The Best Depictions of Siblings in YA Literature


Happy National Sibling Day! As someone with an older sister who I have fought with, loved, and been supported by since I was born, this holiday holds a special place in my heart, and so do the depictions of sibling relationships in literature. There are so many YA books that contain moving portrayals of sibling dynamics, and these are a few of my favorites!

The Pevensie siblings: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe follows four young children–Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy–who are sent to the English countryside to evacuate a war-torn London during WWII. In their new home, they stumble across a wardrobe that transports them to the fantastical land of Narnia–a place full of magical creatures, wondrous adventures, and intense conflict. As the Pevensie children become embroiled in the drama and allure of Narnia, they must discover their own values and abilities in order to save this place that they have come to love.

The Pevensie siblings from the Chronicles of Narnia were one of my first introductions to complicated sibling dynamics in literature, and the legacy of this series and its characters sticks with me to this day. I admired how the siblings each reflected a different type of strength, all of which were integral in saving Narnia. The gentleness of Susan or the grace of Lucy is never viewed as less than the bravery of Peter or the fair-mindedness of Edmund. Lewis’ magical series will forever remind me of the love siblings share and the idea that in individuality, there is strength.

The Weasley siblings: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

While the Harry Potter series is largely devoted to the experiences of its titular character, the supporting cast is what really makes the series as beloved as it is today. Harry’s friends, family, teachers, and even enemies accelerate the plot and help readers develop a personal investment in the storyline as the series progresses and conflicts, love, and loss ensue. One of the character highlights in this series is the Weasley family, who bring Harry under their wing in the first novel of the series and care for him as one of their own throughout. If I were to name the sibling relationships that stuck out to me the most in my reading history, the Weasleys would be at the top of that list. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a ginger or that I always wanted to have a large family, but the Weasley family has held a special place in my heart since I picked up the Harry Potter books for the very first time. Amidst constant bickering and teasing, there is a clear undercurrent of love that determines the actions of each of the Weasley siblings. The simultaneous chaos and unconditional love the Weasley family so evidently shares with one another is heartwarming and incredibly relatable.

Kell and Rhy: Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab

The Shades of Magic trilogy is set in a world with parallel Londons: White, Grey, Red, and (formerly) Black. Kell, a magician from Red London, is one of the only people with the ability to travel between these parallel worlds, and this skill is utilized by his adoptive family (who just so happen to be the royal family of Red London) to make Kell an ambassador between Londons. Kell also doubles as a smuggler between these locations, but, when one of his journeys leads him to encounter a fellow thief by the name of Delilah Bard, Kell’s world shifts on its axis and he is drawn into a series of quests, heists, and epic adventures that alter his life and the lives of his loved ones, including his adoptive brother Rhy.

Kell and Rhy from the Darker Shade of Magic series reflect a unique albeit just as compelling sibling dynamic. Rhy and Kell, while not siblings by blood, embody the power of familial bonds. Throughout dangerous journeys and intense conflicts, the two show up for each other time and time again. Mind control, nefarious magical villains, and interdimensional travel are not enough to strain the strong bonds of brotherhood between these two. Even in the midst of frequent threats to their lives, the two young men find time to bicker like all siblings tend to do, proving that in realistic worlds and fantastical ones, siblings can simultaneously love each other to death and feel intense annoyance with each other.

Scarlett and Tella: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett and her younger sister Tella have grown up isolated, stuck on an island with their domineering father. Scarlett dreams of an escape; more specifically, she dreams of seeing Caraval, a magical, once-a-year event that holds promise of great intrigue and entertainment. In a series of unexpected events, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show, but this surprise soon turns sour when Tella is kidnapped by the leader of Caraval. With the show revolving around Tella’s disappearance and a quest for participants to find her, Scarlett is drawn into a world beyond anything she has ever known, experiencing magic, love, and loss all while trying to save her sister.

Despite taking place in a magical world, the relationship between Scarlett and Tella is a very realistic portrayal of sisterhood. The two could not be more different in their personalities, but the love they share is evident from the very first page. Scarlett’s passionate protectiveness of her younger sister drives a large part of the book’s plot, and readers get the opportunity to see Scarlett and Tella grow individually and as sisters over the course of this adventurous and compelling narrative.

