The best adult books featuring children in peril

Who am I?

Call me a worrier, but I’ve always viewed the world as a place fraught with danger, especially for the very young. Hidden sinkholes, falling tree branches, kidnappers lurking on street corners—there’s no threat I haven’t imagined. (Full disclosure: I’m a mom.) As a fiction author, I like to put my young characters in harm’s way and then deliver them to safety, an approach that helps me deal with my anxieties by giving me a sense of control. If I had my way, all imperiled-child stories, whether real-life or fiction, would end with a happily ever after. Alas, not all of them do.


I wrote...

Snowdrop Dreams, Cherry Thumbprint Screams

By Kimberly Baer,

Book cover of Snowdrop Dreams, Cherry Thumbprint Screams

What is my book about?

When Annie Barkley discovers a boy living in the attic of her cookie shop, she's stunned—and oddly elated. She can almost believe the universe is giving her back the infant son she lost eleven years ago. Annie senses that something bad happened to the boy, but he won't talk. All she knows is that he's terrified of being found. When her long-ago crush, police captain Sam Stern, stops by to inquire about a missing boy, Annie says she hasn't seen him.

Big mistake. Because that lie might cost her more than a romance with Sam. It also leaves her vulnerable to a ruthless pursuer, one who's determined to silence the boy for good.

The books I picked & why

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The Chain

By Adrian McKinty,

Book cover of The Chain

Why this book?

This book made me wonder.

Rachel’s daughter has been kidnapped, and to get her back, Rachel must pay a ransom and abduct another child. The kidnapper is another mother whose child has been kidnapped—by someone else whose child has been kidnapped, by someone else whose... Well. You get the idea. As I tore through this novel, I couldn’t help wondering what I would do in that situation. Could I actually kidnap somebody else’s child? I still don’t have an answer, but watching this ingenious plot unfold was a rollercoaster ride I’ll never forget.


The Darkest Secret

By Alex Marwood,

Book cover of The Darkest Secret

Why this book?

This book kept me guessing. 

A three-year-old disappears during her wealthy father’s fiftieth birthday celebration. Is it a case of stranger abduction, or something more complicated? Don’t ask the police; they’re clueless—literally. The mystery hooked me from the start, and the characters (absolute jerks, most of them) were so real, I could almost smell their boozy breath. I never did guess the shocking “darkest secret,” but that’s for the best. Correctly predicting a plot twist might be satisfying in the moment, but I’m more impressed when an author surprises me.  


American Dirt

By Jeanine Cummins,

Book cover of American Dirt

Why this book?

This book rocked my world.

Lydia and her young son begin a harrowing journey from Mexico to the United States after being targeted for death by a drug cartel. American Dirt has everything I relish in a story: a riveting plot, top-notch writing, believable characters, and spot-on dialogue. What’s more, it drives home the plight of migrants in a way that news stories can’t. I didn’t just read this book; I lived it. I became that desperate mother. And I too would trek across deserts and leap onto moving trains to save my child.


Do Not Become Alarmed: A Novel

By Maile Meloy,

Book cover of Do Not Become Alarmed: A Novel

Why this book?

This book made me shudder. 

Three families on a cruise go ashore in Central America. Then the unthinkable happens: their children vanish. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced that particular nightmare, but years ago my four-year-old son went AWOL for about five minutes while we were at the airport. I was a quivering blob of panic until kiddo turned up safe and sound. Of course, for the parents in this story, the terror stretches on for much longer than five minutes—and, believe me, you wouldn’t want it any other way. The unrelenting tension is just one of the elements that make this novel such a compelling read.


The New Wilderness

By Diane Cook,

Book cover of The New Wilderness

Why this book?

This book changed my mind. 

Bea’s five-year-old daughter is frail and sickly, a victim of rampant air pollution. In an effort to save her, Bea and her family join an experimental program that requires them to live in the wild as nomadic hunters and gatherers. I must admit, I was initially drawn to the idea of trading the rat race for the wilderness. (No more alarm clocks! No more traffic jams!) But by the time I finished the book, that notion had lost its appeal. (No food pantries! No hospitals! Starvation! Death!) Exploring this intriguing but brutal scenario from the comfort of my living room is as close as I care to get!


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, Central America, and childhood?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, Central America, and childhood.

Survival Explore 112 books about survival
Central America Explore 24 books about Central America
Childhood Explore 117 books about childhood

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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