Dive Into Diversity Family Series: Stepfamilies

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

We’re continuing to delve into what exactly diversity is and I’ve really decided to hone in on family. Not everyone has a traditional family. The APA says that 40-50% of marriages will end in divorce. My mom’s first marriage did. It was just my mom and I for a little while until my dad (what I call my stepdad because I have never met, nor do I ever want to meet, my bio dad) unexpectedly popped into our lives. They married just before my second birthday. Four and six years later, my half-brother and half-sister were born.

I have blonde hair, blue eyes, lots of freckles, and fair skin. I’m curvy and have stocky legs. My brother and sister have my dad’s gorgeous olive skin tone, brown eyes, brown hair, and they inherited his chicken legs, too. I can only guess at what features I might have inherited from my bio dad’s genes. While this hasn’t ever bothered me, it’s caused some bumps along the way for us. (i.e. My school superintendent finding out about my bio dad my senior year in high school and publishing my name as the school valedictorian with his last name though it’s never been my given name. Oh, small town hate and politics.)

Magan's-Family-in-Alaska

This is my crazy family! From l-to-r: Dad, Dustyn (husband), Justin (brother), Mom, Ashley (sister), and Jacob (Ashley’s boyfriend). They were throwing snowballs at me in Alaska where we celebrated my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary together.

Our nuclear, “traditional” families have evolved and changed so much. Through my upcoming Dive Into Diversity posts, I’ll be exploring books with these family types: stepparents/step-siblings, single-parent families, same-sex parents, and adoptive/foster families. To be quite honest with you, I don’t want the typical family. We’ve been foster parents; we hope to again do that. I want to adopt. I want a fluid family that is ever-changing and growing and giving people a place to call home. My closest friends are my family. In a nutshell: adios traditionalism.

Let’s take a peek at some of the recommendations I’ve corralled for you (with the help of a few twitter recommendations some of you sent to me). These are focused on stepfamilies; 15% of people under the age of 18 are living in a remarried family.

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Wild Cards. Derek’s dad marries a younger woman after his mom passes away from cancer. His dad is in the army, frequently gone, so that leaves him in the care of his stepmom. She relocates them to Chicago to be closer to his family. He and his stepmom’s sister, Ashtyn, who are the same age have a crazy attraction. It’s complicated, but Wild Cards is a great example of a complex family unit. (Ashtyn’s dad is a single-parent, too.)

Even in Paradise. Charlotte’s dad remarried and she has two stepbrothers. For many reasons, Julia’s family is attractive to Charlotte. She loves their closeness and how protective they are of one another. Charlotte comes to love and appreciate her own family more as the illusion of perfectionism fades for Julia’s family. I really felt like this was a solid example of envying what we don’t have.

Open Road Summer. Reagan’s out on tour with Dee for the majority of ORS, but we get the sense that things aren’t so peachy with her stepmom and dad when she’s home. Things are downright tense, and I admire Lord for tackling this because truthfully, not everything is perfect all because two people fell in love.

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Ink is Thicker Than Water. Woo! Spalding created an incredibly awesome blended family in this novel. Kellie has a bio mom, stepdad, adopted older sister, and a younger half-brother. (Kellie’s bio dad is also still involved, too.) This book is a great example of a complex family structure, but also a really great one because we see boundaries and exploration to understand adoption. I loved it!

Eleanor and Park. Let’s contrast a great non-traditional family with one that just broke my heart, Eleanor’s. Her stepdad is one of the nastiest creatures I’ve met in my reading. And her mom was spineless. But you know what? This is the truth for some and I’m so glad Rainbow wrote this. So glad.

Geek Girl. This book falls on the younger side of my reading, but it also seemed to explore the earlier days of Harriet’s stepmom being part of the family. I don’t recall how long it’s been since Harriet’s dad remarried, but I loved getting to see her develop such a strong affection for her stepmom and no longer seeing her as an outsider.

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Recommendations from Twitter:

The Wrong Side of Right. — Jess, Gone With the Words: “Stepmothers get a bad rep, so it was refreshing to see the beautiful relationship that blossoms between Kate and her stepmom, as well as her half-siblings. Her father was a different story, but really touching in the end.”

Being Friends With Boys. — Estelle: “Lonely with her older sister away at college, we get a chance to see Char grow closer with her stepsisters. I loved that we didn’t get the usual evil dynamics here. They are all so different but there isn’t any hate between them.”

A Midsummer’s Nightmare. – Amber, YA Indulgences: “A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger is a great family dynamic story involving an almost “stepfamily”. Throughout the story, the main character Whitley is thrust into this new suburban town the summer after graduating. It’s in this new town where she discovers her father is engaged. To a woman she’s never met. Whitley then has to deal with her soon to be stepmother and step-siblings. The family dynamics in this are spot on showing that family doesn’t have to be blood related and not all blood related family members are perfect.”

Along for the Ride. — Lauren Morrill, author

One Plus One. — Kelly, Belle of the Literati: “Regardless of blood relations, deep love, understanding, and acceptance can occur between step parents and children. Sometimes the best kind of family is the one you choose or are ‘forced’ into and OPO shows the lengths we go to for our family, blood related or not. It’s beautiful. And selfless and unassuming and poetic. Yet this book also shows how blood relations can mean nothing and how family is a choice based on love and acceptance…acceptance most of all :)”

♥

Which stepfamily/step-sibling books would you recommend?
Share the book love and I’ll update the post with a comprehensive list!

