This week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme is Family Dynamics. I love family dynamics in books, and something I’ve been particularly focused on lately is siblings. Sibling relationships are fascinating to me because there is so much shared history and so many experiences that siblings go through together. You don’t get to pick your siblings, and you don’t always approve of everything they do, but they’re still family and you gotta stick together. There are lots of great examples of sibling relationships in fiction.
Call Down the Hawk
by Maggie Stiefvater
I love devoted siblings who will do anything for one another but will always be grumpy about it on the outside.
I feel like I truly discovered my deep love of Declan Lynch on my second reading of The Raven Cycle, but this book cemented it forever. I adore characters like Declan who are so fucking done with the bullshit their lives are throwing at them but they keep dealing with it because they are watching out for their young siblings. Also, his heartburn. I just… love how stressed out this poor man is.
by Tawni O’Dell
This is one of my favorite types of sibling dynamics to read about: a young and well-meaning character struggles to take care of his younger siblings after a parent dies, leaves, or, in the case of Harley Altmeyer, kills his other parent and goes to prison leaving him and his three sisters essentially orphaned.
Harley is 19 with three sisters ranging in age between six and sixteen. He is traumatized by the loss of his parents as well as a childhood of abuse, but he’s doing his best to take care of his sisters. The picture painted in Back Roads of mental health, poverty, life in a rural town, and the confusion of young adulthood has stayed with me for many years since I first read this book.
by C.L. Polk
The dynamic here is a great one: estranged siblings learning to trust each other again (with a few bumps in the road along the way).
Poor Miles and Grace were set up from childhood to have a difficult relationship: their father valued Grace’s magic and saw Miles as nothing more than a living battery that his sister could drain when she needed more power. Some of my favorite parts of Witchmark were of Miles standing up for himself to his sister and convincing her that he and the other Secondaries were valuable.
by Sarah Monette
This book is the answer to the question “what if someone took every single angst trope and assigned them to two brothers who then discover each other’s existence in their darkest hour of need?”
Melusine is by no means a perfect book, but my favorite part about it by far was the sibling dynamic between Felix and Mildmay. Mildmay is my archetypal favorite character: good intentions, highly skilled, unlucky as hell, and stuck in an awful situation. Reading along as he lovingly dragged Felix on a cross-country road trip was so endearing.
(Also, I can’t include this in a list of “sibling dynamic” books without mentioning that there are unrequited incestuous feelings from Felix toward Mildmay. I read that as a reaction to the abuse Felix suffered; I don’t think he was ever taught that he could love someone in any way that wasn’t sexual. I did mention that we’re going for every single angst trope here, right?)
by Patricia Briggs
I wanted to include an example of close-as-siblings dynamics, and this is one of my favorites. Ward and Oreg are not technically siblings (although they are probably very, very, very distantly related) but Ward treats Oreg like a little brother, to the point where Ward’s actual younger brother, Tosten, gets jealous of Oreg. I like seeing examples of friendships that form so deeply and tightly that they might as well be siblings, even if they’re not related by blood.