Please enjoy this guest post by Kate Stollenwerck.
In a world that sometimes feels fractured and divided, one universal truth is the power and profound impact on children and teens of grandparents’ unconditional love. For so many teens, grandparents play a deep and meaningful role in their lives. Not weighed down by the complexity and clutter of the parent/child relationship, the grandparent holds a special place in the deepest part of our hearts. Yet, grandparents have traditionally not been featured largely in Young Adult literature. Luckily, things are changing, and we are seeing more and more grandparents becoming central characters in YA novels.
Here is a list of a few recent Young Adult novels that wonderfully portray the depth and endless love of the grandparent/grandchild relationship across cultural and geographic divides.
Firekeeper’s Daughter By Angeline Boulley. This YA book was a sensation last year, but what often doesn’t get discussed is the rich and well-drawn grandparents portrayed in this novel. From Great-Grandmother Lily on her father’s Native American side to Grandmother Mary on her Anglo mother’s side, the heroine draws strength and a sense of self from her grandparents. They are aptly woven into the storyline and provide a moral compass for the heroine of this novel.
Abeula, Abuela, Don’t Forget Me by Rex Ogle. This moving and powerful memoir is told through poems. Filled with humor, hope, and heartbreak, the stories shared of the author’s childhood honor his beloved Abuela, who nurtured, loved, and believed in him when he didn’t know how to believe in himself.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. In this novel, a teenage girl, Leigh, loses her mother to suicide and takes a journey to her mother’s native Taiwan to meet the grandparents she never knew. Even though they don’t speak English, she bonds with her grandparents and learns more about her family, and herself, as she grieves her mother and heals her heart. Moving between past and present, reality and magic, the novel takes the reader on a beautiful and powerful journey.
White Bird by RJ Palacio. RJ Palacio continues her wonderful characters from Wonder in this graphic novel that focuses on Julian learning of his Jewish grandmother’s survival story during World War II. Themes of kindness and the power of love abound. This wonderful graphic novel has been made into a movie starring Helen Mirren and will hit theaters this October.
Hello, Goodbye by Kate Stollenwerck. This charming and heartfelt coming-of-age novel features the cutest granddaughter/grandmother duo! Hailey, the the15-year-old heroine, learns many life lessons from her estranged grandmother, Gigi, as they get to know each other. They bond over music, books, and a classic car. Gigi shares a family secret with Hailey and they work together to unravel the mystery. Tackling the heavy topics of death and strained family relationships, this novel illuminates the unbreakable bond of the grandparent/grandchild relationship.