Don’t forget to link up your Dive Into Diversity April posts below.
Any diversity post you write, add it so we can check it out and spread the love.
Use our special hashtag, #DiversityDive, to keep up with what’s happening!

Check out Rebecca’s April discussion post, too!

book cover for geek girl by holly smale

Geek Girl (#1) by Holly Smale • Magan Reviews

Holly Smale's Geek GirlGeek Girl (#1) by Holly Smale [twitter • website]
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 384
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: teenage modeling career, best friend drama, strong family ties
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Harriet Manners doesn’t fit in. She’s a geek. She can spout of random knowledge, but when it comes to standing up for herself and knowing how to talk to her peers, she’s lost. On a class trip, she’s discovered by a modeling agency, and she hopes it will change her life for the better. (But imagine the hurt since this has been her best friend’s dream since she was a small child.)

• • •

If there’s one thing Harriet knows for sure, it’s that she’s different from her classmates and she doesn’t really fit in. This becomes blatantly obvious when someone sharpies “GEEK” on her backpack. For a 15 year old girl, it sucks to stand out and be different. Harriet’s proud of her knowledge, but she just wants to know when all of bullying will end and she’ll find her place in the world.

She’s got an oddball dad, an obsessive stepmom, and an extremely loyal best friend. Well, loyal until Harriet is offered the chance of a lifetime and steals her best friend’s dreams right out from under her feet. Harriet is “discovered” in a shopping mall to become the hottest new teen couture model. Though she knows this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and her friend has every right to be mad, she’s also desperate to stop being such a dork and to have this great defining moment in her life.

Harriet is silly and smart and will make you laugh out loud. Her dad is obnoxious, bordering on goofball (as I think most 15 year olds feel their fathers are). And while stepmoms seem to not always have the best reputations, I saw this one as a shining example (though I wasn’t at first convinced of it because she can be pretty demanding). There’s friendship and loyalty, strong family ties, and incredible relatable moments that bring back memories of when there was nothing you wanted more than to fit in.

Geek Girl is definitely on the younger side of my young adult reading, but it was also kind of nice to mix it up. (I do wish some of the silly language from her modeling agent would have toned down throughout the book; his constant pet names felt excessive.) At its heart, this was a simple story about a smart teenage girl just trying to make it through, and I am really looking forward to seeing Harriet grow up a bit as the series continues on.

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Book Cover for Trinkets by Kirsten Smith

Magan: Trinkets by Kirsten Smith

Book Cover for Trinkets by Kirsten SmithTrinkets by Kirsten Smith <website • twitter>
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: shoplifting, unlikely friendships, cheating parent, alcoholic mother
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley (Thank you!)

Summary: Moe, Tabitha and Elodie are three girls very unlikely to ever form a friendship — that is, until they meet in a Shopaholics Anonymous meeting and bond over their one similarity: they’re all thieves.

 

Elodie, Moe, and Tabitha have one thing in common.

They’re shoplifters.

Aside from this (ginormous) fact, their lives couldn’t be more different. Elodie lives with her father and step-mother (whom she can’t stand) in Portland, where they’ve just relocated after her father’s remarriage and her mother’s death. She’s the new girl no one knows with one friend she doesn’t have much in common with. Moe and her older brother, Marc, live with their aunt who gained custody of them after their parents died when she was seven. Moe dyes her hair cherry-red and hangs out with a bunch of druggies. And then there’s Tabitha — the legendary popular girl who dates the boy everyone fawns over. But underneath her perfect exterior, she’s going crazy that her dad has endless affairs and how everyone (her mother, her friends, everyone) is always faking their way through life.

How do these three very different girls connect with one another? Through Shopaholics Anonymous.

Because they’re in such vulnerable positions and have to open up about their lives in SA, they let down their guards and speak truthfully and openly with one another about their home lives. (This is a big deal since none of their “BFFs” know any of this personal information.) While SA is supposed to lead them to understand why they want to steal and how to stop doing it, they band together and try to make the best steal after each meeting. Most weeks, after they’ve compared their loot, they spend time hanging out (in inconspicuous places where classmates won’t notice them together).

Tabitha, Elodie, and Moe’s stories are knitted together from each of their points of view. Elodie writes in verse, while Moe jots her entries down in a journal-like format, and Tabitha’s are more structured and formal. The different POVs move the story forward at a quick, enjoyable pace that makes the timing and new friendships seem plausible and realistic. One of the highlights is seeing three very outwardly different girls bond together, especially since many of their interior struggles are so much the same, each having faced abandonment or loss in some way.

The struggle is finding a way out of the cycle of their routine bad behavior. How do you stop doing something that fills the gap in your life? That makes you feel better? That gives you a high like nothing else? And what happens to this unlikely trio’s friendship when the twelve week program has come to an end?

Trinkets handles some pretty serious subject matter (death of a parent, a demanding boyfriend, remarriage, and scandalous affairs) in a manner that didn’t feel overwhelming, heavy, or overly dramatic. Smith maintained a light-hearted feel by placing the emphasis on friendship and letting the heavier issues play more of a secondary role. A huge takeaway for me was realizing that we all have “bad stuff” going on in our lives, but we can choose how we move forward and deal with those situations.

So the question is: does their unlikely friendship help these girls move past the negative circumstances in their lives or do they continue to be lured into thievery to seek attention? Guess you’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out!

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