Adoption Stories for Young Adults

Adoption can raise a lot of questions during adolescent years — questions of identity, fitting in, and belonging, as well as questions about the past and future. These books tackle adoption through a variety of forms, including fiction, non-fiction, and personal essays, poems, and artwork from adopted teens.

For titles for younger readers, see Adoption Stories for Children.

Whale Talk

Age Level: 12-14

"T. J. Jones, the mixed-race, larger-than-life, heroic, first-person narrator of this novel, lays out the events of his senior year, with many digressions along the way. The central plot involves T. J.'s efforts to put together a swim team of misfits, as he tries to upset the balance of power at his central Washington high school, where jocks and the narrow-minded rule. However, a number of subplots deal with racism, child abuse, and the efforts of the protagonist's adopted father to come to grips with a terrible mistake in his past." — School Library Journal

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: Simone is adopted. She's always known it, but she's never wanted to know anything about where she came from. She's happy with her family just as it is. Then one day, Rivka calls, and Simone learns who her mother was — a 16-year-old, just like Simone. Who is Rivka? What does she want? Why is she calling now, after all these years? The answers lead Simone to deeper feelings of anguish and love than she has ever known and prompt her to question everything she has taken for granted about faith, the afterlife, and what it means to be a daughter.

Adopted: The Ultimate Teen Guide

Age Level: 12-14

"As part of a series on social issues for inquisitive teens, this book answers questions and recommends resources and coping strategies regarding adoption. Chapters include vignettes and photographs and address how teens react when they learn they are adopted, the decision to search for and meet birth parents, issues in international and transracial adoption, and adoption at an older age, among other topics." — Reference and Research Book News

At Home in This World: A China Adoption Story

Illustrated by: Qin Su
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: "I am nine years old and someone a lot like you. Part of my life has been like a puzzle needing pieces, but I am understanding more about myself and my life everyday. This is my story..." So begins the honest, lyrical reflection of a pre-adolescent girl on what she knows of her adoption from China, and the strength she gains from her acceptance of her bittersweet experience. Author Jean MacLeod is the mother of three daughters, two of whom were adopted from China.

Breadcrumbs

By: Anne Ursu
Age Level: 9-12

Hazel is having trouble fitting in to her new school, although based on her experience of having been adopted, she is no stranger to feeling like an outsider. The only tolerable thing about school is that her best friend and next-door neighbor, Jack, is there with her each day. Then Jack disappears into an enchanted forest with a winter witch, and Hazel realizes that only she alone can rescue her friend. As she sets out on her treacherous journey, she soon discovers that the hard part may not be finding Jack — it may be convincing him to come home.

Dark Eyes

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets. Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she's just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She'll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko — her dark-eyed father — finds her. Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally's mother stole from him long ago, even if that means murder.

Gardens in the Dunes: A Novel

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Young Indigo is ripped from her tribe, the Sand Lizard people, by white soldiers who destroy her home and family. Placed in a government school to learn the ways of a white child, Indigo is soon adopted by Hattie and her husband, who undertake to transform this complex, spirited girl into a "proper" young lady. Bit by bit, and through a wondrous journey that spans Europe, Brazil, and the Southwest, Indigo bridges the gap between the two forces in her life and teaches her adoptive parents as much as, if not more than, she learns from them.

Lost in the System

Age Level: 14-16

A foster child from the age of two, Charlotte Lopez bounced around foster homes until she went to live in a home that she expected to be permanent. But her foster parents wouldn't adopt her, and after eleven years of waiting, Charlotte moved to an emergency shelter for children in crisis. Charlotte kept up her grades, participated in sports and school activities, and even entered the Miss Vermont Teen USA pageant. In August 1992, she was crowned Miss Teen USA. It wasn't until she was legally adopted at age 17, however, that she finally found a place to call home.

Molly by Any Other Name

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Where did she come from? Molly Jane Fletcher was adopted. She's known it for as long as she can remember. It's not something that usually bothers her, but lately, it's all she can think about. Now Molly has a chance to find her birthmother — a chance to understand where she came from, and why she was given away. But the Fletchers aren't happy about her decision to unearth the past. They're afraid that everyone involved may get hurt. That's a chance that Molly may be willing to take.

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Elias, Shohei, and Honoria have always been three united against That Which is The Peshtigo School. But suddenly understanding and sticking up for a best friend isn't as easy as it used to be. Elias, reluctant science fair participant, finds himself defying the authority of Mr. Ethan Eden, teacher king of chem lab. Shohei, all-around slacker, is approaching a showdown with his adoptive parents, who have decided that he needs to start "hearing" his ancestors.

Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be?

Age Level: 14-16

"This title refers to the 'pieces' that adoptees must identify, gather, and put together properly in order to make themselves whole. It is a compendium of poems, essays, drawings, quotations, and photos created by adoptees, from 12 to 60+, intended to 'offer practical insight and hope' to other adoptees. Each contributor is introduced in a brief biographical sketch that provides readers with background information that helps place each work in context… Although many contributors are adults, they focus on their experiences as teens.

Red Thread Sisters

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Wen has spent the first eleven years of her life at an orphanage in rural China, and the only person she would call family is her best friend, Shu Ling. When Wen is adopted by an American couple, she struggles to adjust to every part of her new life: having access to all the food and clothes she could want, going to school, being someone's daughter. But the hardest part of all is knowing that Shu Ling remains back at the orphanage, alone. Wen knows that her best friend deserves a family and a future, too.

The Book Thief

Age Level: 16-18

Living in Nazi Germany, young Liesel and her foster family choose to lie and steal to protect a Jewish refugee hiding in their basement. Narrated by Death, this is not your typical World War II story.

Who Am I?: And Other Questions of Adopted Kids

Age Level: 9-12

When neither picture books nor adult guides are of help, this latest Plugged In book speaks confidently to preteens and teens seeking answers to their questions about being adopted. Why am I so different from my family? Why did my biological mother give me up? Should I search for my birth parents? Who Am I? gives answers objectively and reassuringly with advice from experts and quotes from adopted teens.