Lara, Kitty, and Margot: To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

Hopeless romantic Lara Jean has a habit of writing love letters to her crushes as a way of releasing the hold they have over her. This strategy has served her well for years, but when a mysterious someone mails these letters to the boys they were written about, Lara Jean must face the consequences. These consequences are especially concerning when it comes to Josh, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, who Lara Jean has long harbored secret feelings for. To avoid revealing this truth to her sister, Lara Jean fakes a relationship with her high school’s “it” boy Peter Kavinski. As this fake relationship with Peter develops, Lara Jean finds herself torn between Peter and Josh, all the while still dealing with how to protect her relationship with her sister, Margot.

The Covey girls in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before offer a beautiful and wholesome portrayal of sisterhood. The bond between the three sisters is the backbone of Lara Jean’s romantic journey; throughout everything, Kitty and Margot offer a safe space and support system for Lara Jean to fall back on, and she provides the same for them. I think I was so drawn to this literary depiction of sisterly love because it speaks to the strengths of female relationships and their inherent empathy and compassion. No matter where the sisters are in their lives, their ability to rely on each other remains stable, which is something that is so magical about having a sibling (and what this “holiday” is all about!).

Grace, Maya, and Joaquin: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Grace, who was adopted at birth, has lived her entire life not knowing her biological family. This all changes after she puts up her own baby for adoption and begins a search to find her biological siblings. Maya, Grace’s younger sister, is headstrong and eager to understand her place in the complex family dynamic that these siblings are now discovering. Joaquin, the older brother, is far more impassive, especially when it comes to his relationships with his biological siblings. Joaquin seems to want nothing to do with Maya and Grace. Being raised in the foster system, Joaquin has learned to distrust and approach relationships with a distinct guardedness in order to protect himself. When these three siblings with the same biological mother but vastly different life experiences come together, their lives and perspectives are forever altered.

Far From the Tree presents another instance in which siblings, while drastically different in personality and perspective, share a powerful love for one another. As the three go on their own personal journeys while also navigating their newfound relationships with each other, Benway presents a stunning and at times equally heartwarming and heart-wrenching portrayal of familial love.

The Carter siblings: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter feels trapped between two vastly different worlds: the world of privilege formed in her wealthy prep school, and the underserved neighborhood that she and her loved ones call home. Both of these worlds are turned upside down for Starr when her childhood best friend Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer. In the investigation, outcry, and conflict that ensue, Starr’s relationships with the people in both of her communities is tested, as is her confidence in her own identity. As Starr faces these struggles and the public consequences of the night when her world shattered, she does not do so alone; Starr’s family and friends offer love and support that carries her in times of need and helps her decide what course of action is best for herself and her community.

While Angie Thomas’s novel is driven by the compelling voice of Starr Carter, the Carter family is a powerful portrayal of a family with incredibly strong bonds that are tested after a devastating series of events in their lives. The Carter siblings are fiercely protective of each other throughout the novel. Starr’s older half-brother, Seven, will go to any lengths to defend the siblings he loves, and the burden of responsibility he feels for them all is evident throughout the novel. The older members of the Carter family also work to protect their younger siblings from the harsh realities of the world around them, hoping to allow the kids an opportunity to stay innocent for a bit longer. This book does not shy away from some of the harshest and scariest issues plaguing American society, but there are plenty of tender moments between the Carter family members that demonstrate a level of care and love that persists no matter the hardship faced.

Darius and Laleh: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

For as long as he can remember, Darius Kellner has never really felt a sense of belonging. He is bullied at school, has a strained relationship with his father, and is also struggling with clinical depression. However, a trip to Iran to visit his ailing grandfather changes things for Darius, especially when he meets a boy his age named Sohrab. As the two boys spend their time exploring Iran, Sohrab helps Darius connect to his Persian heritage and feel good in his own skin. As Darius begins to come into his own with Sohrab’s help, his relationship with his family members strengthen, and he develops greater empathy and compassion for not only himself but his loved ones as well.

Darius and his younger sister Laleh share a mutual adoration for each other that is maintained throughout the novel despite the internal and external conflicts the two face. While Darius has his own insecurities that reflect on Laleh, he doesn’t let these fears affect the love and care he shows his sister. In a novel that revolves in part around the complexities of family dynamics, the relationship between Darius and Laleh is a beautifully written bright spot that conveys the power and dependability of sibling love.

Sam Parker, Pine Reads Review Writer