YA Theme Focus: Sisters

One of my favorite aspects of YA fiction is the special touch authors use when writing sisters. Teen sisters have a built-in audience for their paths of self-discovery. Big sisters have someone to look out for and little sisters have someone to look up to. And whether a heroine loves her sisters or hates them, part of her character is always defined in relation to them. The relationship between sisters also shapes how they deal with their parents, their friends and even strangers. It is always interesting to watch the complex relationships between sisters unfold over the course of a YA novel.

After finishing Mockingjay, the last of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy — in which heroine Katniss’ actions are all motivated by her desire to protect her little sister — I wanted to continue my “sisters story” reading theme. I was pleasantly surprised when I took a chance on Zen & Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan (you can read the *Web Exclusive Review* of the novel here). Ryan’s latest novel was a deft exploration of the changes that Zen and Xander’s relationship undergoes as they grieve for their mother.

But by the end of Zen & Xander Undone, I realized just how few novels I could name where the sisters were good friends. I’ve got two sisters of my own, so I figure I am a pretty good judge of “is this relationship realistic?” and when you add in the sister-experiences of RT’s Morgan, who has four of them, that’s six sisters between us. So we put our heads together to come up with a list of must-read YA sister stories.



Confessions Of the Sullivan Sisters
By Natalie Standiford

Three sisters must figure out which of them angered their rich grandmother and put their family's entire inheritance at risk. In the word’s of RT’s Senior Editor and Reviews Coordinator Stephanie Klose, this novel is a “highly entertaining tale of a unique Baltimore family and their shenanigans.”



The Sky Is Everywhere
By Jandy Nelson

Lennie’s older sister Bailey dies before the book begins, however, this book makes the list because of the way Lennie struggles to figure out who else she is other than “Bailey’s sister.” I enjoyed this story when I read it but didn’t expect it to stick with me the way that it did. For months afterwards I would mention it to anyone who would ask for a YA recommendation. I stick by my original review “Funky and more fun than a story about grieving has the right to be, Nelson's novel has a light touch that's a joy to read.”



The Carrie Diaries
By Candace Bushnell

In this take on Sex and the City’s heroine during her teen years, Carrie is not only stuck in suburban CT, she’s got two sisters! And although the three aren’t chummy, they make a difference to the way that Carrie interacts with her world.



Three Black Swans
By Caroline B. Cooney

This top pick had RT’s Executive Editor Faygie Levy raving, “Cooney revs up the scare factor.” The story follows two cousins who are best friends. But when they investigate if they could possibly be something more — everyone is surprised by the results!



Tell Me a Secret
By Holly Cupala

After Xanda's death, her younger sister Rand tries to handle the stress of no longer being "the good sister." Readers with sisters will empathize with Rand’s struggle to make her parents stop comparing her to Xanda — for the better and worse!



Honorable mentions go to Deb Caletti’s sisters in Six Rules of Maybe and Maureen Johnson for Suite Scarlett.



Dead Is Just a Rumor
By Marlene Perez

Marlene Perez nails the sister dynamic in this light paranormal series. Daisy Giordano may be the heroine but all the girls get involved in solving these mysteries. But it's no surprise that Perez's fictional sisters seem realistic, the author told us that her seven sisters helped inspire her to write. Read More >>

  Monster High
By Lisi Harrison

The complete review is coming soon. In the meantime, RT's Web Editor Morgan Doremus really enjoyed the heroine’s relationship with her big sister. “While Melody's older sister is obsessed with fashion, she is still there whenever Melody needs a helping hand (usually with boys).” Well, that’s all we think a sister can ever really ask for!


By Tricia Rayburn

This paranormal novel follows Vanessa's investigation into her older sister's mysterious death. When it turns out that Justine is just the first to die in a water-related accident, Vanessa channels her grief into a relentless pursuit for the truth.  Read An Excerpt >>





Wait Till Helen Comes
By Mary Hahn

Although the heroine is twelve, this story of a girl trying to save her obnoxious younger stepsister is terrifying. Molly’s determination to save Heather from the ghostly Helen lands this 1986 novel firmly on our list. Wait Till Helen Comes still gives both me and Morgan chills!


Prophecy Of The Sisters
By Michelle Zink

Everyone knows that things aren’t always peaceful in the land of sisters. This series has a distinctly gothic flavor as Lia tries to keep her evil twin sister Alice from destroying the world with an ancient magic. And when Alice turns her attention to Lia’s maybe-boyfriend in the series second, Guardian of the Gate, the action really heats up!


For this genre, author Gail Carson Levine's Fairest gets an honorable mention. And for two amazing pseudo-sister relationships be sure to check out Alyxandra Harvey’s Hearts At Stake and Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohls’ series first, Beautiful Creatures!

So tell me, am I missing any of your favorite YA sister stories?