Why I Never See My Family in Books: Blended Families Are Families Too

Hello friends! It’s time for another discussion post! Today we’re going to be talking about a topic that’s quite personal to me, and that is how non-traditional families are represented in books. I know the term “non-traditional family” can be super broad, so let me be clear that in specific I’ll be talking about foster care, adoption, and step-families. The reason I’m focusing my attention onto these 3 kinds of family structures, is that in each of these cases, there is a non-biological relationship in some way or another, but the family looks like a “normal” family to an outsider. I know that people love talking about found families, which you can find in almost every genre, but that’s a totally separate topic which I have mostly positive things to talk about, whereas this discussion is going to be slightly more ranty.

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Even if said family is non-traditional

The reason why this topic is so important to me is because I come from a blended family. I have biological siblings, siblings that I share only one parent with, and step-siblings. I also have step-parents. And in most of the books I read, these relationships aren’t portrayed in the best light.

Now, I know that a lot of this has to do with Cinderella and her evil step-mother. Lots of books like to play with that story, and even if a book might not be a full-on retelling, many times when there’s a step-mother, she’s evil. This bothers me a lot. For one thing, it gets to be boring. You see that there’s a step-mother, and you assume that she’s evil because you’ve become accustomed to that storyline. But on a more emotional level, I feel like it does a disservice by only representing blended families in a negative light. Yes, I’ve met some people who have bad relationships with their blended families. But I’ve also met quite a few people that have bad relationships with their biological families.

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As for me, I have great relationships with my step-parents and step-siblings. I won’t say that everyone immediately got along with one another from the moment we met, but that’s normal. At this point, several years later, we all get along quite well, and are there for one another. I don’t want anyone to read all these stories with terrible step-parents and either consciously or subconsciously come to the decision that step-parents must be the absolute worst. As with most things in life, there are many different experiences that one can have, and it pains me that I only see the negative side of things portrayed in books.

You see, despite my life being proof that you can live happily if you’re in a blended family, when I was looking through books that had positive blended families, I only found two. Now, to be fair, I did get discouraged after a few minutes, so I didn’t look through every book I read, but at the very least only two stood out in my memory. And while I was scrolling through Goodreads looking for these rare unicorns, I came across so many books with the negative stereotype, so at the very least I know that the ratio is severely unbalanced.

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I’d like to mention that I think this trope extends to foster care a lot as well. I have read many books where foster families are abusive, but I have also read a few that were kind. I have never been in foster care myself, so I can’t really speak for that experience. But I think that there should be a more balanced outlook regardless. The world isn’t all bad. I personally like reading stories with a more positive outlook on life, and I’d love to see that represented with non-traditional families from time to time.

Now there’s one other trope that I wanted to touch upon that bothers me. And that’s the romance between adopted siblings/step-siblings. This is suuuper common in the New Adult romance genre, but I’ve also seen it here and there in other places. Let me break down my issue with this. I think everyone would agree that incest is wrong, right? Like, you wouldn’t date a sibling. And yes, there are genetic factors to consider with incest, but at the core dating a sibling just feels wrong. Now, when books have romances between adopted siblings/step-siblings, they basically say that genetics are the only things keeping sibling apart. Because if these people were actually raised as siblings, and saw each other as family, would there really be an attraction? I understand that people find it cute that the couple knew one another as kids, or that they grew up together. I know that other people like the appeal of the taboo. But can we at least admit that it severely undermines the reality that these two people are supposed to treat one another like family?

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Not love interests to one another!

That’s my general issue with both the terrible relationships and the romantic relationships. Both disregard the fact that a blended family, or a family with foster children or adopted children, are still a family. Biology isn’t the only thing that makes a family, and it frustrates me to see books constantly ignore that fact.

John Mulaney Snl GIF by Saturday Night Live

Family is family

But as I said, there have been a few books I read that have been an exception to this general negative outlook on non-traditional families, and I’d definitely recommend them! So if you’re looking for good blended family rep, let me recommend Starry Eyes and my most recent favorite book Wild & Crooked. I could give you a whole list of reasons to read both books, but I honestly think that the step-mother/step-child relationships alone is the only reason you should need to pick these books up.

