The best books about child abuse

8 authors have picked their favorite books about child abuse and why they recommend each book.

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The Saddest Girl in the World

By Cathy Glass,

Book cover of The Saddest Girl in the World

Cathy has written many books about children from abuse, but I feel this book resonates with me, as the story of the little girl Donna, is very similar to my own story. Placed in care after being neglected by her alcoholic mother, all Donna really wanted was to be loved. 

I think this really is true with most children who are placed in the social system, the feeling of abandonment and detachment runs deep and we all just want to feel part of something, to be part of a family. 

Many of Cathy’s books are written to explain what can happen and the reality of life, when living in certain situations that many are just not aware of, or choose to ignore. This book is well worth a read, it certainly brought a tear to my eye.


Who am I?

I'm a 24-year-old, 1st time Author with big plans to call for major changes within our current social system, to bring the taboo subject of child abuse, to conversation. My own story, yes is an extreme case, but isn’t an uncommon occurrence and affects many. My book, The Girl In The Pink Shoes, was written not only for my own self-help but to also help many others to know they are not alone and someone is fighting their corner. I hope my book will open the right doors to raise awareness and make my charity, Your Voice UK, a success and help bring a brighter future to children who have suffered abuse.


I wrote...

The Girl in the Pink Shoes

By Jessie Harrington,

Book cover of The Girl in the Pink Shoes

What is my book about?

The Girl in the Pink Shoes follows the terrifying true story of my horrific childhood. I was subjected to seven years of the most shocking sexual abuse imaginable. My mother, who already had an abusive and destructive personality when she drank, would often beat my siblings and me. Things suddenly took a turn for the worst when she developed a new relationship with a man who was known to the police and registered as a convicted paedophile.

The grooming process quickly gathered pace, my ordeal escalated, and nowhere was safe! Drugged, beaten and abused at home, bullied at school led to suicide attempts. Eventually my stepfather placed me in a paedophile ring. My own mother knew what was happening to me and her violent rages towards me grew worse.

Boy Toy

By Barry Lyga,

Book cover of Boy Toy

Boy Toy is a book that stands out for me because it tackles a rarely discussed subject in young adult literature—the sexual abuse of boys. In this case, the protagonist, Josh, was molested by a teacher when he was younger. Now that he is about to graduate from high school, the repercussions of that abuse, along with the everyday stress he deals with, is coming back to haunt him. Lyga handles this subject matter in an unflinching and realistic way, which can be uncomfortable at times. That said, Boy Toy is definitely a worthwhile, original read.


Who am I?

As a former teen who faced my own slew of challenges, I became a YA author who writes about teen characters who do the same. It’s not easy being an adolescent these days: From the seeming hopelessness of some social, academic, and family situations to the lack of support many teens receive, things can seem pretty bleak at times. As the protagonists in books like the ones I’ve mentioned here show us, however, there are many good people out there who are willing to help if we’re willing to hang in there and keep pushing forward toward a better day and a better life.


I wrote...

100 Days

By Nicole McInnes,

Book cover of 100 Days

What is my book about?

Agnes doesn't know it, but she only has one hundred days left to live. When she was a baby, she was diagnosed with Progeria, a rare disease that causes her body to age at roughly ten times the normal rate. Agnes has already exceeded her life expectancy. Moira has been Agnes’s best friend and protector since they were in elementary school. Due to her disorder, Agnes is still physically small, but Moira is big. Too big for her own liking. Boone was friends with both girls in the past, but that was a long time ago—before he did the thing that turned Agnes and Moira against him.

An unexpected event brings Agnes and Moira back together with Boone, but when romantic feelings start to develop, the trio’s friendship is put to the test. 

Fear of the Collar

By Patrick Touher,

Book cover of Fear of the Collar: The True Story of the Boy They Couldn't Break

Fear of the Collar is Patrick Touher’s personal account of his experience in the Artane Industrial School. Artane was the largest Industrial School in Ireland and operated from 1870 – 1969.

At times Artane housed nearly 1,000 boys and was known to be self-sufficient – with the “inmates” making their own clothes, shoes, and the boys produced and grew their own food.

Touher takes the reader through the daily military-like regiment and discipline imposed upon young boys being cared for by the Christian Brothers. His story will evoke an array of feelings. It is important to read the epilogue as you will be in awe of the man Patrick Touher has become despite the harshness of his childhood.


