Middle grade books about domestic abuse are not easy to read. I’ve read several of the books on this list and what I love about them is that the stories are compelling enough to hold your attention even when they’re really hard to read. And these stories truly are important.
On this list, you’ll find middle grade books about domestic abuse of all kinds, from verbal to physical to sexual. I’ve also included stories where one parent experiences the abuse, as well as ones where the child experiences the abuse — sometimes, both parent and child experience abuse. And in several of these books, the child is exposed to a friend or relative who is being abused. All of these are valuable perspectives.
Best Middle Grade Books About Domestic Violence
Here are 18 best middle grade books about domestic violence:
Published: August 11, 2020
Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf–her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.
All You Knead Is Love
Published: March 30, 2021
Twelve-year-old Alba doesn’t want to live with her estranged grandmother in Barcelona.But her mother needs her to be far, far away from their home in New York City. Because this is the year that her mother is going to leave Alba’s abusive father. Hopefully. If she’s strong enough to finally, finally do it.Alba is surprised to find that she loves Barcelona, forming a close relationship with her grandmother, meeting a supportive father figure, and making new friends. Most of all, she discovers a passion and talent for bread baking. When her beloved bakery is threatened with closure, Alba is determined to find a way to save it–and at the same time, she may just come up with a plan to make their family whole again.
Every Missing Piece
Published: May 26, 2020
Maddy Gaines sees danger everywhere she looks: at the bus stop, around the roller rink, in the woods, and (especially) by the ocean. When Maddy meets a mysterious boy setting booby traps in the North Carolina woods, she suspects is Billy Holcomb–the boy who went missing in the fall.
As Maddy tries to uncover the truth about Billy Holcomb, ghosts from her own past surface, her best friend starts to slip away, and Maddy’s world tilts once again. Can she put the pieces of her life back together, even if some of them are lost forever?
One for the Murphys
Published: May 10, 2012
A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family’s love
Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong–until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She’s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they’ve given her have opened up a new future.
Sure Signs of Crazy
Published: August 20, 2013
You’ve never met anyone exactly like twelve-year-old Sarah Nelson. While most of her friends obsess over Harry Potter, she spends her time writing letters to Atticus Finch. She collects trouble words in her diary. Her best friend is a plant. And she’s never known her mother, who left when Sarah was two.
Since then, Sarah and her dad have moved from one small Texas town to another, and not one has felt like home.
Everything changes when Sarah launches an investigation into her family’s Big Secret. She makes unexpected new friends and has her first real crush, and instead of a “typical boring Sarah Nelson summer,” this one might just turn out to be extraordinary.
The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade
Published: August 29, 2017
In sixth grade, bad things can happen to good kids. Bullies will find your weakness and jump on it. Teachers will say you did something wrong when really you didn’t mean to do anything wrong. The kids who joke the loudest can drown out the quieter, nicer kids.Maverick wants to change all that. One of the last things his father left him was a toy sheriff’s badge, back when Maverick was little. Now he likes to carry it around to remind him of his dad — and also to remind him to make school a better place for everyone . . . even if that’s a hard thing to do, especially when his own home life is falling apart.The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade is a story about standing up for yourself — and being a hero at home and in the halls of your school.
Published: September 10, 2019
Instead of giving him lunch money, Rex’s mom has signed him up for free meals. As a poor kid in a wealthy school district, better-off kids crowd impatiently behind him as he tries to explain to the cashier that he’s on the free meal program. The lunch lady is hard of hearing, so Rex has to shout.
Free Lunch is the story of Rex’s efforts to navigate his first semester of sixth grade―who to sit with, not being able to join the football team, Halloween in a handmade costume, classmates and a teacher who take one look at him and decide he’s trouble―all while wearing secondhand clothes and being hungry. His mom and her boyfriend are out of work, and life at home is punctuated by outbursts of violence. Halfway through the semester, his family is evicted and ends up in government-subsidized housing in view of the school. Rex lingers at the end of last period every day until the buses have left, so no one will see where he lives.
The War That Saved My Life
Published: January 8, 2015
Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
The Best Worst Summer
Published: May 4, 2021
This is going to be the worst summer ever for Peyton. Her family just moved, and she had to leave her best friend behind. She’s lonely. She’s bored. Until . . . she comes across a box buried in her backyard, with a message: I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Things are about to get interesting.
Back in 1989, it’s going to be the best summer ever for Melissa and Jessica. They have two whole months to goof around and explore, and they’re even going to bury a time capsule! But when one girl’s family secret starts to unravel, it’s clear things may not go exactly as planned.
