Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Discussions: Siblings In YA

This week I've been thinking about the usage of siblings in YA. Usually one of my favorite aspects in a story is seeing the character's family life because I feel like it tells me a lot about them. How they interact with their parents is important but I find that how main character's act with their siblings tells a lot more.

A trend I've found in YA is for single child main characters. A lot of the YAs I read don't seem to have brothers or sisters to hang out with and that makes me sad. As a writer I understand why. After all, to add siblings means that you have create more characters and give them distinct personalities. Plus, you have to have more dialog and the parents have more kids to worry about than just the MC. But I think sibling relationships can really make a book stand out.

Here are some of my favorite YA siblings:

Alexis and Kasey in Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender- This series is just great anyways but one of my favorite parts about it was Alexis and Kasey's relationship. Even though Kasey is older (she is either in 8th or 9th grade...I think 8th), she still acts like a child and it is Alexis who is forced to take care of her. Their parents are both super busy and can't seem to find the time. That means that what Kasey wants, Kasey gets. Though Alexis gets annoyed with her sister when Kasey needs her, Alexis will do anything to make sure she is there. I loved that in the next book, the role was reversed a little and we saw Kasey take care of Alexis at times.

Katniss and Prim in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- Anyone who has seen or especially read The Hunger Games knows that Katniss is more than a little rough around the edges. The only thing that brings out her softer side, and coincidentally forced her to be so tough too, is her little sister Prim. Katniss will do anything for her, including volunteering for a game where contestants fight to the death in her sister's place. Prim mad Katniss likable because we saw Katniss's softer side with her. I also loved how independent and strong Prim became by the end of the series. She ended up being one of my favorite characters.

Vee and Mattie from Slide by Jill Hathaway- This is another pair of sisters that have a very strong bond even if they do drive each other crazy. Mattie can't stand Vee's outsider ways and Vee is pretty annoyed at how shallow Mattie can be. But they can push that aside when they need each other and Mattie definitely needs Vee in this novel. Mattie's close friend commits suicide (Though Vee knows the truth) and Mattie blames herself partly for being cruel to her sometimes. Vee was always there to wipe away a tear or just sit next to Mattie through her grief. I loved how these sisters bonded together to get through anything!

The Cullen clan from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer- True, these folks aren't actually siblings but they've been living so long together that they might as well be. They rely on each other like a family and think of each other as family which makes them as good as in my book. I think if you ask any fan of the series (or maybe even some people who aren't) they'll tell you the most interesting aspect of the book was The Cullens. I loved getting to know their back stories and how they relate to each other on a day to day bases. It was funny watching them play baseball, seeing how Alice and Edward understand each other and work together and how Carlisle manages to hold them all together. Even my hubby (who hates the books) will tell you he did enjoy the parts with The Cullens,

The Weasley family from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowlings- Here too is a very poorly kept secret. Did not everyone love to explore The Burrow with Harry when they first arrive there? Did you also not feel safe there like nothing bad could happen. The Weasley family dynamic truly does make the Potter world even more magical. It just feels so perfect having the twin older brothers who are mischievous, Ron who is a little bit clumsy and constantly searching for a little bit of attention (which he finds in befriending Harry) and the tomboy girl at the bottom of the pack of brothers. We don't really get to know the older brothers very well but we get a great sense of them in the house and hear about them enough. I loved these siblings. You can't help but smile when you know several of these gingers are in the room. And think of the family reunions!

There are several other siblings I could add to this list but even as I turned around to check out my shelf for ideas, I saw an overwhelming number of single children in the books. Heck, even the Weasleys and Cullens aren't main characters though they are integral parts of the story so I felt like I could add them. So I say, add more siblings!

One type of sibling that I really saw none of is the protective big brother. And you know what, I want more of him! See, I love it when brothers get all worried about who their little sister is dating. I just happen to think it's really cute and I can't think of a story recently that has had a big brother to watch out for the main character. So many paranormal stories would be great with the added protective big brother who doesn't trust the paranormal guy. That job usually goes to the guy best friend with the crush but why not replace him with a good friend in a brother?

