Recommended Reads: Found Families

Also known as Family of Choice, the Found Family trope has always been one of my favorites. There’s nothing wrong with close-knit biological families (in fact, I love my own very much), but there’s something special about precious cinnamon / sinnamon rolls being adopted into a group that accepts them for who they are and has their back in the face of death and/or despair.Β 

Part of my love for this setup might be because I’ve tended to be part of big friend groups β€” not due to being especially popular or outgoing; I just made friends with the “right” people and somehow found myself part of a larger social circle β€” so I’m a fan of the dynamic. Everyone deserves to feel loved and understood.

(By the way, I did consider doing a list of queer-rep recommendations for Pride month, but Michelle @ Michelle Likes Things has already posted a whole bunch of them on a whole bunch of subtopics and I don’t have many titles to add. Go check them out!)

Of course I had to start this list with Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle quartet, because the Gangsey just epitomizes found family. From diplomatic Dad Friend Gansey to defiant Ronan to determined Adam to diffident Noah to … practical Blue, each member of the core cast contributes different strengths to Gansey’s quest to find the buried Welsh king Glendower. This series is also being adapted as a TV show, and since Maggie wrote the pilot and seems to generally be pretty involved in the process, I have high hopes.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians might technically be a bit of a stretch since all the demigods and deities are related on the godly side, but Camp Half-Blood is a refuge for kids who are used to being alone while they fight mythological monsters and/or school bullies. There’s prophecies and magical weapons … and did I mention the big happy family? It’s not all fun and games, sometimes it’s fighting for your life, but it’s quite an adventure nonetheless.

The All for the Game trilogy by Nora Sakavic follows a dysfunctional band of delinquent Exy players for Palmetto State University. Part sports story, part college drama, all exciting times β€” it’s not the most realistic narrative, but it’s lots of fun. (This does have potentially triggering content, though; if you need to check the warnings please do so!)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a modern classic, or at least very highly hyped. If six misfits plotting together to pull off an impossible heist, complete with banter and explosions, sounds like a good time to you, definitely give this book a shot if you haven’t already. And in case you haven’t heard, the Grishaverse (Grisha trilogy + Six of Crows duology) is being adapted into a TV show, so for those who like to read the books first and/or want to avoid possible spoilers, you should get on that ASAP.

You may have heard me proclaim that I like The 100 much better as a TV show than a book [series], but to be fair, there would be no show without Kass Morgan’s books. And both center around juvenile delinquents β€” the titular 100, which by the way is pronounced “the hundred” rather than “the one-hundred” β€” quite literally building a home for themselves on a post-nuclear apocalyptic Earth. (But seriously, if you’re interested in the premise but don’t love or want to try the book, give the show a chance.)

With the major selling points of a space setting and lots of diversity, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers demonstrates how very different individuals (we’re talking different species, with completely different cultures and values) bond and butt heads while stuck with each other for long periods of time on a relatively small spacecraft. In addition to being an engaging story, it’s a fascinating study of interpersonal relationships and morality.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart remains one of my favorite Middle Grade series to this day; the characters are uniquely memorable but also relatable, and I loved trying to solve the puzzles alongside the kids though the stakes for me weren’t nearly as high. Also, apparently there’s going to be a fourth book released in September? I just found out about this a few days ago, and I am so excited.

Among my middle school best friends were the Circle of Magic from Tamora Pierce’s Emelan cycle. (I love them so much that I made character aesthetics for the four mains, if you want to check it out.) The plot is exciting, but in my opinion it’s the nuanced worldbuilding and especially the character development β€” including the way their relationships with each other change over time β€” really shines.

Another longtime favorite of mine, Maximum Ride by James Patterson follows a memorable group of part-avian kids, with wings and huge appetites, as they try to stay ahead of the School where they were “raised” / experimented on. Their various misadventures gave me secondhand stress, but there are also fun domestic scenes as they figure out how to be functional people. (Note: I picked the manga cover because it’s prettier; the story is good in both forms.)

Do you think there’s a distinction between found family and just a group of close friends, and if so, what differentiates the two? What are some of your favorite fictional found families?

