The best novels about dysfunctional families worse than yours

Why am I passionate about this?

Hi, I'm Bev Katz Rosenbaum, a young adult novelist whose fave topic is (surprise, surprise) dysfunctional families! I'm also a longtime fiction editor and writing instructor who loves to dance and hike in her spare time. Am trying to like yoga and meditation but am failing miserably.

I wrote...

I'm Good and Other Lies

By Bev Katz Rosenbaum,

Book cover of I'm Good and Other Lies

What is my book about?

I'm Good and Other Lies, my latest novel, is about Kelsey Kendler, a teen who's finally about to head to college and get away from her crap family members when COVID-19 comes along and she's suddenly stuck with them 24-7.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice

Bev Katz Rosenbaum Why did I love this book?

Thought I'd start with a fave Regency-era novel featuring one of the OG crap families. What keeps generation after generation of readers fascinated by Austen, aside from her gorgeous prose and devastating wit, is that her books are about the big three: family, money, and marriage. In Pride and Prejudice, the exploits of Lizzie Bennett's relatively poor and highly dysfunctional family members directly influence her own marriage prospects. There's the embarrassing mom, the checked-out dad, and the fickle, immature sisters (perfect—too perfect?—Jane aside). If you're part of an imperfect, dysfunctional family and are despairing of your future prospects, given your crap relations, you'll be heartened, as I was as a teen reader, at Lizzie's eventual triumph! 

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

35 authors picked Pride and Prejudice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

Jane Austen's best-loved novel is an unforgettable story about the inaccuracy of first impressions, the power of reason, and above all the strange dynamics of human relationships and emotions.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is illustrated by Hugh Thomson and features an afterword by author and critic, Henry Hitchings.

A tour de force of wit and sparkling dialogue, Pride and…

Book cover of The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family

Bev Katz Rosenbaum Why did I love this book?

Wong's book is a gut-punching yet hilarious memoir about the Chinese immigrant experience and the searing impact of mental illness that left me with an overwhelming it-could-have-been-worse feeling. But seriously, the value in books like these is they make those in truly terrible situations know they aren't alone. That itself—that feeling of being seen—can keep one going. This book also reminded me of the importance of setting boundaries with family members--a lesson I could have used far earlier in my life. Yay for Wong, a beloved Canadian writer and writing instructor, for triumphing (like Lizzie) in the end! 

By Lindsay Wong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Woo-Woo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family whose members blamed their woes on ghosts and demons when in fact they should have been on anti-psychotic meds.

Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the “woo-woo”—Chinese ghosts who come to visit in times of personal turmoil. From a young age, she witnessed the woo-woo’s sinister effects; at the age of six, she found herself living in the food court of her suburban mall, which her mother saw as a safe haven…

Book cover of Nothing to See Here

Bev Katz Rosenbaum Why did I love this book?

In Kevin Wilson's tour de force, narrator Lillian is so wrecked by her life with a heartless single mother, she's up for any way out, including taking care of the problematic stepkids of her rich friend (the term 'friend' used very loosely here). The big message in this often very funny book is another that wrecked people from dysfunctional families can use: your own impoverished upbringing has likely engendered a huge wellspring of compassion within you, and compassion's the most important quality of all. Another great lesson in this one: you can build a constructed family of your own. It'll likely be incredibly quirky, but that's okay, as you're a mess, too!

By Kevin Wilson,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Nothing to See Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller  •  A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, People, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, TIME, The A.V. Club, Buzzfeed, and PopSugar

“I can’t believe how good this book is.... It’s wholly original. It’s also perfect.... Wilson writes with such a light touch.... The brilliance of the novel [is] that it distracts you with these weirdo characters and mesmerizing and funny sentences and then hits you in a way you didn’t see coming. You’re laughing so hard you…

Book cover of This Is Where I Leave You

Bev Katz Rosenbaum Why did I love this book?

Haha, it would be a nightmare having to spend seven days with the members of your family of origin, amirite? This book's main character is forced to do just that, as the Jewish ritual of shiva after a death requires it. After his father's death, not only can Judd Altman not get away from his oversharing mother and weird siblings (and everyone's exes, including his own), he's forced to keep secrets about, among other things, his own relationship status. Trust me, if you're about to head into a period at close quarters with your FOO, you can take heart at the fact that Judd made it through! (Also, I loved how this one made me realize that even most normal-seeming families are...not.) 

By Jonathan Tropper,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked This Is Where I Leave You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A riotously funny, emotionally raw New York Times bestselling novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind-whether we like it or not.

The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd's wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio- shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out…

Book cover of We Were Liars

Bev Katz Rosenbaum Why did I love this book?

Speaking of normal-seeming families that aren't, in Emily Lockhart's beautifully written young adult novel, every member of the wealthy Sinclair family is made to repress any unhappiness for image's sake.  Cadence suffered a head injury in her fifteenth summer and has only just returned to the family's summer estate in her seventeenth. Still recovering, she finds piecing together various secrets and lies even harder than usual... This is a great one to read if you're being gaslit by family members who are more afraid of word getting out than of you getting sick from secret keeping! (Always know that your intuition about everything is absolutely correct!) I'm very much looking forward to reading the just-released sequel to this one—which I think is actually a prequel—Family of Liars.   

By E. Lockhart,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked We Were Liars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The TikTok phenomenon and #1 New York Times bestseller.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends-the Liars-whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honouree E. Lockhart.

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Don't miss FAMILY OF LIARS, the thrilling prequel to We Were Liars, published in May 2022.

You might also like...

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…

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