As children, my sister and I fought like wild animals. We screamed and threw things at each other. When she made me really mad, I chased her out of the house and locked all the doors. We were (and are) very different people. She was messy and a bit wild, and I was too reserved and annoyingly fastidious. But I also remember her stroking my hair when I was sick and making me laugh so hard I peed.
I loved her and hated her in equal measure, I think. Especially as a teen.
As much as we fought in our own house, we presented a united front to the world. As military brats, we were each other’s only constant. We may have thrown forks at each other, but if anyone outside threatened us, we were each other’s shield. When I moved out of the house — and we finally got some space — we started getting along. Now we’re great friends. This is not uncommon, I know.
There’s something special about sisters and their relationships. Older sisters set the standards, but have too much responsibility placed on them too early. Younger sisters never got the chance to start with a clean slate. The betrayal of a sister is sharper than anything else, but a sister’s support can make the impossible possible.
I love reading about complicated sister dynamics in fiction, especially in young adult fiction. The teen years are a volatile time of life, so sister stories have that much more drama potential. Here are ten young adult books centered around sister relationships. Some of those relationships are sweet, some sour, but they’re all sisterly.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
Cee’s been scraping out an existence on an abandoned island for years, with no memories of how she got there or where she came from. All she remembers is that somewhere, she has a sister named Kay, and she needs to find her. In a different time and place, STEM prodigy Kasey’s sister Celia has disappeared from the eco-city they live in, and Kasey retraces her steps to find out what happened.
We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire by Joy McCullough
Em’s older sister was raped after a frat party, and Em has been an outspoken advocate on social media during the trial. When the trial doesn’t go exactly as they hoped, Em’s family is stunned. Full of rage and guilt, she goes viral once again, and finally finds connection with the story of Marguerite de Bressieux, a legendary 15th century knight who avenged rape victims.
Sisters of the Snake by Sarena Nanua and Sasha Nanua
Princess Rani and street thief Ria are twins who have no idea the other exists. When Ria tries to steal from the palace, the two finally meet and agree to switch places to get what they both want. They uncover a plot to destroy their kingdom and must work together to stop everything from falling apart.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Every generation, three queens — triplets — are born equal heirs to the crown, each with their own magic. Raised apart from each other, the sisters have to fight for the throne as soon as they turn 16. A poisoner, a naturalist, and an elemental face off. The one left standing will be Queen.
The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters
Natasha’s sister has gone missing, her car abandoned at the edge of a local nature preserve called the Bend. As the case grows cold, Natasha’s anger turns hot. She seeks out Della, whose family has used the Bend’s magic for themselves and their customers for generations. Della thinks she knows the monster responsible, but she keeps the info to herself because that monster is her own mother, transformed by magic gone wrong.
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Whispers in the villages say that the family in the manor by the sea have been cursed by the gods. There used to be 12 sisters, but tragedy has befallen four of them. Annaleigh thinks maybe the deaths are no accident. Her sisters have been sneaking out at night to dance until dawn in silk gowns, but who are they really dancing with? She teams up with a handsome stranger to figure out what is going on before the curse takes her.
The Girl King by Mimi Yu
Lu was destined to become the first female ruler of her Empire. Min knew she would always live in Lu’s shadow. But then their father declares their male cousin the heir and the sisters becoming unwitting rivals. Lu seeks to build an army and take back her title, while Min discovers forbidden magic inside her that could allow her to claim the throne for herself.
Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh
Plum has always felt overshadowed by her sister, Ginny. The two could not be more different. When their family faces financial troubles, their relationship grows even more tumultuous. Ginny is leaving for college soon and everything feels different. The two girls must figure out who they really are, despite what their late father told them they were. What they discover could bring them closer or drive them apart forever.
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
Grace was adopted and raised as an only child. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she decides to look for her biological family and discovers she’s actually a middle child. Maya is her loudmouthed younger sister, adopted by a family of redheads. Their older brother Joaquin has grown up in the foster care system and isn’t interested in bonding with his new-found siblings.
This Side of Home by Renée Watson
Watson’s YA debut features identical twins Nikki and Maya who thought they were on the same page on every aspect of life, until their neighborhood starts the process of gentrification. Nikki is happy but Maya is angry and confused. And the disagreements and differences don’t stop there.
I hear a lot of publishers calling for more sibling stories, so I’m excited to see new sister (and other sibling) stories come out in the next couple of years. There’s so many ways for sisters to be, that the stories to tell about them are endless. To find even more sister and sibling books, see 5 YA Books With Crucial Sibling Relationships by Authors of Color, Siblings in Fantasy Fiction, and for a slightly younger crowd, 8 Middle Grade Books About Siblings.