Starry Eyes Wild & Crooked

And while I am not adopted and have never been in foster care, I’m still going to recommend books that I think did good jobs of representing these realities. For both these stories, I  know that the authors has a personal connection to what they wrote about, so I feel more confident in recommending them.

What I Carry is a story that did a really good job of representing the foster care system. It follows a girl who’s about to age out of the system, and you get to read about all the families she’s lived with up until she turns 18. Because of that you get to see a lot of nuance into how different foster families include a new child into their lives, and how that in turn affects that child. The How & the Why on the other hand, follows a girl who wants to learn more about her birth mother, even though she has a wonderful relationship with her adoptive parents. At the same time you have letters from her birth mother that she wrote while pregnant, that sheds light on her side of the story. It’s a really great book and it really takes the time to focus on friendship and family, rather than a romance, which was quite unexpected!

What I Carry The How and the Why

I’m happy that I read those four books. It gives me hope that these tropes might slowly get dismantled in the future, or at the very least that authors will begin to balance out these negative stories about what it means to be a family with some positive ones.

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 What are your feelings on the evil step-mother trope? How many siblings do you have? Do you have any books to recommend with good non-traditional family rep?

59 thoughts on “Why I Never See My Family in Books: Blended Families Are Families Too

  1. Great post, Malka! I don’t mind step mother trope, either evil or good. I agree with you evil step mother has turned into common thing in books it’s rare in books where you see healthy blended relationship and when I come across such book I love them more. I agree incest is worst. I have younger brother.

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    1. Thank you!

      I don’t mind step-mothers when they’re good, but the fact that there are so many evil ones in books bothers me! I think the trope is way too overused, so I’m always happy when I see a healthy blended family! And incest is definitely the worst, but I’d also like for step-siblings to stop forming romantic relationships! It’s so gross!

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  2. I hate seeing romances between step-siblings 🤢 I feel like it’s something that started in pornography as a “taboo” subject and it just spiralled from there, which is so gross. And I’m really sick of seeing evil step-parents in everything. My parents are still married so I can’t speak for people from blended families, but I don’t know a single person who has an “evil” step-parent.

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    1. Same! It’s so gross! And that progression actually makes a lot of sense. It’s quite possible that’s what happened. But still, there’s something so weird to me about seeing to people who should be acting like siblings would acting in romantic/sexual ways instead.

      Yes! The evil step-parent is such an overused trope! I know a few people that don’t get along with their step-parents, but I think that I know about the same proportion of people who don’t get along with their biological parents. Why does every step-parent in literature have to be evil, if every biological parent in literature isn’t? What makes step-parents so different and inherently evil?

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  3. I actually think I am seeing more and more these types of families/situations, because they exist. Good Girl’s Guide to Murder was a a blended family. The new husband adopted Pip, and he and the mom had a son together. In Unscripted, the parents met in grief support group for people, who lost their spouses, when their children were very young. They adopted each other’s children. Time of Our Lives, the male MC was adopted. Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus, the main character, who was born without arms, was adopted from foster care. Remy Cameron was an adoptee as well. I don’t know if I see more this, because I read contemporaries almost exclusively, or that there are just more of these family structures around. Whatever the case, I am all for a non “traditional” type family structure, because that’s how I raised my own child. (I loved What I Carry and TH&TW, both stupendous!)

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    1. I definitely think this inclusion is a more recent thing. At the very least, all 4 of the books I mentioned were published in the past 3 years.

      I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned, so I’ll definitely have to check them out! I was already excited for Time of Our Lives because I love the authors’ previous works, but knowing that the male MC is adopted has made me even more excited! And I’ve heard of Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus before, but I seem to have missed that detail! I really want to read it now!

      I think I read a fair bit of contemporaries, and while I sometimes see non-traditional families, it’s only recently that I’ve started reading positive stories. And the contemporary genre is definitely miles ahead of the fantasy genre, where is seems that every parent or step-parent must either be dead or evil.

      And I’m so happy that you loved What I Carry and TH&TW! I haven’t found many other people who have read them!

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          1. I totally want to see more blended families. I was going to write a book about a girl who was adopted and loved her adopted parents and wanted to find her birth mom as well. I dont know why non biological parents are always portrayed as evil. Give me family troubles sure, but not all non biological parents are evil!

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            1. Yes! And that plot is extremely similar to The How & The Why, so I’d definitely recommend checking it out! But I’d definitely love to read more stories about that, so if you ever write one, let me know!

