The best books about foster children

4 authors have picked their favorite books about foster children and why they recommend each book.

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The Barren Grounds

By David A. Robertson,

Book cover of The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga, Book One

The story is told from the point of view of Morgan, a thirteen-year-old indigenous girl who has been in foster care since she was three years old. She is angry and confused, and although her new foster home is a good one, she is so used to things not working out, she can't help sabotaging the situation. Then a young boy joins the family with his own problems. Things go from bad to worse. It takes an adventure for Morgan to appreciate where she comes from. Great world building and interesting animal characters. The book is visually appealing with subtle lessons, a good mix of humour, and a sense of hope.

The Barren Grounds

By David A. Robertson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Barren Grounds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle-grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home -- until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only…


Who am I?

I grew up on a farm on the Canadian prairies where my only entertainment was books. This was before TV and the internet. Reading about girls who overcame obstacles such as being orphaned, dealing with homelessness or a disability, helped me realize that girls can overcome anything with the right attitude and by being brave. These attitudes of fearlessness, positive thinking, and resourcefulness shaped my life and helped me realize many of my dreams, including being a published author. Books with strong female characters help girls realize their own dreams.


I wrote...

Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral

By Darlene Foster,

Book cover of Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral

What is my book about?

Amanda is in Paris where she works as a volunteer in a famous bookstore. A dream come true for a book lover like Amanda. But, during a visit to the Paris Opera House there is a bomb threat. Then the lights go out when she’s at the Louvre. Worst of all, a devastating fire blazes in Notre Dame. Why does a mysterious man, who claims to be a busker, writer, and artist, show up every time something bad happens?

Amanda explores the exciting streets of Paris, the fabulous Palace of Versailles, and the gardens of the painter Claude Monet, all the time looking for clues as to who would want to destroy such a beautiful, historic cathedral. 

The Panopticon

By Jenni Fagan,

Book cover of The Panopticon

This is the book which most inspired Frances’ voice in The Island. 15-year old Anais is troubled, loving, brilliant, and creative. She is also at a young offenders’ institution named the Panopticon after being found covered in blood at a crime scene. A birthday present from my brother, this book is so powerful, moving, and evocative. It’s written in spiky Midlothian. It’s raw. It’s warm. It’s brutal.

No matter what life throws at her (and there is a lot) Anais finds a way to survive with humour and defiance. I just loved it.

The Panopticon

By Jenni Fagan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Panopticon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists

Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car. She is headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember what’s happened, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and Anais is covered in blood. Raised in foster care from birth and moved through twenty-three placements before she even turned seven, Anais has been let down by just about every adult she has ever met. Now a counterculture outlaw, she knows that she can only rely on herself. And yet despite the parade…


Who am I?

Both my books have a survival theme. Whether it’s foraging for mushrooms, wild camping, or trying to survive lockdown, I’ve always been interested in the relationship between endurance and creativity; what happens when humans are pushed to their limits. After teaching English in a secondary school for 25 years, I decided that I wanted to write a book of my own. I hid away in my caravan in West Wales, living off tomato soup and marshmallows, to write The IslandThe books on this list represent the full gamut of survival: stripping yourself raw, learning nature’s lore, healing, falling, getting back up again. Ultimately, to read is to escape into story. To read is to survive.


I wrote...

The Island

By Olivia Levez,

Book cover of The Island

What is my book about?

Frances is alone on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She must find water and food. She must survive. And when she is there, she also thinks about the past. The things that she did before. The things that made her a monster. Nothing is easy. Survival is hard. And so is being honest about what happened before. Slowly, Frances learns to survive and see that the future is worth fighting for.

The Island is a gripping and thoughtful story about a girl who didn’t choose the life she has but digs deep to become the person she always wanted to be. All is not lost but some things are hard to find.

Flight

By Sherman Alexie,

Book cover of Flight

A Native American teen goes on a terrible spirit quest. Every teenager should have to read this book. It captures a stilted, youthful, rage in a way that is bracing and it examines it unapologetically but without glorification. Then, when you are lost in the woods of all that, Alexie takes your hand and leads you back out of it. Builds a perspective out of a kaleidoscope of violence that is cathartic and memorable.

