May is National Foster Care Month. It is a time to acknowledge all the helpers involved in the foster care system, but more importantly to recognize and support the children and teens in foster care. If you are lucky enough not to have experienced foster care, then you may not understand the trauma that children, teens, and families endure. If you are a child or teen currently or formerly in foster care, you may feel that no one understands what you’ve been through. It is true that one can never truly understand another’s life experience; however, books provide a window through which we can build empathy and compassion. Books can also be a reflection of ourselves, providing comfort when we feel alone. For this reason, I’d like to give you some young adult reading options featuring characters in foster care. My hope is that one or more of these books might provide knowledge and/or support for readers.
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Confession: this is one of my all-time favorite books. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads which I hardly ever do so that should really tell you something! This is the story of three siblings separated at birth. Grace has always known she was adopted as an infant. So, when she becomes pregnant as a teenager, she decides adoption is the best option for her baby. But after choosing adoption for her child, Grace decides to research her own biological family and discovers she has two siblings Maya and Joaquin. Even though Grace’s life has been mostly happy, she finds that her siblings’ childhoods are not quite as pleasant. I really connected with each of the characters and felt as if I traveled with them on their journeys of discovery and connection. This one is available as an e-book from Hoopla!
Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher
This is the story of Annie, a young teen in foster care but still in contact with her biological family. Unfortunately, Annie’s bio family is still struggling with drug abuse and violence, and Annie continues to get pulled back into this world. Try as she might to distance herself from the drama, when her nephew goes missing, Annie knows she must join in the effort to find him. This book has received some mixed reviews. It’s been praised for its fast-moving plot and engaging narrative. However, critics argue that the author depicts certain characters in a way that is judgmental and harsh, oversimplifying the impacts of poverty and trauma. I’d be curious to see what some of you think. This will be one to read with a critical eye for sure. It’s available on Hoopla as an e-book too.
The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search For The Love Of A Family by Dave Pelzer
This book is the follow-up to A Child Called It. These aren’t YA books per se, but I remember reading them as a teen and being really impacted by them. In The Lost Boy, Pelzer continues the account of his childhood, now removed from his abusive mother and placed in the foster care system. Sadly, he is moved from one foster placement to another, never finding a place that he can truly call “home.” As a child in foster care, he finds he carries with him a stigma that other children and sometimes even adults find hard to ignore. Because of this, Pelzer suffers feelings of shame and thinks he is unworthy of love. This true story is heart-wrenching but so important. Readers will get a candid portrayal of foster care. The Lost Boy is available as an audiobook on RBDigital. If you missed Pelzer’s first book, A Child Called It, it is available as an e-book on Overdrive.
If you enjoy and/or can relate to one of these books, I encourage you to share it with others. Perhaps you can even begin a dialogue about the book or about foster care in general. The world is a better place when we begin to build these bridges, and books can absolutely be the means to do so.