              And I totally agree. There’s a big difference between normal family arguments and dynamics and an evil non-biological parent that just is out to get their non-biological children! It also makes the non-biological parents so one dimensional!

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              1. I was just reading someone else’s post about how in most of the YA books she reads the mothers are dead. And the fact that you posted this and then I read that just got me thinking about how little parents tend to play a role in YA which really just makes no sense. I know that YA is now being written for older people and a lot of the time the characters dont portray actual teenagers. But in fantasy there are like no healthy families or families at all really and that’s just really messed up.

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  4. Novels seems to love to portray only the negative, or very MOST of them anyway. I can see how hurtful it must be to never see your kind of family portrayed; of it is is, to rarely be a positive one. We definately need more happy stories including that !!

    Now I feel like I have read something like that.. but which one… Oh! Actually, I think it was in “tell me three things” by Julie Buxbaum!! At first, the two teenagers don’t really like each other, because “ew- I don’t want a sibling !! I was fine before with my only parent” but then? They actually get alongs pretty well. The step mother is actually quite nice too – trying her best to understand her new girl teenager (obviously different than her boy) but her attempts gets misunderstood by her..

    Oh my god! I absoutely can’t either … I mean, if they didn’t knew their parents were dating and we “together” when all was happening; fine, I guess it pass. but if they actually GREW UP together as SIBLINGS ?! erm… no.

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    1. Oh, definitely! As a fan of happy, fluffy books, it can be incredibly difficult for me to find what to read at times. And I think the misrepresentation bothers me a lot more than the lack of representation. While I’d love to see more caring non-traditional parents, I definitely first want to see less of the negative stories first. But I guess a balance can just as easily be achieved if there are more happy non-traditional families, so in reality I assume I’d be happy either way!

      I’ve actually read Tell Me Three Things quite a few years back! For some reason I did not remember that it had blended family rep, although to be honest, I’ve forgotten most of that book. But even though I don’t remember it that well, I’m still happy to hear that there’s another book with good rep out there!

      I didn’t really think about that possibility! I think if the couple started out by dating first and then later learned that their parents are dating, I’d be okay with it because they started off their relationship as something romantic. I actually have read a book like this and it was dealt with very well. I was talking about instances where the couple grew up together as siblings, yet still managed to form a romantic relationship. That’s just gross to me!

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  5. Wow, excellent post! I have two siblings, one sister and a half-brother but he feels like my ‘full’ brother. Yeah, if it’s not in a retelling context, sometimes I feel like the evil step-parent trope can be a bit overused – my mum is my brother’s stepmother but they get along fine! I had no idea that adopted/step-sibling romances were a trope in NA, that genuinely made me shudder. Thanks for your recommendations 😀

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    1. Thank you!

      I have two half siblings, and though I don’t see them that often, we’re definitely still siblings! And I totally agree that the evil step-mother trope is super overused. My mother is a step-mother, and I’ve seen the lengths she’s gone for her step-children! She definitely cares about my step-siblings, and I don’t think any one of them would consider her evil in the slightest!

      I’m very glad that the adopted/step-sibling romance trope has pretty much remained confined to NA, so that it’s easily avoidable! But I still absolutely hate that such a trope exists! It’s so gross!

      And I’m so happy you appreciated my recommendations! These are some of my favorite books, and I was so happy to be able to share them for their great rep!

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  6. This is a wonderful post! Funnily enough, as soon as I read the first paragraph I was going to recommend Starry Eyes, so definitely a good one! As is Wild and Crooked! I do not like the evil stepparent trope either. At all. I always flinch when people address “mom and dad” in groups of kids, because I know my kids can’t be the only kids who that doesn’t apply to, you know? And Idk if it’s like this everywhere, and I REALLY hope it isn’t, but around here I FEEL the judgement at me being a single parent. Which is absurd, and I don’t even particularly care what a bunch of fools think of me, but I worry about the kids being judged. And I can imagine that a LOT of non-trad families go through similar stuff, because people suck, basically. But I think that there have been more books with non-trad families showing up, like these that you have mentioned, and I love it! Hopefully we’ll see a lot more going forward!

