Mother’s Day is coming right up, so here are a few recent books that highlight mother/child relationships. As I needed a way to narrow down my options, I’m only highlighting books that I haven’t read or written about—which is why Elana K. Arnold’s Bat books and Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X aren’t here even though they’d both be a perfect fit.
Sidenote: I also decided to only feature books in which the mothers are ALIVE, rather than books in which their death serves as some form of plot device. And after a little bit of poking around, I found that a disproportionate number of stories about mothers with sons featured—wait for it—dead mothers. I’d love to see actual data on this, to see if it really is some sort of hideous and insidious trend, or if there have just been a large crop of those stories recently.
On to the actual books!
The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson
Twelve-year-old Candice’s parents divorced a few months ago, and she and her mother are spending the summer in her late grandmother’s house, where Candice finds an old letter that talks about a lost treasure hidden somewhere in town. Middle-grade contemporary mystery about long-held family secrets set in a small town with an ugly, racist history. Starred review.
The Price Guide to the Occult, by Leslye J. Walton
Seventeen-year-old Nor has lived in fear—and in the shadow—of her mother for her entire life, trying so hard to avoid following in her footsteps that she’s resorted to different forms of self-harm. But now her mother has gone too far, she needs to be stopped, and Nor is the only one with the power to do it. This might be an odd one to include on a Mother’s Day list, but we’ve got to include at least one horribly fraught mother/daughter relationship here, right? Also, I’ve been meaning to read it for ages.
The Science of Breakable Things, by Tae Keller
A middle grade debut about the scientific method, friendship, hope, and parental depression. Seventh-grader Natalie works to win prize money in an egg-drop contest in the hopes of “fixing” her mother’s depression—I’m always here for stories about the moments in which kids realize that their parents are people. Starred review.
In Search of Us, by Ava Dellaira
A mother and daughter story, told in alternating voices and set in two different decades: the 1990s, in which Marilyn Miller contends with Hollywood and unrelenting career pressure from her mother; and the present day, in which Angie Miller heads to Los Angeles to find the father that her mother has always led her to believe was dead. Identity, race, secrets, and the way that familial pain so often gets kicked down the line—Kirkus called this one “achingly vibrant.”
We Are All That's Left, by Carrie Arcos
Another mother-daughter story with multiple timelines, also set in the 1990s and the present day—but this one is about a mother who lived through the Bosnian War and her daughter who is trying to understand that trauma. Lots of parallels between the timelines—including religious persecution and terrorist violence—and while Kirkus lists a few significant flaws in the narrative, they also call it “a painful, lovely exploration of mending a mother-daughter relationship.”
The Sky at Our Feet, by Nadia Hashimi
Middle grade novel about Jason and his new friend running around New York City in the hopes of doing… something… about the fact that Jason’s single mother might have just been deported, leaving Jason on his own in the country. Starred review.
The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert
Hurricane Child, by Kheryn Callender
I said no Dead Mothers, but what about Missing Mothers? The Hazel Wood is a young adult fantasy in which a young woman has to enter a fairy tale realm—her grandmother’s domain—in the hopes of finding and saving her mother; Hurricane Child is a middle grade story about a girl who believes she’s been cursed with bad luck, who has realized that she’s got romantic feelings for the new girl in school, who is being followed around by a spirit visible only to her, and who desperately needs to know why her mother abandoned her. Starred reviews on both.
More recommendations always welcome!
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom, is currently serving on the Amelia Bloomer Project committee, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.