So my only example of this is a great one:

Mara and Daniel from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin- Though Mara has a funny younger brother too, I loved the dynamic between her and Daniel. Daniel is sort of nerdy but in an endearing way and you could tell he really cared about the welfare of Mara. On their rides to school, Mara would actually talk to Daniel which was nice to see. They were friends. That's not to say that they didn't fight. Mara had a lot going on and sometimes Daniel found it necessary to betray her trust but he always tried to make up for it and look out for her best interests. Heck, he even pushed Noah to continue trying for Mara and told Mara he thought she should give Noah a chance even knowing Noah's reputation. For me, this strong caring older brother bond they had going on was one of the highlights of this novel.

So what about you guys? Can you think of any awesome sibling relationships that I missed? And what type of relationships would you like to see more of?


  1. One of the things I liked most about The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (Book 1 in the Books of Beginning series) was his development of the siblings. Stephens was a writer on some popular teen television series, so I think that might have benefitted his books - he really seems to undrestand the dynamics of sibling love and sibling rivalry.. Book 2 comes out later this year (September or Octobe,r I think) and I can't wait to get it!

  2. The Weasleys!!!! Best fictional family ever. :)

    I really liked the relationship between Janelle and her brother in Elizabeth's Norris's UNRAVELING. Also, I liked the Daemon/Dee dynamic in OBSIDIAN by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I think I really like reading about brother/sister relationships because I never had a brother.

  3. :) Wonderful post Amber! I always loved the family of Redheads. I really liked how harry got to hang out with all of them for awhile in Goblet of Fire (yet another reason its my favorite HP book)
    Lexi and Kasey are my favorite siblings ever! i'm glad you choose to include them! i really liked how well they worked together to survive!

  4. I totally agree. I can't really think of too many fictional families, (besides Stefan and Damon from TVD, and I remember them more because of the show than the books) but families are awesome to read about. Everyone has one, everyone relates. I know more people with siblings than people without them. I love reading about their interactions, and it brings some credibility to the story.

    Great topic by the way!

  5. I loved the Weasleys, that was one of the reasons I found the last HP book so devastating.

    In The Red Pyramid series by Rick Riordin, there's a wonderful example of a brother/sister relationship. Even though Sadie Kane and Carter Kane are so different from growing up in two different worlds, they still rely on each and make an awesome team.

  6. Ooh yes, I completely agree! There's so much potential in the sibling relationship.

    I did a post a few weeks ago where I talked about this. If you're interested, it's here: Alexandra's Scribblings

    I'd love to see more siblings in YA fiction - and cousins too. I think cousins can add a really interesting dynamic because they can be exactly the same age as the protagonist, which can lead to rivalry at school and over boys, whereas a sibling - unless they're twins, obviously - is at least a year older or younger so has their own circle of friends. But yeah, one of my brothers is two years younger than me, and when something's bothering him he's more likely to talk to me about it than go to our parents.

    In terms of books... the Merrick brothers in Brigid Kemmerer's book STORM have an incredibly authentic dynamic going on, and I always like reading the interactions between the brothers of Alyxandra Harvey's Drake Family Chronicles. Solange has got SIX protective older brothers to deal with, and I think she'd disagree with your fondness for them!

    We need more sibling relationships!

  7. The Lightwood siblings in Cassie Clares books are some of my favourite siblings.

    Having more siblings in YA is an awesome idea. I've noticed that in some books the parents are hardly in them. Maybe if book characters had siblings it would explain the sometimes absentee parents lol.

  8. The Weasleys! Hah. They're my favorite!
    I'd like to read more about families in YA books because almost everyone has one, or someone they consider family. I especially like seeing the relationships between siblings play out.

  9. I've read a few YA books that revolve around a pair of sisters. They made me super glad that I do not have a sister.


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