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It runs in the family: 7 contemporary stories about siblings

Cameron Kimball, on

Published in Mom's Advice

Siblings — one moment you’re best friends, the next second they’re driving you up a wall. It’s not surprising that a lot of writers find the nuanced relationship of siblinghood a rich vein to tap from. Depictions of sibling relationships in fiction are as numerous and complex as the siblings themselves, with countless reimaginings that always hit the emotional mark.

Today we’re bringing you seven stories of siblinghood that cover a myriad of experiences. From long-lost sisters united by a DNA test to a pair of brothers on the run from the law, this list has it all. Grab a snack (and maybe a couple tissues!) as we share some books that perfectly capture the bond between siblings.

'Clap When You Land'

by Elizabeth Acevedo (Quill Tree)

"Clap When You Land" is the story of two strangers, Camino and Yahaira Rios. The girls live separate lives thousands of miles apart, with Camino in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira in New York City. They have no idea the other exists, and why would they? It’s not like the two of them have any reason to meet.

That is, until a plane headed for the Dominican Republic suffers a terrible accident. As Camino and Yahaira both wrestle with their loss, they each learn of the secrets their father had been keeping. It turns out Camino’s father and Yahaira’s father were one and the same, hiding his double life from both families right up to his death. United by grief, the two sisters will have to cross the divides between their countries — and their own preconceptions — to gain a newfound sense of family. "Clap When You Land" tells a story of the complexity of grief, and how it can bring us together in the most unexpected of ways.


by Julie Murphy (Balzer + Bray)

Waylon and Clementine Brewer are twins with a plan. The two of them are going to bide their time in their claustrophobic town of Clover City until high school graduation. After that, they’ll move to Austin and will finally be able to spread their wings. Life’s hard enough being a fat, openly gay boy in a West Texas town, and Waylon’s been holding on to this master plan like a lifeline.

When Clementine forgoes the arrangement, however, everything comes crashing down. Newly dumped and now feeling freshly betrayed, Waylon films an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, "The Fiercest of Them All," just for the hell of it. He isn’t expecting the clip to be sent around the entire school, and to get nominated for prom queen because of it. Even Clementine’s girlfriend Hannah is dragged into the joke, nominated for prom king alongside Waylon.

Waylon isn’t going to let the bullies win this one, however. With the help of Clementine, he and Hannah put everything they have into this prom campaign. After all, if the whole school is going to be watching, Waylon might as well give everyone a show to remember.

'Breathe Deep & Swim'

by Jenna Marcus (Bublish)

Van Gogh and Wolfgang Thomas have always been there for each other. It’s something they learned early in life, when their mother abandoned the family and their father retreated into himself. If the two of them are going to make it, they have to rely on one another.

That sentiment only becomes more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when their father contracts the virus and dies in their apartment. Terrified of getting split up in the foster care system, the two hatch a desperate plan; if they sneak out of Florida before their father’s body is discovered, they can get a head start before the police and social services set off after them.

The boys only have one hope left — the mother who had abandoned them a decade ago. With only a New York City address to guide them, Wolfgang and Van Gogh hit the road in their father’s Pontiac. Danger is never far behind as the two brothers make their journey, however, and the closer they get to New York the higher the stakes become. With its tender depiction of familial love, grief and brotherhood, this fast-paced novel will tug at your heartstrings even as it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

'You Have a Match'

by Emma Lord (Wednesday Books)

At first, Abby signs up for the DNA service on a whim. She’s mostly doing it to support her friend Leo, who’s adopted and wants to find out more about his birth family. Abby, though, is already pretty self-assured when it comes to her own identity.


Until she discovers that she has an older sister, that is. Suddenly Abby is messaging famous Instagram star Savannah Tully to see why they have a 100% DNA match. Both of them have a thousand questions — why didn’t Abby know that she had a sister? Why was Savannah given up for adoption, especially since they’re only a year and a half apart?

Desperate to meet up and compare notes, the two decide to attend the same summer camp in the Pacific Northwest. It turns out, though, that Abby and Savvy’s plan worked better on paper than in real life. From sneaking around the camp’s rules to hiding the true purpose of the trip from her parents, Abby’s surrounded by so many secrets that she can’t keep up. When everything starts to unravel, will Abby and Savvy’s new sisterhood survive the fall?

'How The Deer Moon Hungers'

by Susan Wingate (Roberts Press)

In this heart-wrenching novel, author Susan Wingate tells the story of Mackenzie “Mac” Fraser. Mac is already having a hard time; in the wake of her parents’ separation, she’s been stuck watching over her 7-year-old sister Tessa. With all the fracture lines in their family, it’s only a matter of time before the family breaks apart.

In a freak accident, a drunk driver strikes and kills Tessa while Mac was supposed to be watching her. Inconsolable with grief, Mac’s mother blames her for Tessa’s death and sends her to juvenile detention on false drug charges. There, Mac is forced to face the grim reality of her situation; cast out from her family, she is alone and unprotected from the brutal conditions at the facility.

Wingate pulls no punches when it comes to the violence and injustice of the juvenile detention system. She does, however, use powerful prose to weave a triumphant tale out of Mac’s struggles. "How the Deer Moon Hungers" is ultimately a story of overcoming the worst humanity has to offer and finding peace and compassion in recovery.

'Far From the Tree'

by Robin Benway (HarperTeen)

Grace has been an only child all her life — or at least that’s what she thought. Adopted at birth, she hasn’t been able to stop wondering about her birth family ever since having to put her own child up for adoption. When she finally gets ahold of information about her biological family, she’s shocked to learn that she’s a middle child after all.

Maya is Grace’s younger sister, and even though she was adopted into a big family, she’s always felt a little bit like an outsider. She’s thrilled to have a new big sister, especially since things in her adopted family aren’t as perfect as they may seem.

Joaquin, however, isn’t interested in connecting with his two newly-found little sisters. He’s spent his whole life in the foster care system, and with just a year left before he’s a legal adult, he’s all but given up on the idea of family. While he hesitates to connect, extraordinary circumstances push the siblings together and force them to look at what truly connects them beyond blood.

'Love & Luck'

by Jenna Evans Welch (Simon & Schuster)

Addie and her brother Ian are thick as thieves — or at least they were, until an argument pulled them apart. Tensions come to a boil at their aunt’s destination wedding in Ireland, and when the two get into a fistfight after the ceremony, their mom puts her foot down. If Addie and Ian don’t behave themselves on the rest of the trip, they can kiss their soccer and football team memberships goodbye.

Now Addie is stuck with Ian and being babysat by Rowan, an Irish local who’s agreed to show them around the Emerald Isle. While Rowan has an Irish lilt that Addie could listen to all day, she’s not really sure how a couple of day trips will help her and Ian see eye to eye.

Then Addie finds an unusual guidebook called "Ireland for the Heartbroken." On a whim, the three embark on a sightseeing adventure following the winding directions of the book. As they uncover hidden gems of the Isle, Addie has to admit that the trip is helping the three of them grow closer — especially since they’re all crammed into Rowan’s tiny car. It might take more than an adventure through Ireland to help her and Ian’s fractured relationship, but with just a little bit of luck, anything’s possible.




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