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Young Adult Book Recommendations (foster care & adoption stories)


Yesterday I recommended 18 picture and middle grade books with a foster care/adoption theme. If you missed it you can check it out here. Today I am recommending 18 young adult novels for you to consider. If you are a foster parent, adopting, soon to be foster parent/adopting, or know someone who is maybe pass along these recommendations, especially if the child is 12 to 18 years of age. These books can be a fantastic tool to to help them discover the complex, and occasionally daunting, world that we live in.


Young Adult Books

180 Seconds by Jessica Park


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…


After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.


One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.


When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.


Bronxwood by Coe Booth (Tyrell series book #2)


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Tyrell's father is just out of jail, and Tyrell doesn't know how to deal with that. It's bad enough that his brother Troy is in foster care and that his mother is no help whatsoever. Now there's another thing up in his face, just when he's trying to settle down. Tyrell's father has plans of his own, and doesn't seem to care whether or not Tyrell wants to go along with them. Tyrell can see the crash that's coming -- with his dad, with the rest of his family, with the girls he's seeing -- but he's not sure he can stop it. Or if he even wants to.







A List of Cages by Robin Roe


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.


Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…


Far From the Tree by Robin Benway


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Being the middle child has its ups and downs.


But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—


Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.


And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.


Hooper by Geoff Herbach


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: For Adam Reed, basketball is a passport. Adam’s basketball skills have taken him from an orphanage in Poland to a loving adoptive mother in Minnesota. When he’s tapped to play on a select AAU team along with some of the best players in the state, it just confirms that basketball is his ticket to the good life: to new friendships, to the girl of his dreams, to a better future.


But life is more complicated off the court. When an incident with the police threatens to break apart the bonds Adam’s finally formed after a lifetime of struggle, he must make an impossible choice between his new family and the sport that’s given him everything.





How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.


Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?


As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.


Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye by Lois Lowry


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Natalie Armstrong has everything: she’s smart and beautiful, has the perfect boyfriend, early acceptance to college, and a loving family. But the summer she turns seventeen, she finally decides to ask some unanswered questions: Who are her biological parents and why did they give her up when she was born?


These questions take her on a journey from the deep woods of Maine to the streets of New York City, from the pages of old phone books and a tattered yearbook photo to the realization that she might actually meet her biological mother face-to-face.






In Another Life by C.C. Hunter


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Chloe was three years old when she became Chloe Holden, but her adoption didn’t scar her, and she’s had a great life. Now, fourteen years later, her loving parents’ marriage has fallen apart and her mom has moved them to Joyful, Texas. Starting twelfth grade as the new kid at school, everything Chloe loved about her life is gone. And feelings of déjà vu from her early childhood start haunting her.


When Chloe meets Cash Colton she feels drawn to him, as though they're kindred spirits. Until Cash tells her the real reason he sought her out: Chloe looks exactly like the daughter his foster parents lost years ago, and he’s determined to figure out the truth.


As Chloe and Cash delve deeper into her adoption, the more things don’t add up, and the more strange things start happening. Why is Chloe’s adoption a secret that people would kill for?


Love, Jacaranda by Alex Flinn


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Jacaranda Abbott has always tried to keep her mouth shut. As a foster kid, she’s learned the hard way that the less she talks about her mother and why she’s in jail, the better. But when a video of Jacaranda singing goes viral, a mysterious benefactor offers her a life-changing opportunity—a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school to study musical theater. Eager to start over somewhere new, Jacaranda leaps at the chance. She pours her heart out in emails to the benefactor she’s never met.


Suddenly she’s swept up in a world of privilege where the competition is fierce and the talent is next level. As Jacaranda—Jackie to her new friends—tries to find her place, a charming boy from this world of wealth catches her eye. She begins to fall for him, but can he accept her for who she really is?


My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Jackie's goal is perfection--perfect grades, the perfect look, getting into the perfect school. If she can achieve that, then maybe her too-busy mom and dad will take notice. But when her parents die in a tragic accident, Jackie is shipped off across the country to live with the Walters, her new guardians...who just happen to have twelve sons (well, eleven, but their daughter, Parker, is basically one of the boys).