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    1. Thank you! Starry Eyes was the only one I remembered at first! My first draft I only had that book to recommend for blended family rep, until I started thinking harder and remembered that Wild and Crooked had great rep as well!

      Oh, yes! The evil step-parent trope is terrible for so many reasons. I have to say that growing up first with a single mother, and then having the sudden addition of a step-parent and step-siblings wasn’t easy. There definitely was (and still is) judgement, and I’ve had many little moments like the “mom and dad” combo, that stung a bit. I used to feel so uncomfortable telling people I had a step-dad. I even distinctly remember that in 6th grade we had to do an About Us report, and one of the sections was on family. I refused to write anything because I was so conflicted about what to put down. My teacher that year didn’t like me too much and so rather than ask me what the problem was, she sent me to the principal for refusing to do my work. Thankfully my principal was way more understanding and helped me work through the project.

      I think that while growing up there definitely were growing pains related to having a non-traditional family, I wouldn’t change how my life is now for anything in the world. As a single mother, my mom did everything she could to take care of her kids. I noticed that and still appreciate everything she did for me when times were tough. My step-dad now is great, and I love having him around. Yes, people suck, but I’m sure you’re a great mom single or not. Just know that as someone who has dealt with a lot, having a non-traditional family doesn’t mean your kids will have a terrible childhood. I think in the moment it’s easy to focus on all the rough times, but looking back it will be easier for you (and your kids too) to see all the good that came from having the family you have. I know I’m not a mother, but if you ever want to discuss more about the topic with me, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m quite happy and proud of my family at this point in my life.

      There definitely have been more books with non-traditional families popping up, and I really hope that the trend only continues!

      This non-traditional family gal wishes you the happiest Mother’s Day!

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  7. Oh god, I hate the romance between stepsiblings trope so much, it’s just super weird and icky. And with the evil stepmother it really depends. If it’s a Cinderella retelling, okay. If it isn’t, I’m not too much of a fan of it. Because it’s only too often portrayed like the child being inferior and the dad not really caring enough about his child. It seems to be this
    “yo child I found a new woman and I’m gonna marry her and if that doesn’t suit you, that’s your problem. Oh, and if you come to me because she did something bad, I’m not going to believe you because I love her.”
    And I hate that. My dad has a new girlfriend and I’m not even living at home anymore and he checked about a 100 times if it’s ok for him to have a girlfriend and I think this should be the normal way but somehow in books? It almost never is.

    Starry Eyes was actually the first book that came to my mind. Apart from that, maybe Alex in Wonderland by Simon James Green (even if the book leads you to think soemthing else at first).

    Great post! ❤

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    1. It’s so icky! I don’t really understand what people like about that trope!

      It’s fine for a Cinderella retelling, but I feel as though many times books just take inspiration from Cinderella, and the only thing that really ends up being noticeable in the end is the fact that the step-mother is evil.

      Oh, and the careless father is definitely super frustrating. The way you put it really made me laugh. I think there’s a difference between books that start off with single dads who then add a significant other, and books that start with a pre-existing step-mother. I find that when the book starts off with a single dad, he usually has a pretty good relationship with his child throughout the book. But when there’s a step-mother already in the picture, that’s usually where I tend to see the fathers putting their wives first. It’s awesome that your dad checked in with you before getting a girlfriend! I definitely think that a discussion between a parent and child about introducing a new significant other into their lives should be way more normalized both in real life and in books!

      Starry Eyes was the first book that popped into my mind as well! It took a little longer to come up with Wild and Crooked, although the non-traditional family rep in that book is absolutely fantastic! I actually have not head of Alex in Wonderland before, so I’ll have to look into it!

      Thank you! 💕

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  8. I really appreciate this post! 😍 I know several families with children who are fostered, adopted, or both, and while they certainly have their challenges, their family is beautiful and loving. I agree that Cinderella seems to have set some kind of precedent for step-family members, but I’m sad that this is something that still continues today. I’m really interested in adopting and fostering children when I get older, and I think this is something that needs to be explored more! 💛

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    1. I’m so glad! 💕 Exactly! Non-traditional families can be so lovely, that it’s so sad that readers might end up thinking that no such thing exists because of how prevalent all this negativity surrounding these families is in books. I

      It’s strange. Normally fairy-tale retellings are looked at with wonder and excitement, but I’m not too happy with how every book that vaguely ties into Cinderella has to have an evil step-mother. The fact that it has seeped into non-retellings makes matters even worse!

