13 Thoughtful Novels That Deal with Divorce for Tweens

by Devon Corneal

Divorce is never easy — and kids caught in the middle can often feel confused, lonely, and unheard. Stories that include families going through divorce and separation can help kids connect to characters experiencing situations similar to theirs, giving them a path to better understand things they may be dealing with like changing family dynamics, navigating new schools, making new friends, and coming to terms with new living situations and relationships. If you know a middle grade reader who is struggling to understand their parents’ separation or divorce, we hope the characters in these books — who come from all walks of life and face their parents’ divorces or separations with grit, imagination, bravery, humor, and sensitivity — will help them feel a little less alone.

  • The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones

    by Wendelin Van Draanen

    Anyone who has ever escaped into stories when real life seems too hard will understand sixth-grader Lincoln Jones. His family life has just fallen apart and Lincoln uses his imagination to cope. Told with more than its fair share of humor, The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a lovely coming-of-age story set in the chaos of a broken family and the healing that comes from our connections with others.

  • The Island of Dr. Libris

    by Chris Grabenstein

    Billy’s parents have separated, and he isn’t happy about it. He’s also not happy to be spending the summer without the basic electronics necessary for a kid’s survival — namely television, an iPhone, and video games. Instead, Billy has to read. But when Billy opens the books in his summer cabin’s library, he gets more than he bargained for. Is it possible that the stories are coming to life?

  • Bigger than a Bread Box

    by Laurel Snyder

    When Rebecca’s mom suddenly moves her and her little brother to Atlanta, leaving her dad behind, Rebecca struggles to fit in at her new school. Things get a little easier after she finds the magic bread box in the attic — suddenly, she can get everything she wants, so long as it fits in the box. But Rebecca soon learns that her wishes have unexpected consequences and that getting everything we want might not be such a good thing after all.

  • Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd)

    by Julie Bowe

    It’s hard being nine, and even harder when your dad moves out and your family isn’t what it used to be anymore. Wren Jo Byrd doesn’t want anyone at school to know what’s going on at home, which means keeping her new life a secret — even from her best friend Amber. Soon though, Wren learns that secrets separate us from our friends just when we need them most.

  • The Great Treehouse War

    by Lisa Graff

    Custody arrangements can be challenging for kids, but perhaps never more so than for Winnie. She spends three days a week with her mom, three days a week with her dad, and one day a week in a treehouse between her parents’ houses. After a year, Winnie is fed up and takes matters into her own hands — along with nine of her closest friends. What happens next is surprising, charming, and utterly unique.

  • The First Rule of Punk

    by Celia C. Pérez

    Maria Luisa, known as Malú, is starting a new school, and even though her dad lives far away, he’s left her with one important mantra — be yourself. Malú’s new creed also happens to be the first rule of punk, which comes in handy when Malú starts a band and discovers she’ll have to fight for what she wants and who she wants to become.

  • The Divorce Express

    by Paula Danziger

    Phoebe isn’t happy to be living in the country with her dad and riding the bus into the city on the weekends to see her mom. Still, she was managing just fine, with a new friend and a cause to fight for at school, but then Phoebe’s mom announces that she’s going to get remarried and everything changes again.

  • The DH

    by John Feinstein

    Alex Myers is a triple threat — a star basketball, football, and baseball player — but his life after baseball practice is far from perfect. Alex’s dad is gone and the new kid on the team is trying to steal his girlfriend. Can Alex find a way to succeed both on and off the field?

  • Sisters

    by Raina Telgemeier

    Raina’s younger sister started out cute, but now she’s annoying. Worse yet are the problems her parents are having. Trapped in a car on a long family road trip, Raina soon learns that her little sister might be the best friend and confidante she can have when things start to unravel. Told in Telgemeier’s signature graphic memoir style, Sisters will resonate with anyone who has relied on their siblings during tough times.

  • The Dancing Pancake

    by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

    Told entirely in verse, The Dancing Pancake is a sweet, funny, and touching exploration of how one young girl’s life changes in the wake of her parents’ separation and how she learns to make the most of the new life she has.

  • Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

    by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

    This Newberry Medal-winning story about 10-year-old Flora Belle Buckman and superhero squirrel Ulysses tackles the confusion of a recent divorce, but balances it with plenty of humor and joy.

  • Buttermilk Hill

    by Ruth White

    Piper’s life in North Carolina is pretty great — until her parents divorce, her father remarries, and her life gets turned upside down. Searching for a way to make sense of it all, Piper discovers poetry and her new talent may change everything.

  • Naming Maya

    by Uma Krishnaswami

    Sometimes we have to look at our past to understand our present, a lesson that Maya comes to learn while spending the summer with her mother in India. The long, hot days trigger old memories, including what drove her parents apart. But with the help of her family, Maya learns what is truly important and what things we are allowed to leave behind.

If you’re looking for more practical advice for helping middle grade readers deal with the effects of a separation or divorce, A Smart Girl’s Guide to Her Parents’ Divorce, written by Nancy Holyoke and illustrated by Scott Nash, and Divorce Is Not the End of the World: Zoe and Evan’s Coping Guide for Kids, by Zoe Stern and Evan Stern, might help.