Flight

By Sherman Alexie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the National Book Award–winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the tale of a troubled boy’s trip through history.

Half Native American and half Irish, fifteen-year-old “Zits” has spent much of his short life alternately abused and ignored as an orphan and ward of the foster care system. Ever since his mother died, he’s felt alienated from everyone, but, thanks to the alcoholic father whom he’s never met, especially disconnected from other Indians.
 
After he runs away from his latest foster home, he makes a new friend. Handsome, charismatic, and eloquent, Justice soon persuades Zits…


Who am I?

There's something about broken people trying to do good that has always resonated with me. In basic training, a drill sergeant with debilitating PTSD told us what combat would be like through a storm of choking sobs and a haze of tears. He needed us to know. Even if it broke him. Working as an investigator in Denver and Washington, I watched people with complicated pasts and uncertain futures fight tooth and nail (sometimes literally) to put human traffickers behind bars. Literature has always been a bridle for that wildness I saw in the world. A tool for taking the ghashing, stomping, unruliness of the human experience and making it rideable, relatable, survivable.


I wrote...

Flash Bang

By Kellen Burden,

Book cover of Flash Bang

What is my book about?

Dishonorably Discharged Army CID Agent Sebastian Parks finds bad men. He digs into their lives and uncovers their faults and once he's locked his jaw, there is no shaking him off. With the help of John Harkin, a former Army Ranger, and Navy medic Eric "Etch" Echevarria, Parks drags Denver's most wanted felons, flailing and wailing, back behind bars.

When the body of a local Muslim teenager is found outside a Denver nightclub, the boy's father turns to the only man unrelenting enough to promise him justice. "Find the man who killed my son. Find him and kill him."

Book cover of The Season of Styx Malone

Have you ever dreamed of being someone and somewhere else? I remember being a kid in the summertime when the hot summer in Omaha, Nebraska felt sooooo long and there was nothing to do. Styx Malone (foster child & the cool kid) and brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene are feeling that angst too. To make life more exciting, they concoct a plan to exchange one small thing for something better until they achieve their “wildest dreams” (motorbike). Sometimes it’s the baby sister that’s exchanged for fireworks (I mean, that’s pretty funny, but don’t worry, the baby sister is given back and they get to keep the fireworks). Of course, everything goes awry and gets dangerous and…well, read this book and you’ll be turning the pages at a mad pace, too!

The Season of Styx Malone

By Kekla Magoon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Season of Styx Malone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A CORETTA SCOTT KING HONOR BOOK AND THE WINNER OF THE BOSTON GLOBE HORN BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION!

"Extraordinary friendships . . . extraordinary storytelling." --Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-Winning author of One Crazy Summer

Meet Caleb and Bobby Gene, two brothers embarking on a madcap, heartwarming, one-thing-leads-to-another adventure in which friendships are forged, loyalties are tested . . . and miracles just might happen.

Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.

Then Caleb…


Who am I?

I’m a grown mother now. Also an author. But once upon a time, I was in middle school. I remember the braces, bad hair, being scared to return my lunch tray because boys might look at me while I passed their lunch table. Such angst, and yet I adore middle schoolers - they’re my jam. Fun, funny, exasperating, creative, boisterous, and annoying are all words I’d use to describe the middle school kids I teach and coach. I write down their quotes, shake my head at their antics, and adore their intense friendships. I hope you’ll enjoy these true-to-life middle-grade reads as much as I have!


I wrote...

Ten Thousand Tries

By Amy Makechnie,

Book cover of Ten Thousand Tries

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Golden Maroni is determined to channel his hero, soccer superstar Lionel Messi, and become captain of his soccer team and master of his eighth grade universe…especially since his home universe is spiraling out of orbit. Off the field, Golden’s dad, once a pro soccer player himself, is now battling ALS, a disease that attacks his muscles, leaving him less and less physically able to control his body every day. And while Mom says there’s no cure, Golden is convinced that his dad can beat this, just like any opponent, they just have to try.