The Walter boys are loud, dirty, annoying--and, okay, some of the older boys might be Greek god level hot, but they don't think a city girl belongs on their horse ranch. How is Jackie supposed to fit into their chaotic world when she needs to keep her parents' memory alive by living up to the promise of perfect?


But as Jackie spends more time the Walter boys, she begins to wonder if the perfection she's always strived for isn't the only way to find love after all.


Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:


Joseph almost killed a teacher.


He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.


He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her.


What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl.


Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help.


But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.


This tender, heartbreaking novel is Gary D. Schmidt at his best.


See No Color by Shannon Gibney


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Black daughter, white father, white mother. Race, adoption, and identity collide in this award-winning #OwnVoices debut about a teen challenging the life she's always known.


Being a transracial adoptee doesn't bother sixteen-year-old Alex Kirtridge-at least, not in a way she can explain to her white family. It doesn't matter that she's biracial when she's the star of the baseball team. But when Alex is off the field, she's teased for "acting" too white and judged for looking black. And while she loves her parents, her hot-headed brother, and her free-speaking sister, they don't seem to understand what it means that Reggie, a fellow ball player, is the first black guy who's wanted to get to know her.


Things only get more complicated when she finds hidden letters from her birth father. Alex can't stop asking questions. Does she really fit in with her family? What would it be like to go to a black hairdresser? Should she contact her birth father, despite the fact that it might devastate her parents? Meanwhile, her body is changing, and Alex isn't sure she can keep up with her teammates. If she's going to find answers, Alex must come to terms with her adoption, her race, and the dreams she thought would always guide her.


Author Shannon Gibney draws from her own experiences as a transracial adoptee to deliver this honest coming-of-age novel about a girl who doesn't know where she wants to fit in.


The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: A warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging, infused with humor, from the bestselling author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.


Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?









Three Little Words by Ashely Rhodes-Courter


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: "Sunshine, you're my baby and I'm your only mother. You must mind the one taking care of you, but she's not your mama." Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent nine years of her life in fourteen different foster homes, living by those words. As her mother spirals out of control, Ashley is left clinging to an unpredictable, dissolving relationship, all the while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the foster care system.


Painful memories of being taken away from her home quickly become consumed by real-life horrors, where Ashley is juggled between caseworkers, shuffled from school to school, and forced to endure manipulative, humiliating treatment from a very abusive foster family. In this inspiring, unforgettable memoir, Ashley finds the courage to succeed - and in doing so, discovers the power of her own voice.


The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.


Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…


Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.


But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.


Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.


The Truth Project by Dante Medema


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Cordelia Koenig was sure of many things going into her last year of high school. For one, she wasn’t going to stress over the senior project all her peers were dreading—she’d just use the same find-your-roots genealogy idea that her older sister used for hers. Secondly, she’d put all that time spent not worrying about the project toward getting reacquainted with former best friend and longtime crush Kodiak Jones who, conveniently, gets assigned as Cordelia’s partner.


All she has to do is mail in her DNA sample, write about her ancestry results and breeze through the rest of senior year. Done, done and done.


But when Cordelia’s GeneQuest results reveal that her father is not the man she thought he was but a stranger who lives thousands of miles away, Cordelia realizes she isn’t sure of anything anymore—not the mother who lied, the life she was born into or the girl staring back at her in the mirror.


If your life began with a lie, how can you ever be sure of what’s true?


You Have a Match by Emma Lord


Expected publication: January 5th, 2021 by Wednesday Books


pre-order: Amazon


Synopsis: From the beloved author of Tweet Cute comes Emma Lord's You Have a Match, a YA novel of family, friendship, romance and sisterhood…


When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.


But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.


When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.


The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby's growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.


But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.


What I Carry by Jennifer Longo


purchase: Amazon


Synopsis: Growing up in foster care, Muir has lived in many houses. And if she's learned one thing, it is to Pack. Light.

Carry only what fits in a suitcase.

Toothbrush? Yes.

Socks? Yes.

Emotional attachment to friends? foster families? a boyfriend? Nope!

There's no room for any additional baggage.

Muir has just one year left before she ages out of the system. One year before she's free. One year to avoid anything--or anyone--that could get in her way.


Then she meets Francine. And Kira. And Sean.


And everything changes.