Who am I?

I am first generation American - my mother is from Ireland and my father is from Germany. I’ve always had an interest in my heritage and developed a passion for genealogy. My curiosity led me to researching Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes in Ireland. I’ve read many books about these institutions and also wrote a book of my own based on stories of former residents of St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe, Galway.


I wrote...

The House Children

By Heidi Daniele,

Book cover of The House Children

What is my book about?

Based on actual events, The House Children is a compelling story of familial love, shameful secrets, and life inside Ireland’s infamous industrial schools.

In 1937, Mary Margaret Joyce is born in the Tuam Home for unwed mothers. After spending her early years in an uncaring foster home, she is sentenced by a judge to an industrial school, where she is given the name Peg, and assigned the number 27. Amid one hundred other unwanted girls, Peg quickly learns the rigid routine of prayer, work, and silence under the watchful eye of Sister Constance. When Peg accidentally learns the identity of her birth mother she struggles with feelings of anger and abandonment, while her mother grapples with the shame of having borne a child out of wedlock.

Belonging

By Catherine Corless,

Book cover of Belonging: A Memoir

In her book Belonging: A Memoir of Place, along with her personal journey, Corless shares her research and activism work towards justice for the lost babies of the Tuam Mother Baby Home. Her book is an excellent resource to learn about the institutions where unmarried mothers paid their penance and gave birth to their “illegitimate” children. Her book includes heart-wrenching accounts from former residents. 

I’ve had several exchanges with Catherine since 2010 when she responded to a query I had posted regarding the Tuam Mother Baby Home. Catherine Corless has brought worldwide attention to a scandal she uncovered: 796 missing burial records of children born in the Tuam Mother Baby Home.


Who am I?

I am first generation American - my mother is from Ireland and my father is from Germany. I’ve always had an interest in my heritage and developed a passion for genealogy. My curiosity led me to researching Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes in Ireland. I’ve read many books about these institutions and also wrote a book of my own based on stories of former residents of St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe, Galway.


I wrote...

The House Children

By Heidi Daniele,

Book cover of The House Children

What is my book about?

Based on actual events, The House Children is a compelling story of familial love, shameful secrets, and life inside Ireland’s infamous industrial schools.

In 1937, Mary Margaret Joyce is born in the Tuam Home for unwed mothers. After spending her early years in an uncaring foster home, she is sentenced by a judge to an industrial school, where she is given the name Peg, and assigned the number 27. Amid one hundred other unwanted girls, Peg quickly learns the rigid routine of prayer, work, and silence under the watchful eye of Sister Constance. When Peg accidentally learns the identity of her birth mother she struggles with feelings of anger and abandonment, while her mother grapples with the shame of having borne a child out of wedlock.

Lock and Key

By Sarah Dessen,

Book cover of Lock and Key

You know a book is really good when you reread it. I read this one twice. When 16-year-old Ruby is sent to live with her married older sister Cora after their mother vanishes, she doesn’t know what to expect. She’s neither seen nor heard from Cora since Cora went away to college years earlier. As they fumble their way toward becoming reacquainted, the two sisters discover they’re more alike than they realized. While Ruby is falling for the boy next door, she’s learning to love and depend on the sister she didn’t know. This is a book you’ll want to recommend to your sister or sisters if you have one or more. I did, and my sister Karen loved it too.    


Who am I?

I’ve led a storied life. One of six children, I married and divorced before the age of 20 and moved from Santa Cruz, California to New York City in my early 30s. I carved out my career as a writer while scraping by on government assistance as a single mom. They say write what you know, and I did just that. My first novel, Garden of Lies, became a New York Times bestseller, skyrocketing me from poverty to financial security. I’ve since gone on to publish 20 novels about family relationships, romantic love, and reversals of fortune. With more to come!  


I wrote...

Such Devoted Sisters

By Eileen Goudge,

Book cover of Such Devoted Sisters

What is my book about?

Growing up, my four sisters and I squabbled but were inseparable, playmates and roommates who often whispered to each other long after lights-out. We shared clothing and confidences. I used to ride to the public library in my small town on the back of my sister Laura’s bike. She is partly the reason I became a reader and a writer. Such Devoted Sisters draws from those experiences. It's the story of sisters Annie and Laurel, who flee from LA to New York City to escape their brutal stepfather. Annie protects her younger sister while carving out a life of her own. When they both fall for the same man, it sorely tests their sister bond. Will the bond break? Read it to find out!  