      I think adoption and fostering are such wonderful ways of building a family, and I wish you the best of luck with that journey once you’re ready! ❤

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      1. That’s such a great point about retellings! I would love to see a Cinderella retelling where the stepmother and stepsisters aren’t evil, or at least aren’t presented in such a negative light. I really hope we see more non-traditional families represented more and more! 🤍

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  9. When I was reading your post I so wanted to be able to whip out a list of books where the step sibling or blended family is shown in a positive light, but you’re right, so often it’s written with these characters having a bad relationship. I will say I read an excellent book about foster and adopted families in More Than We Can Tell, the MC Rev was adopted by his foster family and they take in foster children and it really shows it all in a good light. I now hope you find some more recs from this post and I would love to see them if you do because this is something I definitely think I need more of.

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    1. Oh, I read More Than We Can Tell! You’re definitely right! Foster care and adoption is handled wonderfully in that book!

      And despite good non-traditional representation being a needle in a haystack, I managed to get quite a few recommendations from other comments, although I haven’t read most of them yet!

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  10. I love reading books about non-traditional families! Whether it’s foster care, adoption or divorce and step families, I think reading about them and learning about them makes it more normal. Because it is normal, even if we call it a non-traditional family.

    Honestly, I haven’t read a lot of books with an evil stepmother… Usually the blended family is new and the main character has to get used to it. Of course there will be confrontations, but more because it’s new. I do have to say that this happened in probably two books or so, because it’s actually not that common in the books I read to have a blended family.

    Great discussion post! It really got me thinking 🙂 Starry Eyes has been on my TBR for FOREVER, and I’m excited to get to it now that I know it deals with this kind of thing.

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    1. Yes, exactly! My life is so normal to me, but I rarely see any families that resemble mine in literature. These kind of families are so common, that it’s a shame there’s not much representation for them, and an even bigger shame that what little representation there is focuses mostly on the negative!

      I think I’m also more aware of the trope because I come from a blended family. It’s super common in fantasy to have the evil step-mother, because there are so many fairy tale retelling of stories like Cinderella that feature them. When I was scrolling through my Goodreads to find good books for this post, I found this trope in a variety of age ranges and genres!

      I do think you’re right though. When a blended family is new there’s always an adjustment period, and so it makes sense to have confrontations over this new life. But even when the family has already been blended for a while, I mostly see negative versions of how life is like in such a situation. My hope is that we’ll start seeing not just more blended family rep, but more positive rep featuring families that have already been established as a blended unit!

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad! 💕 And Starry Eyes is one of my favorite Jenn Bennett books! I adore it, and I hope you love it too!

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      1. I can relate! I don’t come from a blended family, but I am in the process of figuring out how we want to have a family and suddenly I am more aware of foster care and adoption in the books I read.

        I don’t read fantasy, but in the contemporaries there is still usually a negative relationship. I dug a little deeper in the books I read about this, and even if the stepmother isn’t evil, there is a step sibling that they don’t get along with. It’s kinda frustrating!

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        1. Take what you read in fiction books about adoption and foster care with a grain of salt! There are so many positive stories that I know personally, and it’s a shame that experiences like those don’t get as much page time! But I think it’s wonderful that you’re looking into all the different ways you can build a family!

          Oh, definitely! I wanted to keep this rant as short as possible, so I generalized with step-mothers, but in reality it’s rare to see any blended family in books acting as a blended family would in reality. There’s usually some plot point that tries to put some step family member as the villain, or antagonist at the very least. Why can’t there be more nice wholesome blended families in books? I’d love to see that!

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  11. Would love to see more books featuring blended family as well since I have stepfather. Though we’re not really that close, the relationship between me/my siblings and him have been pretty okay and not all bad.

    And yes to the stereotype! When my mom married my stepfather, my relatives kept on telling us to report them immediately if he did something bad to us. Though I’m sure they meant well with that, I don’t know why, it just came across to me as prejudice. And up till today, they didn’t like him even though it’s been years already.

    And I’m on the same page as you, Malka, on the incest issue. Once in a while, I’d hear such kind of news on TV (mostly parent) that it just makes me uncomfortable whenever I hear incest.

