
4. Online Book Search Tools
Utilize online book search engines like BookFinder or AbeBooks. These platforms allow you to input details about the book, such as genre, age range, and keywords. They provide search results that match your criteria, which can help you track down the book you're looking for.
5. Social Media and Book Forums
Post your query on social media platforms or dedicated book forums like Reddit's r/whatsthatbook. Describe the book as accurately as possible, and fellow book enthusiasts may be able to offer insights, suggestions, or recommendations.
Remember to provide as much information as you can about the book, such as plot details, characters, setting, illustrations, or any memorable quotes. The more details you can provide, the higher the chances of someone recognizing the book. Patience and persistence are key when searching for a children's book with limited information.