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note to self: i’ll be there for you, always

written june 6, 2021. Photo by Kristine Cinate on Unsplash I have always looked for myself in other people. I think the idea was that they would somehow hold the pieces of me that I felt were missing. That maybe, if I wrapped my identity up in theirs enough, we would somehow make a whole person. It's not healthy to live like this, but I did it anyway — burning through relationships and searching for something I couldn't quite name. It was never enough, not to be myself, but it was never enough to latch my identity to other people, either. I got close, several times — I thought I had reached the pinnacle of self discovery. I thought I had completed myself. But in the end, relying on other people to help build yourself is never a viable way to do things. It's only recently that I've started to become comfortable with the idea of being enough, as I am, on my own. Several years ago, in this same position, I would have searched for another person to attach my identity onto,

I Want to Write About Family

This coming year, I want to write about family. The living, vibrant ones that are tied together with bonds thicker than blood. The ones that aren't perfect, but that cling to each other when life is difficult. The families that love each other more than anything.

While most of my characters don't have families, maybe I kind of want to change that. Whether it's their actual parents, siblings, or a family found and stitched together all by themselves, I want to write about that feeling of family--of a tight-knit group of people that would sacrifice anything for each other.

A trope in YA often is the parentless (and family-less) hero or heroine. This is because it's a lot harder for your characters to do exciting things when they have to be home by eleven o'clock PM. So I totally understand this. But at the same time, my favorite show when I was younger was Caillou, which showed the bonds of family. I liked it because I felt like it compared to my real life.

I think some people may be looking for the same thing in books, at least. While some of us may not have parents, it's rare not to have some sort of family--whether it's a mentor, a parental figure, or their best friend. I think it's time that families were upheld way more in YA fiction than they already are.

I want to write about families like mine. Families where I hear my mom playfully yelling about how my brother put wrestling on TV and trying to get him to change the channel. The ones where my mom sends me an email telling me to be at peace, that it will all be okay. The kind of family where my mom makes me get in the tub with candles and darkness, where my mom makes me just rest. The kind of family with vivacious little sisters that are almost too quick to keep up with because of all the joy they hold inside; families with brothers with orange and blue casts on their legs, and playful senses of humor, who can hardly wait to watch Breaking Bad every night. Families with dads who may have their own struggles, but still will always, always guide their children when they need him to, and be there for them even when he isn't doing well himself. Families with pets, with home-cooked meals, with homes to come home to and holidays spent around the table eating and laughing. Families with grandparents; grandmas and grandpas, aunts uncles and cousins, and tons of love to go around.

Families without parents or brothers or sisters or any clearly defined roles except they are there for each other and that's everything that counts. Families that are makeshift and messy, but the most incredible thing my characters have ever experienced. Families that spend time watching TV show marathons and sitting around bonfires and discussing Mere Christianity. Families that don't share genes, but don't have to, because their hearts are right at home and safe and loved and cared for. Families that make people feel like they belong.

With such heartfelt sentiments as these, it's shocking it's not utilized more in YA and in the world in general. It's high time the feeling of family -- no matter what shapes and sizes they come in -- is embraced more in fiction. At least in my fiction. And, in real life, too. I think writing and reading about families helps us appreciate our own. At least it has for me while writing this post. So that's why, this coming year, I want to write about family. Every single kind.

Actually, maybe the word I'm looking for is love. Not necessarily romantic love; instead, those most-encompassing, life-changing, heart-rending, warming-up-by-the-fire-with-people-dear-to-you kinds of love. The ones that wrap around you like a warm blanket, so that your whole life and being changes. The kinds of love that make you feel safe, warm, and okay. Yeah. That kind of love. That's definitely it. This year, I want to write about love.

What are your thoughts on the lack of family in YA? Most importantly, what do you want to write about this coming year?

This has been a scheduled post. Five days into recovery from my wisdom teeth. Yay!
My past self wishes my future self godspeed.


  1. I couldn't agree more. Perhaps we kick the parents out because the make things seem so ordinary and thus no fun. There is certainly a widespread lack of family in YA (and I may add modern Children's) literature. Wouldn't it be lovely to read more inspirational and encouraging tales like The Moffats, The Penderwicks, All of a Kind Family, and yet updated for older audiences. What about a family adventure? Oh that sounds lovely.

  2. Can I just say... AMEN.

    I've been reading your blog for awhile, and I've only commented a couple times... but some of your posts have really inspired me. And I think you should publish a book someday soon. :) Especially if you write about this. Family. Tight-knit love. The world needs more of this.

    I'm praying for you! :)

  3. Yes, yes, yes! We need more of this in fiction. Especially in the YA novels. I mean, family is where you get your moral support, grounding, and lots of love. Family literally shapes you for life. So why don't we see it more in literature? This inspires me to give my current MC a really strong family. He already has a pretty good relationship with his brother, but I think his family should be more involved in the plot. Great post, and I absolutely love your blog!

  4. Yes yes yes! I totally agree with you! Family is a very under-utilized element in novels.

    The other day I heard someone at the library ask for fantasy books that have a happy family in them and the librarians were stumped. It just goes to show how rare a happy/functioning family is in books.

  5. Thank you so much for talking about this!
    Our generation has been taught by Disney that younger people are better and smarter than adults, that younger people should rebel against authority and do whatever they want.
    And recently, feminism (although it was meant to say men and women are equal) has come about from the insecurities of being different. Less people want to trust the opposite gender (you see all these movies full of Hans-like people), and thus, less people want to love and be married because of fear.
    We need more stories about family. We need to be reminded about those things. Our stories change the world as we know it. We change people's perspectives.

  6. My novel "A Love that Never Fails", which I am writing right now, is about love (not just romance) and family! :D Glad to read this post, because I agree with you, Sky :).

  7. Yes! Someone needed to say this...making a pitch for more family in YA (and the importance of family in real life) is pretty neat. I like to write about families too, and I will be doing that next year - although probably not that much - but I like to write about families who don't get on so well with each other, who have problems, frictions, arguments. A bunch of strangers who love each other so much but don't know how to communicate that love - awkward families working around their problems and conflicts. I want families that support each other, and characters that already know how to value a family connection, but also characters who have been through a lot without their family and are able to - at the end of the story - make peace with their loved ones. I like stories like that. (But big families? Wow, I'm a sucker for big families - that sort of love is just awe-inspiring!)

  8. Loooved this post! I'm actually shamefully one of those people who rarely puts family in her stories. I think I have far too many orphaned characters... But just recently I've been thinking about it and realizing family isn't a bad thing, it's a WONDERFUL thing. It won't hold a novel back, it can make it stronger. Families are wonderful, beautiful things. But I fear the world doesn't always see it that way because we're fed so much fiction without them. I think with fiction that shows families in a beautiful light, the way God meant for them to be, we can really make a difference in the way people look at their families.

    But, also, I have a weak spot for families that may not even be blood related in fiction. I love nothing more than a motley crew eventually ending up together and forming a family. Love. Yes. Love doesn't always have to be romantic. Having characters learn to rely on one another, to encourage and be there for each other, whether they're related or not...ah, it's the best. Nothing like characters bonding in that way. I want to write about love too. Thank you for this post. It was perfection. <3


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