Carrie

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Carrie

At its heart, this is a coming-of-age story about an abused and humiliated girl who doesn’t know how much power lies waiting inside her. Strength, dignity, and forgiveness, you wonder? Sure, Carrie White bears all that in her heart. But she has one other source of feminine strength you’ll never forget.  

What works best in Stephen King’s dark fantasy is the pure, unapologetic dish of supernatural revenge Carrie serves her foolish peers when they poke the dragon one too many times.


Who am I?

As a reader, I’m obsessed with strong female characters. In most books, even the strongest women play second fiddle to the men. Whether to fit into society or attract men, most women will swallow their light to be less than. My frustration with this outcome of our patriarchal culture is the main reason most of my protagonists are women. I want to hear their voices in everything I write, undiluted, untempered, and unapologetic. It so happens my favorite genre is the supernatural, and the women on this list have each dazzled and inspired me to write about the powerful feminine in all my books.


I wrote...

A Perfect Night

By Joseph Stone,

Book cover of A Perfect Night

What is my book about?

Frances Tarantino has felt her mother's spirit by her side ever since the woman's tragic death. Fran's mother sends beautiful ladybugs to land on her dress whenever she feels lonely or afraid. And on those rare occasions when Fran misbehaves, her mother disciplines her. As Fran falls in love for the first time, she learns how dangerous a parent's discipline can be.

Fran's grand aunt, Aurora Ciconne, vowed never to take another husband when she became widowed at twenty-two. And now, at fifty-eight, Aurora insists she does not need a man. But in secret, she has always been a bride. When Fran develops their family's gift of sight, Aurora searches for a way to free them both from the diabolical enslavement they can speak of to no one else.

Find Layla

By Meg Elison,

Book cover of Find Layla

I loved Find Layla and not just because there are a lot of similarities to my own book. Like Mattie, my main character, Layla is the daughter of a single mother and lives a day-to-day existence doing all she can to care for her younger sibling. She is strong, smart, and determined to rise out of poverty even in the face of impossible odds. Elison doesn’t waste words, setting out the reality of Layla’s life in vivid detail and a straightforward style.


Who am I?

Teaching middle school made me painfully aware of the disparity in our students’ lives. Some kids have every advantage, while others struggle to survive without enough food, clean water, or a safe, dry place to sleep for the night. All these kids, with their diverse backgrounds, sit side-by-side in class and are expected to perform at the same academic and social levels. In my novels, I feature ordinary teens that are strong, smart, and resilient, like so many of the students who taught me as much as I taught them.


I wrote...

Sleeping in My Jeans

By Connie King Leonard,

Book cover of Sleeping in My Jeans

What is my book about?

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Rollins has it all figured out. She’ll ace her advanced high school courses, earn a college scholarship, and create a new life for herself and her family. There’s no time for distractions—no friends, no fun, and especially no boys.

But Mattie’s brilliant plan for a better life begins to crumble after becoming homeless, forcing her, her mom, and her six-year-old sister, Meg to live in the confines of their beat-up station wagon, Ruby. With new problems hitting her at every turn and fewer options every day, Mattie must learn to live–not just survive–in their circumstances. When her mother mysteriously disappears, Mattie races to find her before she slips away forever, along with Mattie’s hopes and dreams of a stable future.

Little Princes

By Conor Grennan,

Book cover of Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

While volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal, Conor Grennan stumbled across the dark truth that the children he had become close to were not orphans at all. In fact, they had families, and they had been trafficked into institutions that were making a profit from unsuspecting tourists and volunteers like himself...

Brutally honest and humorous at times, this book is a portrayal of the traps that international volunteers can unwittingly fall into. It uncovers a whole ecosystem of exploitation and tells the inspirational tale of the authors’ quest to end orphanage trafficking.


Who am I?

I first volunteered overseas as a teenager. Driven by an insatiable desire to change the world, I helped to found a rural development organisation, PHASE, but found myself confronted with and paralysed by the complexities of the aid world. So as not to become jaded, I since shifted my focus to tackle what I believe to be the root causes of injustice in the world through global education, including researching and writing Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad. I now mainly work as a consultant to improve the ethical practices of volunteer organisations.


I wrote...

Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad

By Claire Bennett, Joseph Collins, Zahara Heckscher, Daniela Papi-Thornton

Book cover of Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad

What is my book about?

Noam Chomsky described this book as “An extraordinary contribution...a manifesto for doing good well.Every year, nearly 20 million people pack their bags to volunteer overseas—yet far too many are failing to make an impact, and some are even doing more harm than good. So how can we change the way we make positive change in the world? If you want to help you must first be willing to learn.

Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad offers a powerful and transformative new approach to international volunteering. The “learning service” model helps volunteers embrace the learning side of their adventures—and discover how cultivating openness, humility, and a willingness to reflect can enhance help them do good better. It’s not a lightweight 'how-to' handbook, but a thoughtful critique, a shocking exposé, and a detailed guide to responsibly serving communities in need.

Do You Have a Secret?

By Jennifer Moore-Mallinos, Marta Fabrega (illustrator),

Book cover of Do You Have a Secret?

For children, secrets can be a fun part of life. However, some secrets can be disturbing and even dangerous for a child to keep. Do You Have a Secret helps young children make the distinction between good secrets and bad secrets. Read together with a parent, a child can learn which secrets should not be kept inside, as well as how talking about them can actually help them feel better. This well-written book should be considered essential to a parent’s library of books that increase communication between parents and children. In today’s world, some secrets can be devasting to a child’s emotional health and well-being. Setting the stage for children to talk about them is one of the best things we can do in a world where there are simply too many secrets for children to cope with.

Who am I?

As a practicing psychologist for the past twenty years, I have treated hundreds of children and teens who have behavior problems, as well as provided help for parents who want to improve their parenting skills. Central to many, if not most, of the problems I see revolve around poor communication. Many parents don’t know how to effectively communicate about certain issues, which often causes even more problems with their children. However, when parents learn how to approach their children without reacting in frustration and anger, I’ve witnessed amazing improvement in both behavior and the parent-child relationship.


I wrote...

Closing Pandora's Box: Empowering Parents to Help Their Children Reject Pornography

By Gail A. Poyner,

Book cover of Closing Pandora's Box: Empowering Parents to Help Their Children Reject Pornography

What is my book about?

You may be concerned that your child/teen has been exposed to pornography, or discovered that they are regularly viewing it. However, there are few books written by experts to assist parents in helping their children resist the incredibly strong pull of one of today’s most damaging and pervasive addictions. Closing Pandora’s Box is just that—a guide to help parents teach their children the skills they need to reject this increasingly disturbing media.

Closing Pandora’s Box is full of resources, education, and worksheets to assist you and your child/teen cope with the relentless onslaught of pornography and its damaging effects. With effective communication, skill, and the power of relationships, parents can make a difference when it comes to fighting the dangerous riptide of pornography. 

What I Did

By Christopher Wakling,

Book cover of What I Did

Billy’s family gets caught up in the care system when the six-year-old narrator is smacked by his father. An only child surrounded by adults, Billy emulates the talk of others but mishears and repeats language incorrectly with hilarious results. Malapropism sees Billy using the word copulating instead of cooperating, he loves sayings but transcribes them incorrectly giving us a different cuttlefish rather than a different kettle of fish. Through Billy’s voice, readers are securely within the mind of a child. Extended periods of internal monologue and interrupted using an em dash to indicate speech. Questions directly to the reader add to the sense of intimacy created in this fine novel.

Who am I?

Novelist, poet and scriptwriter. My interest in young narrators stems from a desire to effectively capture the voices of children in my novels. Creative writing PhD studies with the University of South Wales encouraged me to research different strategies and techniques used by published authors and to experiment with them in my writing. The String Games my debut novel was the result of this academic and creative journey. Further novels continue to include young voices in a starring role as I get inside the heads of a range of characters. After a stint as a university lecturer, I dabbled in fiction for children and through a collaboration with illustrator Fiona Zechmeister, Pandemonium a children’s picture book was published in 2020.


I wrote...

This Much Huxley Knows: A Story of Innocence, Misunderstandings, and Acceptance

By Gail Aldwin,

Book cover of This Much Huxley Knows: A Story of Innocence, Misunderstandings, and Acceptance

What is my book about?

I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up. Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?

Funny and compassionate, This Much Huxley Knows explores issues of belonging, friendship, and what it means to trust.

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