YA Family Drama…Just in Time for the Holidays.

Posted about 7 days ago by Jennifer Deuell
Posted in Book Reviews

It’s no secret. For many, the holidays are associated with a time of stress and drama, particularly with family. It’s as if conflict and stress is part of the tradition. Who knows why this is?? Perhaps it’s the added stress of holiday preparations pushing people over the edge. Or maybe it’s the unreasonable expectation that everything must be perfect. It also might be the fact that many people see distant relatives who perhaps they haven’t seen in a while and festering emotions are given an opportunity to boil over. Most likely it is a combination of several of these factors mixed together to form the perfect storm.

I’m hoping that none of you are faced with holiday drama this year. You don’t need it. Its not worth it. And, there is enough family drama to be found in books…especially in YA literature! I’m sure we would all much prefer to sit back and laugh at (or maybe empathize with) another family’s mayhem in the pages of a book It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on how we would never find ourselves in the same position….nope, not you, not me, not ever!

In the spirit of the holidays, and all the drama we are absolutely not going to have, here are some great YA reads that provide all the chaos, disaster, and turmoil you’ll need.

Our first YA book of family drama is a doosy.  The Book of Essie, by Meghan MacLean Weir, takes place on the site of the reality TV show Six for Hicks.  Think the Duggers from 19 Kids and Counting, but worse…way worse!

Essie is the youngest in the family and she’s basically grown up in the spotlight of their TV show.  Viewers have a love-hate relationship with the Hicks family, obsessing over their lives yet despising their extreme religious beliefs.  When Essie’s mom, Celia, finds out that Essie is pregnant, she joins forces with the producers to conduct full-on damage control.  Not surprisingly, Essie is not involved in any of their plans.  In the meantime, Essie decides to take matters into her own hands.  She teams up with Roarke, a quiet boy at her school with a secret of his own.  Together, they enlist the help of Liberty Bell, D-list reporter, and set out to tell their own story.

If you’re a fan of reality TV (it’s ok, I won’t tell), then you’ll love this book.  It’s chocked full of sensational, scandalous, and shocking plot lines.  Yet through all that, Weir does an outstanding job of crafting in Essie a dynamic, affecting character who I grew to love.  

Frank Li is a second gen Korean-American.  Hi parents are super traditional in all things including romance.  They expect Frank to “date Korean” and have their sights set on Joy, daughter of longtime family friends Mr. and Mrs. Song (also uber traditional).  Frank likes Joy.  They get along just fine.  But he’s fallen for Brit Means, who is not Korean.  She is white.  Furthermore, Joy is also in a long-term relationship with Wu, who is also not Korean.  He is Chinese.  Since both Frank and Joy find themselves in a tough predicament, wishing to please their parents yet wanting to date the person they chose, they come up up with a mutually beneficial plan.  They decide to fake-date.  At first the plan seems fool-proof.  But, readers, it is no surprise that keeping a secret as big as this can only last for so long.

I listed to Frankly in Love, by David Yoon, on audiobook and I highly recommend this.  The narrator does a great job of nailing the copious amounts of witty remarks and teen boy humor throughout this novel.  I can only imagine this is what the inside of a 17 year old boy’s head sounds like and I promise you that you won’t be able to get through this book without laughing out loud.  Korean family drama is just like any other family drama.  At times it’s funny, at times it’s sad, but it always teaches us a lesson.



My last pick for awesome YA family dramas is The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, by Brandy Colbert.  Now, Brandy Colbert is one of my all-time favorite authors and in my opinion she can do no wrong when it comes to writing books.  I’ve loved each and every one of hers.  The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is her latest and it does not disappoint!

Birdie is the youngest in her household, and strives to be the “perfect” daughter.  Her mother is extremely strict and sets some very high expectations for Birdie in school and for her future.  When Birdie meets Booker, a sweet guy with a checkered past, she knows she must keep their relationship a secret.  As if this wasn’t enough drama for one story, there is more…Birdie’s Aunt Carlene decides to come stay with the family after years of being absent.  Carlene struggles with addiction, and has done so most of her life.  She’s been in and out of rehab multiple times but this time seems to be different.  Carlene arrives sober and clear-headed, ready for a fresh start.  Birdie enjoys Carlene, who is relaxed and free compared to her strict mom, and the two become close.  This only serves to increase the persisting tension between Carlene and Birdie’s mom.  And you know the thing about building tension, at some point it needs a release….

This book is a little more on the serious side but so worth the read.  In typical Colbert style, the characters are well developed and Birdie has such a distinct and awesome voice.  The writing is beautiful and pulls you in from page one.  You’ll open the book and before you know it the story will be over and you’ll have a book hangover.  It is that good.

I hope one of these books caught your eye.  As I said, even though it’s hard, avoid the holiday drama this year.  At least the real-life kind.  Instead, pick up a good YA read and enjoy that fiasco from the couch!

About the Author

Jenn Deuell is the Young Adult Coordinator with Richmond Public Library. She is a native of Fredericksburg, VA but has lived in Richmond for long enough that she now considers it home. She loves all things YA and can usually be found curled up at home with a good book (rainy day or not). Her other hobbies include traveling and spending time with family, including her three rescued pit bulls.

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