The best books that prove DNA sucks at keeping secrets

Who am I?

The Complete Book of Aspen is based on my DNA experience. I was crushed after taking a DNA test to learn that the man who raised me was not my biological father. It rocked the foundation my life was built upon. Suddenly I was struggling with my identity, wondering why I am who I am. This led to a deep dive into DNA-related books. I read everything I could, from DNA science to memoirs to novels whose characters were affected by DNA discoveries. I liked seeing how these brave souls handled their heartbreak. Not only is the subject fascinating, but it’s also comforting to know, fictional or not, that we're never alone.

I wrote...

The Complete Book of Aspen

By Danna Smith,

Book cover of The Complete Book of Aspen

What is my book about?

When Aspen’s best friend gives her a DNA test kit, a half teaspoon of spit is all it takes to discover her entire life has been a lie.

Learning that her beloved late father was not her biological father—and that her mother had deceived her—ignites a wild storm of emotions. Aspen struggles with her identity and the burden of being the gatekeeper of this closely guarded family secret. When her mother refuses to reveal her biological father’s name, Aspen sets out on a courageous journey to find him. A heartbreakingly hopeful young adult novel-in-verse by award-winning author and poet, Danna Smith, based on her true DNA experience. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Clap When You Land

By Elizabeth Acevedo,

Book cover of Clap When You Land

Why this book?

I’m fascinated by the stories of DNA secrets that unite, confuse, and complicate lives. Camino Rios and Yahaira Rios had no idea they shared the same father—until he perished in an airplane disaster. Told in verse with alternating viewpoints, this novel drew me in right away. Camino Rios had her father every summer while Yahaira had her father the rest of the year, both living very different lives—until their father’s death changed everything. Suspense builds as the two girls follow clues to the shocking realization that they are sisters. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down. 

Double Helix

By Nancy Werlin,

Book cover of Double Helix

Why this book?

A young adult novel that is part thriller, part love story, and part family drama. I love all three! But a book steeped in Biotech? I wasn’t sure. When a friend recommended Double Helix, I took a chance and was pleasantly surprised. Eli “lucks” into a job at a biotech company which his father is vehemently against. He doesn’t say why, but Eli assumes it has to do with a dislike for Eli’s new boss and his mother’s medical condition (Huntington’s Disease). The job comes with a big salary and even bigger secrets. Note to Eli: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Although the story got a bit “techy” for me at times, it’s a page-turner with a solid plot and unexpected twists.  

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

By Dani Shapiro,

Book cover of Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Why this book?

Like DNA, I can’t keep a secret…until I picked up Inheritance, I had never read a memoir. I learned about the book from a friend in my DNA support group who raved about it. The author took a DNA test on a whim and suddenly found the bottom falling out of her world as she knew it. She became a detective as she followed clues and uncovered a long-kept sperm donor family secret. The author writes candidly about her struggles, questions the DNA test results raised, and meeting her biological father. Written in lyrical prose, Dani Shapiro invites you on her rollercoaster DNA journey. Take a seat and get ready for a beautiful and compassionate telling.

Strangers We Know

By Elle Marr,

Book cover of Strangers We Know

Why this book?

Imagine this. You were adopted as a child. You’re now an adult with a medical condition. So, you take a DNA test to find blood relatives who could shed some light and family history on your disease. But you get the shock of your life when an FBI agent shows up and tells you they received your test results too and you are related to a serial killer! Ivy’s life spins out of control as she travels to meet her relatives and find a killer. Ivy is told that her mother was murdered by The Full Moon Killer and now she is getting too close…could she be the next victim? A chilling novel with lots of twists that left me thinking if I were in Ivy’s shoes, just this once, I’d rather DNA kept secrets.

The DNA Book

By DK,

Book cover of The DNA Book

Why this book?

With DNA testing becoming increasingly popular in millions of households these days, children are being exposed to the topic at an early age. The author does an excellent job at describing the concept to kids (and to adults, if you are like me, because let’s face it, DNA science is complicated!). With a mix of bold illustrations and photos, we learn what DNA is, how it is responsible for who we are, how we can catch criminals with DNA, genetic engineering, and much more. There are no guesses. No fables. No secrets. Just easy-to-understand facts wrapped in a colorful package. There is something refreshing about that.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in DNA, genetic engineering, and death?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about DNA, genetic engineering, and death.

DNA Explore 18 books about DNA
Genetic Engineering Explore 25 books about genetic engineering
Death Explore 203 books about death

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like They Both Die at the End, Long Way Down, and The Sky Is Everywhere if you like this list.