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    1. I can totally relate! I live with my mother and step-father, so I don’t see my father and step-mother that often. So my relationship with my step-mother while isn’t super close, but I would never call her evil! She’s always super warm and friendly whenever I spend time with her.

      That’s so awful that all your relatives immediately assumed the worst of your step-father! It definitely is a prejudices, and it makes me so sad to hear that it hasn’t gone away with time! I think that lots of media frame step-parents as evil, which makes some people form these kinds of prejudices. That’s part of the reason why I want to see better representation in books!

      Incest is definitely awful, and I wish more people understood that relationships between step-siblings/adopted siblings or between step-children/step-parents or adoptive/foster parents and their children is just as problematic!

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  12. This is such a unique and important post, Malka, and you’ve done it so well!
    It makes me happy to hear that you have a great relationship with your step-parents and step-siblings. I don’t know actually know anyone (well) outside of my online friends who have blended families, and unfortunately I have read mostly books with negative relationships of that kind, so this post has really opened my eyes to how damaging that negative stereotype must be.
    Oh and the trope of romance between adopted/step siblings makes me so uncomfortable – I can imagine it would be so frustrating for you to come across it, actually knowing what it is like to have step siblings.
    I have been hearing so much about Starry Eyes lately – it’s like the universe is telling me to read it, so I will probably be putting that on hold from my library soon.
    To answer your questions at the end: I think the evil step-mother trope is overdone at this point, I have two siblings – a younger brother and sister and tbh I can’t even think of a book with any non-traditional family rep from the top of my head.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sabrina! This topic is obviously one that’s close to my heart, so I’m very happy to hear that you think I did it justice! 💕

      I’m definitely very fortunate to have such a wonderful blended family! I have some IRL friends with various kinds of blended families, and quite honestly most of them are positive ones. And that’s exactly why I wrote this post! All the books out there would have someone who has no experience with blended families, thinking that the very thought of a step-parent or step-sibling is a death sentence. In reality, that’s not the case. And when it is the case, it’s the exception, not the rule.

      Romances between adopted/step-siblings is so gross! At this point I treat my step-siblings almost exactly like my biological siblings, and so the thought of a romance just seems ridiculous and unthinkable.

      I’m so glad I was able to aid the universe in getting you to read Starry Eyes! I hope you love it, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

      The evil step mother trope is definitely overused! Agreed! And I have two “full” siblings as well! But both of them are my older brothers. And I find it quite frustrating how difficult it is to find non-traditional family rep in books! I shouldn’t have to go on a quest to find one! Hopefully soon there will be so many, that you could name a long list of them!

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  13. This is such a fantastic post, and it really made me realize how “normal” blended families are almost never portrayed. My nieces have lived part-time with both their mom and dad (half the week at each house) since they were two. It’s all they’ve ever known. They have step-siblings on both sides of the family. Their story isn’t tragic or crazy—it just is. They get along with everyone and don’t think of their step-siblings much differently than they think of their biological ones. I can’t think of one example of that in a book. And I think it’s a fairly common family structure!

    Also, I have an adopted son, and again, I appreciate it when I see adoptive families that are just families. I feel like I’ve seen this a bit more than the other scenario, but there could definitely be more of them!

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    1. Thank you so much, Nicole! 💕

      And, yes, exactly! You have so many “normal” biological families in books, but as soon as a blended family pops up, the family structure immediately gets used as a plot device, instead of how families in books are normally treated.

      I love how you put it about your nieces: “Their life isn’t tragic – it just is.” I think that perfectly sums up how I feel about my life as well! It’s not a tragedy! I’m living a very happy life. So the fact that books turn a perfectly normal situation into something tragic. Every. Single. Time. really bothers me. As you said, it’s a pretty common family structure, which means there are a variety of experiences out there, and yet only one form of blended families are represented in books! I’d love to see more blended family rep, yes, but I what I really want to see is GOOD blended family rep. Have everyone get along, and act as normal siblings/parents do, since that’s the way it works in many blended families.

      I think it’s wonderful to see your experience mirrored in a book. And I agree. I think I could come up with more adoption stories in less time than it took me to find just 2 blended family stories! But I’d definitely love to see way more books featuring all kinds of non-traditional families, and have them all written in a positive light!

