This question has nagged at me since, well, since I was a teenager. Growing up (as the youngest of five), I noticed a huge lack of “sibling” books on YA shelves. Whenever I stumbled upon a MC with more than two siblings, I would buy the book on the spot because I desperately wanted to read books with characters like me—kids with brothers and sisters around all the time!
Finding those large-family books was a rare occurrence then, and still is today—even with the increase in young adult titles overall. Even though statistics say that only about 24% of US families are single-child families.
There are obvious reasons for a MC to be an only child or to have just one sibling— for simplicity in plotting and to keep word count manageable. But what do readers miss out on when the families in books don’t reflect their own experiences?
I’ve faced this issue as a writer as well as a reader. One of my protagonists has three older brothers. During revisions, I considered cutting one of the brothers in an effort to cut my overall word count. Ultimately, I decided to keep all three—not out of sentimental attachment, but because they each serve a unique purpose in relation to the MC and are essential to the family dynamic.
Have you noticed that the majority of YA protagonists seem to be only children? How do you feel about it? Know of any great books where the siblings are fleshed-out characters, or books that delve into sibling relationships? Would you like to see more books featuring large families?
Let us know!