Top 5 Wednesday – Book List for a Class On Developmental Psychology

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s topic is: Book list for a class on (Genre/Trope/etc). After a panicky, “Oh god, it’s 12 AM and I haven’t chosen a topic yet,” I ended up taking the “class” part literally and choosing developmental psychology.

So, you can find examples of developmental psychology in pretty much all books. But I tried to pick (fiction) books that focus on children and how the actions of adults affect their developmental process–for better or worse, but in the case of this list, for the worse. 

Does that make senses? I don’t know. It’s late, I’m tired, and I’m writing the post at the very last minute, so I may find this is all gibberish when I re-read it in the morning. Oh, the joys of not doing proper planning!


1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Fifth Season

Jemisin’s brilliant award-winning fantasy series explores prejudice and subjugation and the ways that they mold children into ugly, jagged shapes. We see how the hatred and fear of orogenes have driven Essun, our main character, to cynicism and ruthless pragmatism, which she then later passes onto her own daughter. There are no good parents in the world–we get parents who are trying their best with a script that was written for them, and parents who are just plain terrible. Either way, it’s the children who bear the brunt of their hatreds and various other demons.


2. Warchild by Karin Lowachee


Grief and memories of abuse are the main things that our main character Jos Musey carries with him as he grows up from a traumatized young orphan to a slightly-better-but-still-traumatized teenage soldier. The adults around him range from brutal and exploitative to cold and distant, so it’s no wonder he develops massive issues with trust and emotional vulnerability, both of which Lowachee depicts with incredible care and deftness. Warchild offers one of the best examinations PTSD I’ve ever read in sci-fi/fantasy.


3. Animorphs Series by Christina Applegate


Don’t let the perky synopses (and the god-awful covers) fool you. Animorphs isn’t an epic scifi adventure about a group of shapeshifting kids who band together to fight aliens. Well…I mean, it is, but it’s also about war and its many psychological horrors–you get scenes of kids getting tortured and murdered in gruesome ways, kids being forced to kill, and kids suffering from PTSD among other things. It’s incredible how well these books tackle the long-term developmental effects such trials have on these characters. (And I still can’t believe it managed to get published as a children’s series.)


4. A List of Cages by Robin Roe

a list of cages.jpg

A List of Cages is a beautiful story that explores child abuse and the way that abusers manipulate their victims into believing they deserve this treatment. Roe’s portrayal of Julian and his struggles is at once heartbreaking and skin-crawling.


5. The Farseer Books by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Apprentice

Am I ever going to pass up an opportunity to talk about this series? Nope!

Hobb is not only a master of character development, she’s a master of long-term character development. With her Farseer books, we see how abandonment and rejection can permanently hinder a child’s emotional growth. With pretty much everything that FitzChivalry does as an adult, you can trace the origins right back to his tumultuous childhood. (Fun fact: I wrote an extra credit paper for a 4th year psychology class analyzing the development process of this very character. My grade didn’t need to be bumped up so it was completely unnecessary, but I had a blast writing it.)


Note to self: Make the next T5W just a tad less gloomy.


46 thoughts on “Top 5 Wednesday – Book List for a Class On Developmental Psychology

  1. Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

    Interesting topic selection! Sadly I haven’t read any of your selections other than Animorphs but boy…. do I agree about Animorphs!

    You’re quite right, it is not just a shape-shifting alien fighting band of teens but is so much more than that.

    I just… Rachel. That’s all. I loved her and I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read it but doesn’t want to be spoiled but just… Rachel. I have so much to say about someone who seemed to be a nothing more than a pretty, feminine blonde teen but who was essentially ‘the killer.’ But it was interesting to read about the impact that her adopting this role had on her especially as it was clear that she was starting to crumble under what she had to do but that *no one else would do it*. And just the ending for her… so yeah, Rachel.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. acquadimore says:

    I haven’t read Animorphs, but “how did this get published as a children’s series” is something I feel about a lot of old children’s book. There are people who think YA today is getting dark, but I have found a lot of more disturbing stuff in older books written for children.
    Also I haven’t read any of the books on this list – I tried the Fifth Season at the wrong time and will try again – but I really like your idea for this post!


  3. Nicole Evans says:

    Ahhhhh, I am one of the silly fools who still hasn’t read anything Hobb has written, but reading this is just another reminded that I NEED TO GET ON THIS PRONTO. Why is there not more time in the day!?

    Great post, though, especially for a last minute one. You could have fooled me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ayunda says:

    I would love to read your paper for Ftiz’s character development! I’ve recently just read the second book and I can’t wait to check out the third one from the library so I can devour it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sjhigbee says:

    A great article, Kathy – what an interesting angle! I completely agree regarding the whole of The Broken Earth series – but that first book is particularly heartrending, isn’t it? And FitzChivalry is a wonderful life story, from the time as a boy struggling to survive as a bastard right through to when he’s an older man… And you’re right – his childhood experiences, loves and bonds he forges then informs the rest of his life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Thank you, Sarah! And yes, the first Broken Earth book just about broke me (pun not intended!) And it’s so, so fascinating to see how Essun emerges from Syenite, and Syenite from Damaya.

      And I can’t help but think of Fitz as a real person. His story is so intricate and detailed and I felt like I actually experienced all the decades of his life while reading the series. Such a brilliant character. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • sjhigbee says:

        Oh yes – when poor Essun returned home… it was terrible! And… I wept at the last Fitz book, which doesn’t happen all that often to me. You’re right – I love that we get so many insights into his character and life throughout the series.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Justine says:

    This is such an interesting post and topic! I’m a Psych major so obviously liked it lol. I completely agree with Farseer…or at least from what I’ve read anyways. Just from the first book it’s already one of the best I’ve read psychology wise. I also agree with you on The Fifth Season. Not many people talk about the psychology there, but it’s so good!

    Liked by 1 person

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