In alternating chapters, from Peyton in present day to Melissa three decades earlier (a time with no cell phones, no social media, and camera film that took days to develop, but also a whole lot of freedom), beloved author Elizabeth Eulberg tells the story of a mystery that two sets of memorable characters will never forget.
What Momma Left Me
Published: January 8, 2019
Serenity is good at keeping secrets, and she’s got a whole lifetime’s worth of them. Her mother is dead, her father is gone, and starting life over at her grandparents’ house is strange. Luckily, certain things seem to hold promise: a new friend who makes her feel connected, and a boy who makes her feel seen. But when her brother starts making poor choices, her friend is keeping her own dangerous secret, and her grandparents put all of their trust in a faith that Serenity isn’t sure she understands, it is the power of love that will repair her heart and keep her sure of just who she is.
The Land of Forgotten Girls
Published: March 1, 2016
Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died, and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. After her father leaves, all Sol and Ming have is their evil stepmother, Vea. Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Can Sol protect Ming from this impossible hope?
The Bridge Home
Published: February 5, 2019
Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.
Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter–and friendship–on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.
When You Know What I Know
Published: March 24, 2020
One day after school, on the couch in the basement, Tori’s uncle did something bad. Afterward, Tori tells her mom. Even though telling was a brave thing to do, her mom still doesn’t believe her at first. Her grandma still takes his side. And Tori doesn’t want anyone else—even her best friend—to know what happened.
Now Tori finds herself battling mixed emotions—anger, shame, and sadness—as she deals with the trauma. But with the help of her mom, her little sister, her best friend, and others, can Tori find a way to have the last word?
Caleb and Kit
Published: September 12, 2017
Twelve-year-old Caleb is shorter, frailer, and more protected than most kids his age. That’s because he has cystic fibrosis, a diagnosis meaning lungs that fill with mucus and a shortened lifespan. Caleb tries not to let his disorder define him, but it can be hard with an overprotective mom and a perfect big brother.
Then Caleb meets Kit — a vibrant, independent, and free girl — and his world changes instantly. Kit reads Caleb’s palm and tells him they are destined to become friends. She calls birds down from the sky and turns every day into an adventure. Her magic is contagious, making Caleb question the rules and order in his life. But being Kit’s friend means embracing deception and danger, and soon Caleb will have to decide if his friendship with Kit is really what’s best for him — or her.
The Lottery Rose
Published: March 23, 2021
Georgie Burgess doesn’t talk about the abuse that he receives from his mother and her boyfriend. Even though he’s constantly getting into trouble at school, he continues to hide his hurt, refusing to tell anyone what life is like at home. Instead, he finds escape between the pages of books depicting beautiful gardens and flowers.
When Georgie wins a small rosebush in a supermarket lottery, he gives it all the love and caring he’s never had. Soon after, his life begins to change when child services remove him from his mother’s care and look for a new, safe home for him. But all the while, Georgie still needs to find a home for his rosebush, and through the people he meets, he slowly learns what it means to be loved and accepted.
My Jasper June
Published: September 3, 2019
The school year is over, and it is summer in Atlanta. The sky is blue, the sun is blazing, and the days brim with possibility. But Leah feels. . . lost. She has been this way since one terrible afternoon a year ago, when everything changed. Since that day, her parents have become distant, her friends have fallen away, and Leah’s been adrift and alone.
Then she meets Jasper, a girl unlike anyone she has ever known. There’s something mysterious about Jasper, almost magical. And Jasper, Leah discovers, is also lost.
Together, the two girls carve out a place for themselves, a hideaway in the overgrown spaces of Atlanta, away from their parents and their hardships, somewhere only they can find.
But as the days of this magical June start to draw to a close, and the darker realities of their lives intrude once more, Leah and Jasper have to decide how real their friendship is, and whether it can be enough to save them both.
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones
Published: October 25, 2016
Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody. . . .
The invisible Boy (Human Trafficking)
Published: September 8, 2020
Nadia looks for adventure in the pages of her Superman comic books, until a mysterious boy saves her dog from drowning during a storm and then disappears. Now she finds herself in the role of Lois Lane, hunting down the scoop of the Invisible Boy. Suddenly she’s in a real-life adventure that’s far more dangerous than anything in her comic books.
There they are: 18 of the best middle grade books about domestic abuse. I snuck in one book about child labor and trafficking, which isn’t quite domestic abuse but definitely still abuse. Which of these books have you read and loved?
More Middle Grade Book Lists
- Middle grade books about bullying
- Tween books about families
- Middle grade books about divorce and blended families
Laura Gardner says
You have the best book lists!!! – your friend Laura (@LibrarianMsG)
Afoma Umesi says
Thank you so much, Laura! Miss you <3