Top of the morning, folks! How goes it?
Something that I may or may not talk about ALL THE TIME is how tired I get of romantic relationships in stories. There are so many possibilities for these characters! They could have friends! Enemies! Parents! Aunts! Nieces! Grandpas! Siblings!
And yet, so often, the main focus of these books is the relationship between the protagonist and his/her romantic interest. I’m not bitter or anything.
Okay, but in all seriousness this wasn’t supposed to be a “Let me bash all romance forever and ever amen” post. Romance certainly has an important role in stories and I can’t deny that. But other types of relationships are important as well, and sometimes we seem to lose sight of that.
Thus, this post is an attempt to bring to attention a few of my favorite non-romantic relationships in stories.
Joe, Beth, Amir, and Henry (Bubble)
Joe has a unique illness that has confined him to a single hospital room all his life. Beth is is older sister who is his only family. Amir is his new nurse who believes in aliens. And Henry is his pen-pal who has the same disease.
Fancy that, a whole little network of non-romantic relationships.
I really liked the way all these relationships worked together, even though it may also be one of the most stressful books I’ve ever read.
Conor and his Mum (A Monster Calls)
Conor’s mum has cancer. She’s the most important person in the world to him, even as his world is falling apart. His dad is in America, and not really a huge part of the picture anymore. Then the monster shows up.
This whole book is literally centered around Conor and his mum’s relationship as they both struggle to deal with what’s going on and it’s so heartbreaking even though you know what’s coming.
It’s complex because a mother is someone who is supposed to take care of you and protect you, but Conor’s mum can’t really take care of him because she needs to be taken care of herself, and how can she protect him from what’s happening?
Jim, Jonnie, Sally, and Dan’l (Moccasin Trail)
It’s the mid-19th century, and Jonnie, Sally and Dan’l want to go out west. Their parents are dead, and they’re not old enough to claim land on their own. So they need their older brother, Jim, who ran away six years ago, to come home and help them. So they write him a letter.
Let’s just say Jim has kind of a rocky relationship with his three younger siblings.
Seeing the way this family evolves over the course of the story is really satisfying. At least, I think it is, but I don’t really remember much about it since I read it ages ago.
Georges and Safer (Liar and Spy)
Georges and his dad move into a new apartment, and Georges meets an eccentric family of homeschoolers (gasp). Georges is pretty much an ordinary kid. Safer may or may not be an actual spy.
This story is both funny and sad (as most good stories are) and Georges and Safer make a wonderful team.
Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance (The Mysterious Benedict Society)
Through a series of strange tests, these four misfit children have been chosen for a special task. Obviously they need a cool name, so the Mysterious Benedict Society it is.
They all started out as lonely kids, but they all come from such diverse backgrounds and deal with things in varying ways. Their differences could be the key to their success- or to their downfall.
This is a fun story with interesting plot twists and wacky concepts, but ultimately it’s about the relationships between these four kids and that’s what I love about it.
Jack and Joseph (Orbiting Jupiter)
I may or may not have mentioned this book on my blog…a couple dozen times?
But anyway. Jack and Joseph are foster brothers. Their backgrounds are radically different. They can’t really understand each other. But they connect. And they look out for each other. It’s amazing how you can be so close and so far away from someone at the same time.
I love them both so much. But especially Joseph.
Alberto and Tito (The Boy, the Bird and the Coffinmaker)
Alberto is a coffinmaker, who lost his wife and children long ago. Tito is a boy who is running away from something.
Clearly Alberto needs to become this kid’s honorary grandpa post-haste.
This book is short, sweet and whimsical, with just a dash of morbid humor to keep things interesting. Alberto and Tito are endearing characters, and they need each other. They are both lonely. Alberto needs someone to care about and Tito needs a loving parent for pete’s sake.
Maks and Willa (City of Orphans)
Maks is a newsie, so I was kind of bought into this book from the beginning.
This is another historical fiction novel. It takes place in New York City in 1893, and as Maks’ father deftly puts it, “Times are hard.” Maks’ older sister Emma, who works at a fancy hotel, has been arrested for stealing a watch.
Willa saves Maks’ life (practically) by beating up a some bullies with a stick, which is the best way to begin a friendship. He invites her home and she ends up helping him figure out who really took the watch that his sister was accused of stealing.
Also Maks has more siblings! He has two older sisters (Emma and Agnes) and three younger brothers (Jacob, Eric, and Ryker), and they all embrace Willa too.
I’m not explaining it very well, but this book is a gem and you should all go read it.
Beck and Joey (A Thousand Perfect Notes)
Beck is the best big brother ever. He and Joey live in an abusive home with their domineering mother, but he does everything he can for his little sister. And she’s not an easy kid, either. She wants a knife. Like all young children do.
There is such a heartbreaking contrast between Joey’s fiery, sparkly spirit and Beck’s shut-up, crumpled one. Obviously Joey feels the effects of their mother’s abuse as well, but Beck shields her from it as best as he can, taking the weight of their situation on himself.
Is there an award for awesome big brother’s, because Beck should definitely get one.
Barbara and Richard (The Sherwood Ring)
Another stellar historical fiction novel. Also another book I may have mentioned one or two (or twenty) times on my blog.
It’s America during the Revolutionary War. Richard is in the army, and there is a crafty British spy he’s been after for a while, but with no luck. Also the spy may just want to marry Richard’s sister Barbara. Things start to get a bit complicated.
Barbara and Richard are close siblings who have their own secret code and like to eat baked beans. They tease each other and banter like siblings do and ultimately they’d do anything to protect each other. Not even a dashing British spy can come between them. Right?
Harry and Professor Minerva McGonagall (Harry Potter)
Let’s face it, folks, Harry doesn’t have a mum and his aunt certainly isn’t doing the job, so he needs as many pseudo-mothers as he can get.
Obviously Mrs. Weasley is more of a mum to Harry than anyone, but Professor McGonagall is also an extremely important adult in his life. For all her austerity she is very protective of Harry and takes such pride in his accomplishments, bless her. Remember how she defended him when Dolores Umbridge was being a jerk? And remember that scream (which wasn’t featured in the movie for some unfathomable reason)?
Professor McGonagall and Harry have a very deep relationship. Under that strict, no-nonsense exterior she loves that boy so much. It takes Harry a long time to figure that out, but he comes around eventually.
Merry and Pippin (The Lord of the Rings)
Merry and Pippin are cousins, and they are also best friends. They get themselves into a situation that is way over their heads for the sake of helping Frodo. All they know is that he is in danger, and he needs all the support he can get. So they throw themselves in with enthusiasm. Friendship goals, guys.
Merry and Pippin are so close throughout the whole story, and do you know how depressed Merry gets after Pippin has to leave? It’s pretty heartbreaking.
If you’re as obsessed as I am.
There you have it, friends. Sometimes books get tunnel-vision and I get frustrated when that happens. Yes, by all means you can have romance, but there should be other important relationships as well. I have definitely read books where effort was put into the romance and not into any of the other relationships in the book. Come on, people. The best books have a variety of relationships!
What are some of your favorite non-romantic relationships? Do you think there is too much of a focus on romance in a lot of books, or do you prefer it that way? Have you read any of the books I mentioned, and do you like these characters too? Who are your favorite book cousins? Is Professor McGonagall awesome, or what? I would love to hear from all of you!