Zailckas, Koren. Mother, Mother. Crown, 2013.
I don't even know where to start in my description of this book. The mom is a narcissistic nutcase who lives her life through her first child and lies and manipulates everyone so she can get her own way. When her oldest daughter gets pregnant, she guilts her into having an abortion and then guilts her into suicide for having an abortion. Then she covers up the girl's disappearance and tells everyone she ran away. Since daughter #2 is the black sheep of the family, the mom has her committed to a mental hospital so she can work on her latest project: Child #3. Her son, who is 12, has been diagnosed with Asperger's and a seizure disorder (after visits to three specialists because the first two wouldn't diagnose him), so mom home schools him, brushes and flosses his teeth, BATHES him, and picks out his clothes. Oh, and the dad turns to alcohol to avoid the entire family dynamic in all its awfulness.
This story is told in alternating perspectives of the two living children, so I would label this book as one with an unreliable narrator, too, since one kid's in a mental institution and the other one is being manipulated by the mother so that he lies to the police about how he was injured and doesn't know how to choose his own clothes for the day.
I hated reading about how horrible this mother was. I kept waiting for something awful to happen to her, and I finished the book just because I wanted to find out if everyone was able to escape her insanity (and to find out what really happened to Daughter #1 since we already knew the mom was a pathological liar). Crazy stuff. My students would LOVE this book, since they like books about people in horrible situations. I would not reread this one, since the mom drives me crazy, but it was very well-written.
Recommended for: young adults, fans of psychological thrillers
Red Flags: Dad's an alcoholic, Daughter #2 smokes while she's in the mental institution and does drugs beforehand, Daughter #1 commits suicide, Mom is uber-abusive to the entire family and drugs the dad and tries to kill Daughter #2, the son describes his masturbation habit
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars
Read-alikes: Broken by C.J. Lyons