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.
Part of my love for this setup might be because I’ve tended to be part of big friend groups — 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 — 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 — 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 — the titular 100, which by the way is pronounced “the hundred” rather than “the one-hundred” — 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 — including the way their relationships with each other change over time — 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?