A Genre in Itself: The Child in Danger/The Child IS the Danger?
Are the Kids Alright?
Parenting is complicated. You drum up anxiety about nearly every aspect of your child’s life. You fret over their food intake, hoping they’ll eat something with at least a shred of nutritional content (thank goodness macaroni and cheese has calcium). You worry about them fitting in at school and gaining acceptance from their peers. Will they make friends or will they be the lonely kid playing solo at recess? You agonize over so many decisions, hoping that you’re making all the right choices for your child. But it could be worse. You could be a parent in one of the following novels. In these page-turners, some parents worry that their child is in danger, and some have it even worse – they worry that their child is the danger.
Defending Jacob by William Landay
The definitive nature vs. nurture novel of the past ten years, Defending Jacob is both a gripping tale of domestic suspense and a smart legal thriller. When Andy Barber’s teenage son, Jacob, is charged with the murder of a classmate, he is torn. Is his son, his own flesh and blood, capable of such a heinous act? As Andy weighs the facts of the case, as a lawyer and a father, his family’s fate hangs in the balance. This book is best read with a friend, because when you turn the final page, you’ll be dying to talk about it.
The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley
Eve’s son, Tyler, has a rare disease that makes any exposure to ultraviolet light potentially deadly, so he can only go outside after nightfall. His condition (and his penchant for spying on his neighbors in the cul-de-sac) makes Eve fiercely protective of him. Then a local girl goes missing, and Eve’s mothering instincts go into overdrive. She is determined to protect him at all costs. Any parent would do the same, wouldn’t they? This book will leave you contemplating the unseen lives of those around you – your friends, your neighbors, even your own family.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Camille Preaker returns to her dysfunctional childhood home to investigate the murders of two preteen girls in the small town where she grew up. She must face some disturbing facts about herself and her family, but perhaps even more harrowing, she must also confront many scarred relationships – with her mercurial mother, her flawed father, and her enigmatic younger sister. When it comes to building families that are dark, twisted, and complex, Gillian Flynn is an expert architect.
The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald
Imagine getting that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night – your teenage daughter has been in an accident. Now imagine that you rush to the hospital only to find that she’s brain dead. This is the stuff of parental nightmares, to be sure. Even more dreadful? The doctor informs you that your teenage daughter is also pregnant. McDonald ratchets up the anxiety as Abi, the distressed mother, attempts to uncover the truth about her daughter. Along the way, she reveals what lies hidden beneath even the closest relationships, leaving the reader to face the big question – do you really know your own child?
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Laurel is reassembling her life after the disappearance of her daughter, Ellie. The police have written Ellie off as just another runaway, but a mother knows best, doesn’t she? Laurel can’t shake the feeling that something much more menacing is at play. Jewell knows how to pack an emotional punch as she draws a portrait of a mother in pain, still searching for answers about the fate of her “golden girl,” after all these years.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
If you haven’t read this classic thriller, you must add it to your to-be-read list immediately. After moving into a new apartment, Rosemary is delighted to be pregnant, and happy to be starting a family with her husband, Guy, a charming actor. Like most first time mothers, Rosemary worries about her unborn child, and she wants to have a healthy pregnancy. Luckily for Rosemary, her neighbors are a kind old couple with all sorts of good luck charms and special concoctions to ward off disaster. Levin’s writing is atmospheric and foreboding, and I promise you won’t be able to put this book down until you reach the chilling finale.
Karen Dietrich is the author of GIRL AT THE EDGE and THE GIRL FACTORY: A MEMOIR. She earned an MFA in poetry from New England College. She also writes music and plays drums in Essential Machine, a band she formed with her husband. Karen was born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania and currently lives outside Pittsburgh with her husband and son.