Monday, July 10, 2017

Troperiffic Books | 20 of My Favorite Found Family Books

Ahhhhh...Tropes.  Do you love 'em or hate 'em?  I think most readers have ones they love and ones they hate. For me, while I do admire a really original novel and kind of love when tropes are turned on their head, there is nothing more satisfying than a good trope written well.  And it's impressive!  Because tropes are by definition, scenarios or ideas that are used over and over, readers have read them a million times and therefore have fodder to be super critical.  So bravo, you authors that tackle these common themes and make them your own!

One my all time favorite tropes is the idea of "found families".  Basically, this is about the families you choose - friends that go beyond just simple friend status.  While I love the family I was born into, I am also lucky to have a found family, friends for 30 years who have grown and changed and yet still we remain friends.  Who I would drop everything and go if they needed me, no questions asked and vice versa.  So I think that is why this trope resonates so much for me and why I love it.  I've read a number of books this year that do this trope well and I wanted to see how frequently this phenomenon shows up in my reading.  Below are some of my favorite books/series that feature this trope prominently (4 stars out of 5 or greater rating, mostly read in the past 10 years or so).


1) Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo

This trope is frequently present in heist or quest narratives because you have a gang of folk, with complementary skills who must spend lots of time together and place their lives in each others hands.  This series has a terrific gang. 💗

2) Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Since Harry is an orphan and comes from an abusive home, finding and bonding with Ron and Hermione and eventually the Weasley clan is really important for him making it through.  In a wider sense the entire wizarding community, Hogwarts and particularly Hagrid and Dumbledore also become his family.  It could be said this is the mother of all found family stories and it is what gives the books their warmth.  It is a certainly a big reason why I love the books!

3) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Man oh Man, this book.  Gus and Call were Texas Rangers together and after surviving that, they set up a ranching operation as partners.  When Call gets the idea to do a cattle drive to Montana, Gus grumbles about it but there's no doubt he'll go along.  They put together a crew for the long arduous journey and there is lots of bonding and relying upon one another.

4) The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

This series is full of found families.  Certainly Blue, Gansy, Ronan and Adam but the adults also.  I love Blue's house full of women, supporting one another.

5) The Rogues of the Republic Series by Patrick Weekes

As I mentioned with the Six of Crows series, heist stories lend themselves to this trope.  In the case of the Rogues of the Republic it is an eclectic and diverse family indeed.  A unicorn, a wizard, a death priestess, a grouchy safe cracker, a nobleman's daughter, her sidekick, and a monk contortionist who has sworn off violence.

6) Starflight by Melissa Landers

Another story that lends itself to the trope of found families is when a small scrappy crew works on a small spaceship together.  Starflight is YA science fiction book that is a really good example of this.

7) The Lovegrove Legacy series by Alyxandra Harvey

This series just breaks my heart.  At its core is a trio of best girl friends trying to meet society's demands in Regency Era England while also grappling with the newly acquired knowledge that they are all witches.  I loved Emma, Gretchen and Penelope's friendship.  Sadly this was supposed to be a trilogy but the publisher declined to publish the third volume.  Grrrr....

Art by Aaliya.mj - couldn't find source!
8) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

I love how this science fiction series not only adapts several fairy tales into a future setting but also intertwines the different heroines Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter with a few additional folks including a spunky AI into a fellowship.  They are united by rebellion and become family to each other.

9) The Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch

More heisty goodness with this series.  The central found family is really just two - Locke and Jean. I love these two and their relationship.

10) Still Life (Chief Inspector Gamache series) by Louise Penny

I'm not sure if this trope is more prevalent in SFF or if that's just where most of my reading happens but it does show up in a few other types of books, in this case a mystery.  This mystery takes place in the fictional town of Three Pines in Canada which seems to be populated by middle aged artsy folks who get together twice a week for chats and dinner.  It's totally charming!  You know, except that one might be a murderer. 😉

11) Avatar: The Last Airbender series by Gene Luen Yang

So I know Avatar started its life as a TV show but it now has a regular series of graphic novels so it counts! Aang certainly becomes part of Katara and Sokka's family and they become even more of a gang when Toph and then Zukko join.  Momo and Appa are also part of the family! I love these characters and their bonds so much that I haven't been able to watch the follow up series (The Legend of Korra), even though I've heard it's great, because it means Aang is dead:( while some of his found family remain living. It's just too sad!

12) Akata Witch series by Nnedi Okorafor

Many found families revolve around young people who are different in some way and who become close with those that share the difference and come to rely on each other, through a shared secret or shared ostracism.  In SFF, finding out you have magic is a big one and Akata Witch is another in the vein of HP and The Lovegrove Legacy.

13) The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Another "we're all stuck on this space ship so let's bond" situation!  A very diverse cast of characters and they don't all get along but if one's in trouble, they are all going to come running.  They're crew.

14) Fairyland Series by Cathrynne M. Valente

September is swept away from her home in Omaha to Fairy Land where she must complete a quest.  She meets some friends along the way who become her family in Fairy Land  - A-through-L (a wyverary, half wyvern, half library) and a mysterious boy names Saturday.  One needs strong allies when (circum)navigating the treacherous and wondrous Land of Fairy and September has them!

15) Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

This book combines camp, kids that are out of the ordinary and quests - it's the perfect alchemical ingredients for the found family trope.  Percy, his best friend Grover, his half brother Tyson and of course Annabeth become Percy's perfect allies as he figures out the whole demigod thing!

16) Aubrey/Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian

This long series of books about a Royal British Navy Captain during the Napoleonic wars and his best friend and ship's surgeon is really wonderful.  The central relationship between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin is what really makes the series special and since both men spend most of their time on a boat in the middle of the ocean, they have to find family where they are and rely on one another.

17) Alanna (Song of the Lioness, Book 1) by Tamora Pierce

The found family feel doesn't really carry on into the later books but it is definitely strong in this first book of the Song of the Lioness. With her parents gone and her brother off pursuing his own dreams, Alanna finds a family when she sneaks her way into the king's training program for knights.

18) The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

I only read the first three in The Mortal Instruments series and I'm happy to keep it that way as it was great.  Clary and her best friend Simon find their way into a secret society of demon hunters who live in a big posh house and are inseparable.  All of them must band together to fight the big bad and come to rely on each other completely.

19) The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin

This trilogy goes in so many different directions but its beating heart and what made it a series I loved was the group of courageous friends from the First Colony in California that decide to brave the scary world beyond the walls to try and save their community.  Peter, Alicia, Michael, Sarah, Hollis, Theo, Moussami and Amy.  They keep being split up but when crisis hits, they are there for each other and for the fight.

20) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I think the inclusion of this trope is why this book has the impact that it does.  A group of teens, isolated, that share something out of the ordinary.

Yes, this is definitely one of my very favorite tropes.  How about you?  Do you have any books that you'd add to this list?

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