Books That Explore Friendships and Family Relationships

recommended by James Walker

These books explore the issues surrounding relationships. Whether it’s the loneliness that feeds an innate desire to find someone or the issues that break apart relationships, between friends, family, and otherwise. In other ways, some of these books contemplate the strength of relationships and depict scenarios in which they are further strengthened.

  • 1


    The Serpent King
    by Jeff Zentner

    High school student Dill knows what it is to feel “the crushing weight of destiny”. His granddad went mad after a copperhead viper killed his daughter, and his dad, a fanatical Pentecostal minister, makes his congregation handle deadly serpents to prove their faith. While his father is now in prison for a terrible crime, Dill feels shackled by these family demons, and also by poverty, bullying, and a fiercely religious mum who blames Dill for his father’s imprisonment. Dill also knows he’s lucky to have friends like Travis and Lydia. While staff-wielding Travis finds sanctuary from his violent drunk of a dad in fantasy books, Lydia is an energetic fashion blogger from the right side of the tracks. But everything shifts as the three friends embark on their last year of high school. Lydia is all set to study journalism in New York, Travis is excited about his burgeoning relationship with a fellow fantasy geek, but Dill has no hope for his future. He’s terrified of losing Lydia and terrified that he’s already been poisoned by his family’s legacy. He finds some solace in songwriting but, when tragedy strikes, Dill descends to a very dark place and it takes supreme strength and love to untangle himself from the strangling grip of grief and despair. This southern gothic story about small-town small-mindedness, religious fanaticism, wrestling family demons, and the redemptive power of friendship is an exquisite gem; an unforgettably haunting tale that imprints itself on your heart. This book explores the feeling of looming loss and explores the lengths to which some people may go to avoid this loss. Overall, in my opinion, this book is poignant and heart-wrenching

  • 2


    The 5th Wave: The First Book of the 5th Wave Series
    by Rick Yancey

    The 5th Wave is a story of the Earth undergoing an alien apocalypse. It follows the story of a girl called Cassie, one of the few survivors of the human race. The human race has slowly been knocked out by different waves of terror: - The first wave got rid of all power and light, so planes fell out of the sky and cars stopped working. - In the second wave, the aliens (called the others) drop enormous rods ‘twice as tall as the Empire State Building and three times as heavy’ onto the Earth’s fault lines, causing massive tsunamis which wipe out three billion people. - The third wave is a plague so horrible that you cry blood and when you die, blood explodes out of your nose, eyes, ears, and mouth. - The fourth wave is very easy to explain in one word: invasion. - The fifth wave is in essence the total eradication of the human race. Cassie is sixteen years old and lost her mother to the third wave, her father to the fourth, and her brother is kidnapped during the fifth. She can’t remember the last time she saw them and she feels alone – right up until she meets Evan Walker. Who may be the answer to her problems and the hero of her story... Only time will tell. Cassie’s goals are to rescue her brother from ‘The Others’ and stay alive. Evan Walker has promised to help her. At the culmination, "Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death" I think Yancey attempts to explore the feeling of fear brought on by the loss of her family and explores how trust can be deceiving when you have no one else, causing an innate desire for someone to love. Overall, I think this book was very well thought–out and is a great read for fans of dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games.

  • 3


    Hate List
    by Jennifer Brown

    In my opinion, Hate List is an extremely powerful and compelling story, one which I would recommend to all ages, 10 and up, due to the exploration of distressing themes within the book. The novel follows the character of Valerie as she returns to school, five months after her boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria, killing and injuring many of their fellow students. Although Valerie herself was injured defending another student, she is still somewhat implicated because of the list. The list she and Nick made of people they hated. The list Nick used to pick his targets. as a result, one of the book's main plots is how Valerie deals with the physical and mental strain that the shooting has on her familial relationships and friendships. Throughout the book, I felt sympathetic towards Valerie due to the fact that she is susceptible to second-guessing herself and she struggles to seek an answer to the question of whether she indirectly coerced Nick into doing what he did. It almost seems expected by those around her that she should hate Nick, but no one takes a second to realise that they were in love, and that is something that doesn't die within a few months. Although Nick's actions cannot be justified, I feel that he was an extremely vulnerable individual who cracked after suffering years of abuse at the hands of those in the 'inner circle'.

  • 4


    War Horse (Scholastic Gold)
    by Michael Morpurgo

    In the deadly chaos of the First World War, one horse witnesses the reality of battle from both sides of the trenches. Bombarded by artillery, with bullets knocking riders from his back, Joey tells a powerful story of the truest friendships surviving in terrible times. One horse has seen the best and the worst of humanity. This is his story. This book is poignant and heart-wrenching at times and tells the story of a horse that has seen the power of war and the beauty of peace. Michael Morpurgo has been described as “the master storyteller” by critics and fans alike and explores the roots of friendship and causes of the breaking up of friendships, especially through war. But also provides a hidden message, that true friendships can last anything.

  • 5


    Alone on a Wide Wide Sea
    by Michael Morpurgo

    A touching and tender story about an unusual childhood. Arthur is shipped off to Australia as a six year old orphan during World War Two. He suffers physical and emotional hardship as well as some rarer moments of kindness and compassion during a roller coaster of a childhood which he narrates simply and without being too judgemental. Unsurprisingly, his adult life is chaotic and only his love of sailing holds him together and which ultimately links him up with his long-lost sister. I personally love this book and it is one of the first-ever books that I read which really got me interested in Michael Morpurgo's work. This book raises many questions such as "Can family love stretch across time and the vastness of the oceans?" and "Will the threads of Arthur's life finally come together?".

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