Never-Contented Things

By Sarah Porter,

Book cover of Never-Contented Things

One thing you’ll discover as you read YA tales about the fae is that bored faeries are always causing trouble. In Porter’s novel, they tempt Ksenia’s foster brother and best friend away from her and then put her through a progression of nightmares as she tries to wrest him out of their clutches. There’s so much darkness in this book but it never quite tips into horror. It’s more of that incessant creepiness of the Twilight Zone, with scenes that keep ratcheting up the tension and impossible situations. This isn’t your average faerie tale with romance and hijinks—not by a long shot. But because of all that, it’s an absolute delight to read.

Never-Contented Things

By Sarah Porter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never-Contented Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Sarah Porter is a genius. Her language is lush and dangerous, and her books burn with the beautiful, ferocious intensity of a bonfire in the darkest night.”―Brittany Cavallaro, New York Times bestselling author of A Study in Charlotte

From critically-acclaimed author Sarah Porter comes Never-Contented Things: a standalone surreal young adult fantasy of teenagers ensorcelled into a wicked bargain with otherworldly beings…

Every moment of the night―
Forever changing places―
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces…
―Edgar Allan Poe, “Fairy-Land”

Bound by haunting tragedies, Ksenia Adderley and Joshua Korensky have shared a home…


Who am I?

Tales of magic have captivated me since I was a small child, and I started writing fantasy stories in high school. But it was only when I discovered the YA faerie subgenre several years ago that I truly found my niche. As my book recommendations will demonstrate, there’s a delicious connection between faerie magic and teenage angst, and it’s the tension that arises that makes for fantastic worldbuilding and storytelling. I hope that you enjoy my top books in the genre and find a new favorite for yourself!


I wrote...

The Favor Faeries

By Jackie Dana,

Book cover of The Favor Faeries

What is my book about?

The Favor Faeries is my YA fantasy novel series. Everyone knows about the Favor Faeries, mysterious beings that grant small wishes in exchange for trinkets and snacks. But most people claim the faeries are a hoax or a fraud, and the authorities even passed laws making it illegal to seek them out. Teenagers, however, are never particularly good at following the rules, especially when they want something only magic can make happen.

Rather than traditional book publication platforms, I’m serializing the novels on my Substack newsletter Story Cauldron. Each week my paid subscribers receive new chapters as well as related photos, artwork, and behind-the-scenes details sent directly to their email, and they can also be read on the website. As the books conclude, paid members also have the option to download the text in full before it gets published elsewhere.

Forever This Summer

By Leslie C. Youngblood,

Book cover of Forever This Summer

Forever This Summer is a lovely tale about the power of a family coming together in a tough time. Georgia, her Mama, and the happenings in and around the Sweetings Family Diner are relatable. As Georgia and her Mama look to help Aunt Vie, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, she learns her own family history. It’s a different take on the notion of memories. Aunt Vie’s memories are disappearing and being replaced by those of Georgia’s as she visits the people and places that made the women in her life who they are. 

Forever This Summer

By Leslie C. Youngblood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forever This Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Georgie has no idea what to expect when she, Mama, and Peaches are plopped down in the middle of small town USA--aka Bogalusa, Louisiana--where Mama grew up and Great Aunt Vie needs constant care.

Georgie wants to help out at the once famous family diner that served celebrities like the Jackson 5 and the Supremes, but everyone is too busy to show her the ropes and Mama is treating her like a baby, not letting her leave her sight. When she finally gets permission to leave on her own, Georgie makes friends with Markie--a foster kid who'd been under Aunt…


Who am I?

The inspiration to write about Alzheimer’s came from my own life. My grandfather had the disease. He and I were very close and it broke my heart when I realized I’d been forgotten. He only remembered my voice, that it sounded like a little girl he used to know. I wanted to capture the truth of that in a story. Sadly, dementia is so common, but for some reason, we don’t talk about Alzheimer’s as openly as we do other diseases. Kids need to be able to have everyday conversations about what they might be experiencing in regards to whomever they know with the disease. My hope is that books like Flowers can help.


I wrote...

What Flowers Remember

By Shannon Wiersbitzky,

Book cover of What Flowers Remember

What is my book about?

Delia and Old Red make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he can’t be cured. He’s forgetting places and names and getting cranky for no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red’s stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help her.

What Flowers Remember is a story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.

