15. The Bigtrees
If you think your childhood was rough, consider Ava Bigtree. Her mom (an alligator wrestler) is dead, her dad is trying to keep the family business afloat, her brother has abandoned them for the city, and her sister has married a ghost. Equal parts bitter reality and fantasy.
17. The Edelsteins
What happens when a girl can actually taste emotions in her mother’s cooking? And what if the birthday cake her mother baked for her tastes unmistakably like despair? Just as in her amazing short stories, Aimee Bender uses fantastical elements in her novel to convey the depths of ordinary unhappiness.
21. Jeanette’s Family in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Take one die hard evangelical Christian mother. Add an opinionated gay daughter. Watch the fireworks go off. In her highly acclaimed first novel, Jeanette Winterson takes an awful situation and makes it undeniably funny.
22. The Atwells
What deep, dark family secret could cause 15 year-old Thea to be shipped off to a fancy Southern boarding school during the Great Depression? The answer might not entirely surprise you, but Thea’s fearlessness in the pursuit of her desires is to be admired.