How to Survive a Dysfunctional Family as Told by These Books

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, life can be difficult in ways that “normal” people don’t understand.

Source: Giphy

Luckily, there are some authors who do. Here are 3 books about messy families, and what their characters had to do in order to cope.

Dealing with bad parents: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Scribner, 2006

Have you ever felt that your parents weren’t fit for … well … parenting? That they signed up for something they weren’t quite ready for?

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This book is about children who had to grow up too fast.

Jeannette’s parents were nomads, but the romance and adventure of a wandering life also came with problems. Her mother would rather paint than cook a meal, and thought work was a waste of time. Her father was an alcoholic, abusive at times and would suddenly disappear for days.

So what did the children do? They had to fend for themselves, support each other and *spoiler alert* finally find the resources and will to leave home. Even though this book is about having the strength to carve out a successful life on your own terms, it is also about loving your family despite its flaws.

“You should never hate anyone, even your worst enemies. Everyone has something good about them. You have to find the redeeming quality and love the person for that.”

Get the book here: Physical Copy, eBook, Audiobook

Dealing with never being good enough for your family: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2017

Were you often compared to that perfect sibling you’ll never live up to? Does your family expect you to live a life that you actually want to be free from?

Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. Her sister Olga, was. But after Olga’s tragic death, all of her family’s grief and expectations now lie on her shoulders.

This book charts Julia’s growth, from being an angry girl who hates her family and the world she lives in, to one who understands her culture, her family’s struggles as immigrants, and what she must do to take control of her own life and future.

The book shows the damage caused by the lack of communication and openness in a family (something we, Singaporeans, might relate to), and that it’s OKAY to be someone different.

“You shouldn’t hate yourself so much. Everyone is messed up, even when it doesn’t seem like it.”

Get the book here: Physical Copy, eBook, Audiobook

Dealing with being unloved: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018

Being hated by her abusive mother, Camille Preaker has been wrestling with feelings of being ugly, unwanted and unloved since childhood. If that’s not enough, she also had to helplessly watch her sister succumb to illness and death. Eventually, she left home and sought psychiatric help.

Years later, her job as a reporter brings her back to her hometown to investigate a murder. In a disturbing twist, she discovers that her past is related to the case, and must confront her demons to solve it.

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The story’s protagonist is certainly damaged, but she is strong enough to move past her horrors.

“Lately, I’ve been leaning towards kindness.”

Get the book here: Physical Copy, eBook, Audiobook


All books featured are available via the NLB Mobile app or at our public libraries.


Text by
National Reading Movement
National Library Board


Public Libraries Singapore

Written by

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