McCord, Patricia. Pictures in the Dark. New York: Bloomsbury, 2004.
Carlie (15) and Sarah (13) are the two unwanted daughters of a mentally unstable mother and an uninvolved father. Their mother resents their presence and requires them to spend the majority of their time in their attic room. They are not allowed to use the bathroom without permission, and their mother frequently chooses not to feed them. Their father is enamored of their mother and doesn't realize, or chooses not to realize, that anything is wrong.
Carlie has realized that this is not normal and she is eagerly counting down the days until she is old enough to move away and begin a life of her own. Sarah is beginning to understand that other people don't live like this. Her first and only friend, Kim, is allowed to do amazing things like wander about her house freely and make popcorn to share with the family. Kim is not punished when the bathroom floor is wet or their is a dirty spot on a washcloth.
This difficult situation comes to a head when Carlie decides to run away. Carlie's drastic decision causes Sarah to be brave and tell the truth and forces their father to face the truth he has been ignoring for so many years.
This was not a particularly easy book to read. It is not violently graphic, but it is intense at times. It was a good reminder to me, as a teacher, that some of my students are facing abuse that is not so obvious to the naked eye. Those students need an environment where they feel safe to talk about their fears and to be accepted. I also appreciated this book because, even though it has a dark theme, it ends well. There is light at the end of the tunnel.