19 thoughts on “Recommended Reads: Found Families

  1. yes! honestly, i kinda don’t trust people who dislike the found family trope–there is no downside to it! characters we love get to have a sense of home and we get to see different personalities interacting in different ways. I’m so here for it!! I’m so excited for the day when arcs and books on my have-to-read-for-one-reason-or-another are out of the way and i can successfully binge The Foxhole Court. It sounds so good and so gay, and I like to think that I’m good at suspending my disbelief so I should be fine! The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet also sounds super interesting and good. I think I’ll love it, and I need to read more sc-fi books, so it’s a win-win. and as a Six of Crows stan, I wholeheartedly agree with you including them in this list! Honestly, for a long time after I read SoC, whenever I would sit down to plot my own works, it was my instinct to have an ensemble cast of MCs like in Six of Crows because I loved how Bardugo wrote their relationships so much. Great post πŸ˜πŸ’œ

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  2. I love my family, and it is definitely what you make of it. There’s a huge age gap between my sisters and I, so though they’re still my sisters, it’s always been my best friends and even my niece who I had a closer sibling relationship with (we’re only six years apart…and were forced to dress in matching outfits at times. It was a dark period in our family history). I love the family found trope, I think it’s so important, and I AM SO HAPPY you included my fave family found trope of all….Tamora Pierce’s Will of the Empress gang, I read every book so faithfully until that one, and I love them so much. I still have to ready Percy Jackson but it’s on my shelf waiting, ahhh I loved this post!!!

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    1. omg you’ve reminded me that I have a family friend who was always mistaken for my twin, luckily we never did matching outfits! but it’s definitely true, not all families are Mom + Dad + 2.5 kids [who like each other] and that’s totally okay, every family is unique and I think it’s terrific.

      I’ve been wanting to reread the Circle of Magic books, they were such a huge part of my middle school years and I adore their dynamic – Percy Jackson was too, definitely read it and get sucked into the ever-expanding Riordanverse with the rest of us! πŸ˜‰

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  3. yes, six of crows is such a good representation of the found family trope – which is one I love!
    I can’t wait to read and see how the characters find their families in the books you’ve recommended.
    I think that it might be stretching it but the Order of the Phoenix in Harry Potter can also be seen as a Found Family.

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    1. yes, I think the Order could definitely be considered a found family! I loved the scenes where a bunch of them all get together and banter and also fight evil – which is characteristic of most of my favorite book ensembles come to think of it πŸ€”

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  4. Great post, Isabelle! I live for the Raven Cycle group. They’re my absolute favorites, and it makes me so happy that you mentioned them all here! I’m also a huge fan of Camp Half Blood and the Six of Crows gangs (naturally). Something about close-knit groups of individuals, accepting and fighting alongside one another, truly makes for awesome stories! ❀

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  5. I think you know how much I love the Gangsey and the Foxes. Such amazingness in characters and families and oof, I just LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!
    Other recs from me:
    * The Boy Who Steals Houses (literally the epitome of a found family book)
    * The Illuminae Files
    * Daughter of Smoke and Bone
    * Poison Study / The Chronicles of Ixia
    ALL such amazing books!! πŸ’•

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Definitely agree on Percy Jackson and the Raven Cycle! The Lunar Chronicles feels like a found family kind of read to me too, and in The Mortal Instruments. I read the 100 and it wasn’t for me :/ Maybe the tv series might be better for experiencing that found family feeling πŸ™‚

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    1. ngl I wasn’t the biggest fan of the dynamics in the 100 books, but with the show “relationship drama” mostly comes from the fans – the characters and plot are very different between the two, so I’d definitely give the show a try!

      Mortal Instruments definitely has another great found family, I don’t know how I forgot about them πŸ˜… and I only made it through the first Lunar Chronicles book, but I’ve heard great things about the characters and their dynamic as well!

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  7. I love the found family trope! it’s so much more fun and enjoyable to read about than love triangles/ squares and I like when each of the characters has a different dynamic with other main characters so you’re not just seeing person B, C & D through their relationship with A, you’re also seeing how B & C relate and B & D, etc.

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  8. As someone who comes from not the tightest family, I LOVE the found family trope a lot – it’s probably one of my top 3??? I love nothing more than finding your people and having a group, and watching characters go through that too brings me a lot of joy. Great list, I need to read Raven Boys now

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks Kal! found family seems to be a general favorite, whether because people can vicariously enjoy a great family dynamic or can identify elements of their own in the fictional group – and Raven Boys is definitely a great one for it (obviously, hence its presence on this list 😜)


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