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  14. This is such a great post! Ann Patchett writes about blended families but she presents the difficult aspects. In The Dutch House the stepmother fits the evil stereotype. As a stepmom myself I find it disheartening. I’ve added your recommendations to my list of books to read.

    I was raised by a family friend when my mom became ill rather than go into foster care. I consider them both my moms even though one isn’t a blood relation. I do think more books should be written about non- traditional families. To me family is just as much about love and caring than biology. I’m glad you had a positive experience in a blended family and have raised awareness about it!

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    1. Thank you so much! 💕 I don’t tend to read much adult fiction, so I’ve never read anything by Ann Patchett. I do think there’s a difference between presenting difficulties, with a balance of good, and just presenting difficulties. I really hope she did the former! I’ve heard great things about The Dutch House, so it saddens me to hear that it has the evil stepmother trope. I can hear how it would be disheartening to see yourself represented only in a negative light! But I’m so glad that you’re reading my recommendations now! I hope you enjoy the representation as much as I did!

      Oh, that’s a really good point. Before my mother remarried, we’d go to lots of aunts and uncles who treated me like their kid. In fact one of my uncles was the one who first taught me how to ride a bike! There are so many ways to represent non-traditional families, because you’re so right! Family is about love and caring and taking care of someone. I think that the reason that I was able to write this post in the first place is because I’ve felt love and care from all of my non-biological family members, and I want to see that kind of love in books.

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  15. This is a great post–I think it’s definitely true that that are all sorts of weird, negative tropes around blended families in fiction, though I’m glad I’m starting to see more books breaking out of those molds. I really enjoyed Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (which I don’t think I’ve seen others recommend you so far), which is about three siblings adopted by different families connecting as teens. It deals with some heavy topics, but I really loved the character/family relationships.

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    1. Thank you so much! 💕

      There are way too many negative tropes surrounding blended families, and even just non-traditional families in general, in fiction! I’m definitely glad that in more recent years there have been more books with more positive representation!

      I’ve actually read and loved Far From the Tree a few years back! The only reason that I didn’t mention it in this post is because I didn’t remember all the details, and since I’m not own-voices for that story, I didn’t want to by accident recommend a book that had negative rep that I had forgotten. But I definitely remember it being a wonderful story that I adored!

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    1. I thought it was important for people to know that not all blended families hate one another, like you might assume from their portrayal in books! And I’d definitely love to see more of a balance where there’s more representation of the positive experiences one can have in a non-traditional family!

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  16. great post! Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert also features a mixed family—i’m not sure that her mom and mom’s boyfriend got traditionally married? but they live together and she loves her step-brother and dad very much. it’s a very good book!

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  17. I absolutely adore this post!! As someone from a large extended family with quite a few adopted members, including my own sister, I know what it feels like to be in a family that’s a little unusual and maybe doesn’t look like a “normal” family from the outside. I guess I hadn’t even thought about how rarely I see these kind of families in books until you pointed it out. Like with step families, I think there are so many frustrating tropes surrounding adoption, particularly the idea that telling someone they’re adopted is supposed to be a huge insult?? It’s an awful idea to perpetuate. The only book I can think of that casually includes a positive portrayal of this kind of family is Nothing Happened by Molly Booth. I’m definitely going to be checking out some of the books you mentioned – I particularly have my eye on What I Carry. Thank you for this wonderful post!!

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad this post resonated with you! 💕

      It’s so funny, because as you said, while my family seems unusual to everyone else, to me it’s completely normal, just like your “unusual” family is completely normal to you.

      There are so many frustrating tropes around non-traditional families of all kinds which probably plays into why these kinds of families are viewed as so unusual in the first place! And I never took notice of that, but you’re so right! Making adoption into an insult is awful! I’m definitely going to be more conscious of when it’s used as such from now on, because it’s something that needs to stop!

      I’ve never really heard of Molly Booth, so I’ll have to look into it! And I’m so glad that you’re interested in some of the books I mentioned as well! I think What I Carry was absolutely fantastic, so I’m very excited that you might read it!

      I’m also currently reading Time of Our Lives, where one of the main characters and his brother are both adopted and it’s handled in the most non-dramatized way possible. I haven’t finished it yet, but at least the beginning gives me hope that adoption will be treated well in that book!

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