The best books about surviving your family when they might be trying to kill you

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I read Flowers in the Attic as a preteen, I’ve been fascinated with the idea that the family that is supposed to nurture you might actually mess you up. Like, beyond the normal dysfunction that most of us experience. That theme keeps coming up in my writing, especially in my current work in progress. It started out as a ghost story with some creepy paranormal elements, but when an editor asked “Yeah, but what really scares you?” the whole story shifted. It became much more horrific when I started examining how the main character’s family was contributing to her fear through their disbelief and her discovery of dark family secrets.


I wrote...

Junkyard Dogs

By Katherine Higgs-Coulthard,

Book cover of Junkyard Dogs

What is my book about?

Some people dream of happily ever after, but all 17-year-old Josh wants is a roof over his head and to keep his little brother safe.

Josh’s father has gone missing without a trace, and Gran’s ready to call social services. If Josh wants to keep himself and his little brother, Twig, out of the system, he’ll have to take to the streets and track down his dad. But when Josh digs too deep, his dad’s old accomplices catch up to Josh and plunge him into a dangerous underground where putting his trust in the wrong person could number Josh in a growing pile of bodies.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of She Is a Haunting

Katherine Higgs-Coulthard Why did I love this book?

To be fair, when Jade’s estranged father insists that she come to Vietnam to stay with him in the house he is renovating, he might not know that the house intends to devour her.

But when Jade begins to suffer from sleep paralysis and terrifying visions he dismisses her fears and hides the evidence of the house’s evil intent from his business partners.

Jade’s realization that she can’t count on her dad to protect the family, leads her to go on the offensive against her dad, the house, and anything else that might try to keep her from being who she really is.

By Trang Thanh Tran,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked She Is a Haunting 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?

This house eats and is eaten . . . "A riveting debut from a remarkable new voice! Trang Thanh Tran weaves an impressive gothic mystery in which Jade's father is determined to restore a decrepit home to its former glory and Jade is the only person who feels the soul-crushing devastation of colonialism lingering within its walls." --Angeline Boulley, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Firekeeper's Daughter A House with a terrifying appetite haunts a broken family in this atmospheric horror, perfect for fans of Mexican Gothic. When Jade Nguyen arrives in Vietnam for a visit with her…


Book cover of Allegedly

Katherine Higgs-Coulthard Why did I love this book?

Mary is described on the first page of Allegedly as “just born bad, plain and simple.”

When readers learn that Mary has been incarcerated since the age of nine for killing a baby, the claim is easier to believe. Yet, as the story unfolds, the reader learns that Mary’s mother is an abusive narcissist and the actual events of the death are put into question.

This story brings up important issues about nature versus nurture, mental illness, and a justice system predicated on the assumption that to be Black is to be born guilty.

By Tiffany D Jackson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Allegedly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer's Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home. Mary B. Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. She didn't say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? There wasn't a…


Book cover of Carrie

Katherine Higgs-Coulthard Why did I love this book?

While most people read Stephen King for the paranormal elements, I have always been fascinated by the way he writes his characters.

This is especially true of familial relationships, like the one in Carrie. The prom scene is iconic, but what I keep coming back to is the amount of guilt heaped on Carrie by her religious-fanatic mother. Their relationship sets up everything else in the story.

If Carrie’s mother hadn’t body-shamed her horrifically, then Carrie never would have been so vulnerable in the girl’s locker room.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Carrie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen King's legendary debut, about a teenage outcast and the revenge she enacts on her classmates, is a Classic. CARRIE is the novel which set him on the road to the Number One bestselling author King is today.

Carrie White is no ordinary girl.

Carrie White has the gift of telekinesis.

To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie - the first
step towards social acceptance by her high school colleagues.

But events will take a decidedly macabre turn on that horrifying and endless night as she
is forced to exercise her…


Book cover of Apples Never Fall

Katherine Higgs-Coulthard Why did I love this book?

Each of Stan Delaney’s adult children knows he is not the easiest person to get along with.

So, when their mother suddenly disappears, two of them suspect their father. Footage from a neighbor’s security video seems to further implicate Stan.

But what about the mysterious woman that showed up on the family’s doorstep last summer, bruised and battered?

As the siblings try to find out what happened to their mother, they face long-buried resentments that further fuel familial distrust.

By Liane Moriarty,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Apples Never Fall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller

From Liane Moriarty, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers, comes Apples Never Fall, a novel that looks at marriage, siblings, and how the people we love the most can hurt us the deepest.

The Delaney family love one another dearly―it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in…


Book cover of Flowers in the Attic

Katherine Higgs-Coulthard Why did I love this book?

The maternal figures in this story rival Hansel and Gretel’s witch.

When Corrine Dollanganger’s husband dies in an accident, she returns to the familial home in the hopes of willing back her father’s affection and her inheritance.

Corrine’s father disapproved of what he considered an incestuous marriage and so she conspires with her mother to hide the existence of her four children by locking them away in the attic.

It’s supposed to be a short-term solution until her elderly father dies, but the children discover their mother and grandmother might never plan on letting them out.

By V.C. Andrews,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Flowers in the Attic 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 haunting young adult gothic romance classic that launched Virginia Andrews' incredible best-selling career.

Up in the attic, four secrets are hidden. Four blonde, beautiful, innocent little secrets, struggling to stay alive...

Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie have perfect lives - until a tragic accident changes everything. Now they must wait, hidden from view in their grandparents' attic, as their mother tries to figure out what to do next. But as days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the siblings endure unspeakable horrors and face the terrifying realisation that they might not be let out of the attic after…


You might also like...

The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

By Norrin M. Ripsman,

Book cover of The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

Norrin M. Ripsman Author Of The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Too often, I find that novelists force the endings of their books in ways that aren’t true to their characters, the stories, or their settings. Often, they do so to provide the Hollywood ending that many readers crave. That always leaves me cold. I love novels whose characters are complex, human, and believable and interact with their setting and the story in ways that do not stretch credulity. This is how I try to approach my own writing and was foremost in my mind as I set out to write my own book.

Norrin's book list on novels that nail the endings

What is my book about?

The Oracle of Spring Garden Road explores the life and singular worldview of “Crazy Eddie,” a brilliant, highly-educated homeless man who panhandles in front of a downtown bank in a coastal town.

Eddie is a local enigma. Who is he? Where did he come from? What brought him to a life on the streets? A dizzying ride between past and present, the novel unravels these mysteries, just as Eddie has decided to return to society after two decades on the streets, with the help of Jane, a woman whose intelligence and integrity rival his own. Will he succeed, or is…

The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

By Norrin M. Ripsman,

What is this book about?

“Crazy Eddie” is a homeless man who inhabits two squares of pavement in front of a bank in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. In this makeshift office, he panhandles and dispenses his peerless wisdom. Well-educated, fiercely intelligent with a passionate interest in philosophy and a profound love of nature, Eddie is an enigma for the locals. Who is he? Where did he come from? What brought him to a life on the streets? Though rumors abound, none capture the unique worldview and singular character that led him to withdraw from the perfidy and corruption of human beings. Just as Eddie has…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in child abuse, murder, and murder mystery?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about child abuse, murder, and murder mystery.

Child Abuse Explore 58 books about child abuse
Murder Explore 959 books about murder
Murder Mystery Explore 503 books about murder mystery