We had a fabulous time this past month reading The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson. For this month’s recommendation list, I wanted to focus on the piece of the story that stuck out to me the most: found family. While this gorgeous book is mainly about grief and a mother-son relationship, there are prominent elements of found family throughout Norman Foreman, and quite sweet ones at that. For those who love this heart-warming trope, here are some found family book recommendations that span genres.
First, I want to talk about Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. McGuire puts an odd twist on fairy tales and classic literature. The “miracle” children that end up at Miss West’s Home for Wayward Children have just returned from their great adventure in one fantasy land or another; while the children are left wanting, chasing the feeling of their past adventures, Miss West is left to pick up the pieces. But then something ominous happens, and the children are forced to work together to solve the mystery. This book was published under the umbrella of adult fantasy, but it has a lot of appeal for the YA crowd.
Switching gears to cozy literature, we have The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. You may be familiar with the Netflix movie starring Lily James. Guernsey tells the story of Juliet, a London writer, who forms an attachment with a book club, originally formed during the height of the German occupation during WWII. As she writes to members of the book club, she decides to visit the island, and her attachments only grow. This is a story of friendship, love, and how literature can bring a whole cast of characters together in harmony.
Taking a sharp turn into science fiction, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is a wacky story about found family among the crew of a spaceship. Our main character Rosemary wants to distance herself from her past, so she takes a job as the sixth crew member on the Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that is home to an oddball crew. They take a job tunneling wormholes to distant planets, putting their lives at risk while bringing in massive amounts of money. When the team runs into inevitable bumps in the road, they have to work together to survive and to save each other. Like the first two on this list, this book is heart-felt, funny, and sometimes ridiculous, but the found family element is at the forefront.
Next, American Hippo by Sarah Gailey may be the strangest one yet. In an alternate United States, the government released hippos into the marshes of the southern states to act as an alternate hunting and meat source. Obviously, this got out of control fast, and hippos became the monsters of the swamps. In 1890, a pseudo-cowboy named Winslow Houndstooth is contracted to take down the hippos, but to do so, he has to assemble a crew that is tough enough to survive. That means recruiting outlaws, con artists, and assassins. Sounds like a wildly good time to me.
Last up in fiction is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Never Let Me Go tells the story of Kathy, a student who grew up in the walls of Hailsham, a mysterious boarding school that doesn’t allow its students contact with the outside world. When Kathy is older, two students leave the confines of the grounds and discover what is really on the outside of their small reality. Part mystery, part love story, and part speculative tale, Never Let Me Go explores the importance of relationships and how we treat each other within society.
While we’re here, I want to sprinkle in some of my favorite graphic novels. First up is Heartstopper by Alice Oseman. Heartstopper is a sweet, wholesome story about Charlie Spring, the only openly-gay teen at his small-town all-boys school. He begins crushing on Nick, the traditional, straight-coded “rugby lad” when they are sat next to each other in homeroom. As the two become closer, Nick begins to realize that he may see Charlie as more than a friend. Throughout the series, Charlie and Nick gain the support of their friends, teachers, and, with some obstacles, their family. With a diverse cast of characters and an upcoming Netflix adaptation (spear-headed by the creator, author, and illustrator of the books, no less), now is the perfect time to jump into the Spring universe. (Trigger warnings for self harm and eating disorders).
Finally, Giant Days by John Allison, in my opinion, is the perfect graphic novel series. Giant Days follows three girls who form an unlikely friendship when they meet on their freshman dorm floor. The series spans up until after they graduate from university; you get to see their ups and downs with each other, dating, making friends outside of their small bubble, and everything else that comes with being a confused college student. With over-the-top illustrations and laugh-out-loud comedy, Giant Days has something for everyone.
Thanks for reading this month’s blog post from DRBC! Stay tuned for some AAPI fantasy recommendations in June. Happy reading!