White Oleander

By Janet Fitch,

Book cover of White Oleander

White Oleander tells a story about a young girl growing up the hard way after her mother murders her partner and gets sent to jail. Astrid lives her life in social care going from foster care to foster care facing so many difficult scenarios each time it’s unbelievable. A story of pure love and hate between mother and daughter and the challenges that arise in this abusive relationship. This book is so beautifully written it’s like poetry, I had to read it twice and was not surprised when it was made into a movie. 

White Oleander

By Janet Fitch,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked White Oleander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

White Oleander is a painfully beautiful first novel about a young girl growing up the hard way. It is a powerful story of mothers and daughters, their ambiguous alliances, their selfish love and cruel behaviour, and the search for love and identity.Astrid has been raised by her mother, a beautiful, headstrong poet. Astrid forgives her everything as her world revolves around this beautiful creature until Ingrid murders a former lover and is imprisoned for life. Astrid's fierce determination to survive and be loved makes her an unforgettable figure. 'Liquid poetry' - Oprah Winfrey 'Tangled, complex and extraordinarily moving' - Observer


Who am I?

As a quiet and very shy child, I found myself sitting alone reading books rather than playing with other kids. My love for reading at the time was restricted to children’s books like The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe or Roald Dhal stories until I upgraded to Enid Blyton Books and Mills & Boon romances as a teen. It wasn’t until I reached my twenties when I actually found the genre I loved. It was through my love of these stories I came to realise I didn’t have to hide anymore, and my love for these stories planted a small seed in my mind that I would have the courage to write my own.


I wrote...

Sounds of Diamonds

By Nichola K. Johnson,

Book cover of Sounds of Diamonds

What is my book about?

Given away before her 1st birthday, Nikki experiences childhood dealing with abuse, bullying, neglect, and issues with race.

Brought up in her early years dreaming of her real mother, she eventually comes face to face with her in hope of becoming a real family, however, things are not what they seem, and her happy family becomes a nightmare. A story of Nikki’s struggles in finding her place in the world. A young girl who loses herself and self-belief hits rock bottom and finds herself completely alone. Reunited with her estranged father who experiences extreme challenges while he gives his life into turning things around. Together they spend their time building their very own distinctive relationship which endures many unexpected tests throughout their journey.

Planet Earth Is Blue

By Nicole Panteleakos,

Book cover of Planet Earth Is Blue

Nova is counting down the days until the Space Shuttle Challenger launches with teacher Christa McAuliffe on board. Nova, who is nonverbal and has autism, struggles to share her true self with the world, and desperately wants to be reunited with her sister. She believes the launch of the Challenger will bring her sister back into her life for good. But when tragedy strikes, Nova must learn to rely on her own strengths and ability to overcome life’s obstacles. This is one of my favorite stories about a kid who loves space…and one that influenced my second novel. 

Planet Earth Is Blue

By Nicole Panteleakos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Planet Earth Is Blue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Tender and illuminating. A beautiful debut." --Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me

A heartrending and hopeful story about a nonverbal girl and her passion for space exploration, for fans of See You in the Cosmos, Mockingbird, and The Thing About Jellyfish.

Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger--it's the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the…


Who am I?

As a kid, I didn’t enjoy science classes in school. During summer break, however, I took courses I thought of as fun, not realizing they were science classes, too. Geology, where I got to collect hundreds of pretty rocks. Archeology, in which I got to dig up “real” dinosaur bones. (Sadly, they weren’t real.) Science was exciting when it became personal! As an author, even though I never considered myself a STEM-focused writer, I realized that science was sneaking into my work and enriching my stories. I love books that are perfectly balanced with fascinating facts and heartrending themes, and that is what I strive to write.


I wrote...

All the Impossible Things

By Lindsay Lackey,

Book cover of All the Impossible Things

What is my book about?

Red’s inexplicable power over the wind comes from her mother. Whenever Ruby “Red” Byrd is scared or angry, the wind picks up. Being placed in foster care, moving from family to family, tends to keep her skies stormy. Red knows she has to learn to control it, but can’t figure out how.

This time, the wind blows Red into the home of the Grooves, a quirky couple who run a petting zoo. But just when Red starts to settle into her new life, a fresh storm rolls in, one she knows all too well: her mother. For so long, Red has longed to have her mom back in her life, and she’s quickly swept up in the vortex of her mother’s chaos.

