ISO: Books about Sibling Abuse

March 7, 2017

When I was a teenager, one of my friends had a brother who beat her up. At the time, I didn’t understand what that meant and couldn’t reconcile it with what I thought I knew about sibling relationships. To me, the fact that he “beat her up” meant that they got into fights sometimes. And, for me, then, fights were fair and equal matches that both people signed up for.

I remember I mentioned it/them to my parents once, and my dad even remarked with a shake of his head on it. “Isn’t that the boy who beats up his sister?” he asked. And I corrected him. “No,” I said. “They get into fights sometimes.”

I was young and had a limited understanding of the world. However, I knew about intimate partner violence and child abuse by parents/guardians because of soap operas and books. I had no clue that sibling abuse was a thing. I thought that siblings could fight or maybe get on each other’s nerves or participate in schemes and manipulation (okay, yes, this is all stuff I read in Sweet Valley High), but not once did I understand that domestic violence could occur between siblings.

As I have gotten older, I have heard more of these types of stories–stories about people who were abused by their siblings, whose siblings made home an unsafe place to be.

However, I have not seen it reflected in the media I consume. In fact, I can only think of two  YA books that are about sibling abuse:


Tangerine by Edward Bloor (link goes to my review)


Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (link goes to Goodreads)

When we talk about the need for diverse fiction, we also need to think about the diversity of experiences depicted in fiction. As a prolific reader (and TV watcher, to be sure), I got almost all of my information about the world from books and TV as a child and teenager. I just think of how much better I could have served my friend if I had had even one iota or glimmer of understanding of the idea of what she was going through.

I also know it’s possible that I may have just missed reading books on the subject when I was growing up. But I also know that I can only think of two adult fiction books that cover the subject (A Game of Thrones being one).

When I first looked up the topic a few months ago, I came across a website with people sharing stories about being abused by their siblings and how hard it is even now to find out information about the topic. So I don’t think this is a case of me not paying attention.

But again, I could be wrong.

So, today, I pose this question: Can anyone recommend or share books that depict sibling abuse? While I am specifically interested in young adult fiction, I would also welcome recommendations of ANY books that deal with the topic.

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  1. Brian Rozinsky

    Perusing recent reading, I came across two stretches: _Truth About Truman School_ by Dori Hillstead Butler and _The Trouble in Me_ by Jack Gantos. These are less sibling oriented than abuses in friend groups, though the last one is pseudo-siblingish.

  2. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I saw you asking this question on Twitter and couldn’t think of one single example. I kept thinking BUT I MUST KNOW OF SOME, and then I still wasn’t able to think of any. It’s interesting how some kinds of abuse end up being more visible — I don’t think in my whole life I’ve read anything anywhere ever with a child abuse survivor who continued facing physical abuse into adulthood. I know it happens, but the media doesn’t appear to.

    • Akilah

      Oh, that’s also a good point.

  3. ETphonehome

    This is interesting. I am also searching for books about this topic at the moment, and have been remembering a friend of mine in middle school whose two older brothers used to beat her up. Almost every time that I was at her house, it would happen. She would yell to me to help her, but there was literally nothing I could do. No parents were home and I was much smaller and skinnier than her, never mind her brothers. Her dad once chased me out of the house with a knife when I pointed out the fact that he was drunk. She also got beat up a few times at school by three girls who were much bigger than us. Again I was there unable to do anything. It definitely wasn’t an easy childhood for her. I agree that this is an important topic that should be explored more in books, especially YA. She wasn’t the only friend I saw experiencing these kinds of things. As you said about yourself and your friend, I also wasn’t really able to comprehend the significance of these events at the time (6th grade), but if there were more books about it, maybe would have known more or been able to do more to help.

    • Akilah

      Oh, man, your poor friend. I’m so sorry that happened to her, and I’m also sorry you witnessed it. That is terrible. I think the book Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina explores this, though I haven’t read it yet. The description says “Her brother, Hector, is growing more threatening by the day,” which is why I think so.


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