Fighting Words

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,

Book cover of Fighting Words

Mental illness can be so serious and depressing, even striking fear in some people’s hearts. Here are five of my favorite titles for young and old readers alike—award winners, all, that use excellent storytelling and beautiful writing, draw freely on humor (or at least irony), and responsibly, hopefully, honestly, sometimes disturbingly, demystify mental illness for readers wishing to walk a mile in these shoes. If you or your teen reader like your novels real and edifying, you’re sincerely welcome.

This story gently exposes the mental health fallout from long-term sexual abuse, including depression and a suicide attempt, but it’s told through the point of view of foster kid ten-year-old Della whose laugh-out-loud humor will have you snorting coffee out your nose. Della only slowly comes to realize what her beloved sixteen-year-old sister Suki has suffered and the novel contains nothing graphic. Best of all, these characters speak up, get help…

Fighting Words

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fighting Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Newbery Honor Book*
*Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor*
 
A candid and fierce middle grade novel about sisterhood and sexual abuse, by two-time Newbery Honor winner and #1 New York Times best seller Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of The War that Saved My Life

Kirkus Prize Finalist
Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Booklist Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Best Book of the Year
BookPage Best Book of the Year
New York Public Library Best Book of the Year
Chicago Public Library Best Book…


Who am I?

I’m an American author of young adult novel Romancing the Dark in the City of Light and other fiction for younger readers as well as a trained suicide prevention counselor and mental health advocate. I have long been pulled by the subject of suicide since struggling with depression as an adolescent. Along with my pal, author and psychologist Nancy Bo Flood, we read and keep track of exceptional, traditionally-published books dealing with mental illness—that of the main character or of someone they love—that avoid tropes and stereotypes, model characters seeking and receiving help and support and ultimately coping, all while pursuing their goals and dreams like any other fictional people. 


I wrote...

The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent

By Ann Jacobus Kordahl,

Book cover of The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent

What is my book about?

The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent is about 18-year-old Delilah who is finally feeling stable after getting help for her depression, anxiety, and alcohol addiction, and she finds a sense of purpose volunteering at a suicide crisis line. But her world shifts again when her beloved, terminally-ill aunt asks her to help her “die with dignity.”

Good Me Bad Me

By Ali Land,

Book cover of Good Me Bad Me

I first listened to this book in audio and immediately bought the print copy. Good Me Bad Me has such a compelling voice that this is a book you will end up reading way past your bedtime. 

The story is told by a fifteen-year-old girl who has gone through so much trauma, your heart breaks…but then it twists, leaving you gasping for air because you can’t believe what just happened. I have read this story over and over again and it still haunts me to this day!

Good Me Bad Me

By Ali Land,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Good Me Bad Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How far does the apple really fall from the tree when the daughter of a serial killer is placed with a new, normal foster family? Room meets Dexter in Ali Land's Good Me Bad Me, a dark, voice-driven psychological suspense.

Fifteen year old Milly was raised by a serial killer: her mother. When she finally breaks away and tells the police everything about her mother’s crimes and years of abuse, she is given a new identity and placed in an affluent foster family and an exclusive private school. She wrestles with being the daughter of a murderer and the love…


Who am I?

As a teenager, I loved reading past my bedtime, getting lost within a story, then having it fill my dreams and leaving me on the hunt for another book just as good. The best books to read are those that draw me in with their voice and storytelling and leave me needing to turn page after page. Getting in trouble as a kid for reading too late was the best type of trouble to get into and even now, when I need to make a second pot of coffee after a night of reading, I walk away with no regrets. 


I wrote...

The Patient

By Steena Holmes,

Book cover of The Patient

What is my book about?

No one is safe – not even the therapist of a serial killer. Danielle Rycroft suspects someone close to her has a dark secret and with a string of murders in town putting her on edge, Danielle’s own worries come close to eclipsing her patients’. In each case, the pattern is the same: parents killed while their children sleep blissfully unaware in their beds. 

Danielle believes that there’s still a secret one patient has yet to share. But which one? Behind a familiar face is a stranger who’ll do anything to hide their worst compulsions. The anxiety brings Danielle to her own therapist’s office, seeking counsel and comfort. But what is she willing to risk, and how much closer must she get to stop them?

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