Are you wasting thousands of dollars in therapy unraveling your horrendous upbringing? Check out 10 science fiction books about kids who really had it rough, and put your issues into proportion. It'll be cheaper!
Germain from A Game of Universe by Eric Nylund:
Germain's life isn't that great now - he's an assassin who absorbs the personalities of his victims, until they all start battling for control of his body - but it beats his childhood. He was born on a hellish planet, and then his father killed his mother and whored his brother out to miners. (He was too young to join his brother at the time.) And then he accidentally killed his brother, who was in the middle of trying to rape him. Later, he freaks out over a misunderstanding and kills his mentor by mistake. Oops.
Bean in Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card:
Okay, you thought Ender Wiggin had it bad, but what about Bean? He was genetically enhanced to give him mental powers, but the enhancement, via "Anton's Key," means he'll die at age twenty. He gets kidnapped but escapes, and becomes a street urchin on the streets of Rotterdam, where he falls in with a rough gang. And then the muscle they recruit for their gang kills the gang's leader. Bean ends up going to Battle School, where he's sucked into the fight against the Buggers.
Bertran and Nela in Sideshow by Sheri S. Tepper:
Ack! Maria and Lesky are so desperate to have babies, she takes an untested fertility drug... which leaves her with a pair of conjoined twins, who are both intersexed. (Born with ambiguous genitalia.) But Lesky is determined that at least one of his kids will be a boy, because the Virgin Mary told him so. At Lesky's insistence, the doctors give one of the twins a penis and the other one a vagina, meaning that they'll be joined together but opposte sexes. Emeritus surgeons from the medical school get recruited to do the work, on the theory that they'll be long retired or dead by the time anybody gets around to suing. So whenever dad wants to take Bertran fishing or to a sports game, Nela isn't up for it. Not to mention the fuss over which bathroom and locker room to use. Lesky realizes, far too late, that the twins are genetically identical, which means making one a boy and the other a girl was kind of a weird idea. You can read the whole thing here.
Thorby in Citizen Of The Galaxy by Robert Heinlein:
First he's sold into slavery, then he's sold off to a blind beggar who's missing an arm and a leg. But the beggar, Baslim, turns out to be a super-spy, who puts Thorby to work... until Baslim gets captured and kills himself before he can be interrogated. Then Thorby is shipped off to a Free Trade ship, where he has to learn the ropes the hard way.
David Rice in Jumper by Stephen Gould:
His dad beats his mom so hard, she winds up in the hospital and then runs away. Leaving Davy along with his alcoholic dad, who uses him as a punching bag... until he realizes he can teleport. So he goes to New York, where he finds he can't get a job or a place to live, because he has no Social Security number or birth certificate.
Lauren Olamina in Parable Of The Sower by Octavia Butler:
Lauren is one of many young protagonists in post-apocalyptic fiction who have a rough time, what with the scarce resources, the crazy violence and the collapsing society. (There's a whole thriving genre of post-apocalyptic young-adult novels. Plus there's Cormac McCarthy's The Road, of course.) But Lauren has it worse than most, because she has hyper-empathy, allowing her to feel the pain of all the injured and dying people around her. Not to mention, her home gets burned down and her family is killed.
Darth Bane, from Star Wars: Path Of Destruction:
Pity Dessel, the youngster whose dad beats the crap out of him and calls him "bane" as a nickname. He's raised in a poor, harsh mining colony where he's trapped with his mistreating father. He accidentally kills a Republic soldier who accuses him of cheating at cards, so he has to go off and join the Sith training program, which is not much fun at all.
Pretty much everyone in The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian:
The world is destroyed by a flood, and the only people left alive are the patients, staff, and a few visitors, in a children's hospital. Most of the kids have terrible, painful ailments, which they struggle to live with after the end of everything. Meanwhile, Jemma, a med student, is emotionally scarred by the suicide of her brother, who took care of her and taught her when she was little.
David from Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg:
You might think growing up with telepathic abilities would be totally awesome, but apparently it sucks]. Growing up, David gets stigmatized as a weirdo by the other kids, and his powers get misinterpreted when they manifest. He learns to hide his abilities, but they keep him from having a normal relationship with the other kids, because he can tell what they're thinking.
Mark Vorkosigan from the Miles Vorkosigan novels by Lois McMaster Bujold:
As my friend Stephanie puts it, "Miles has a fairly bad childhood, but his clone twin brother Mark has one of the most abusive childhoods in literature, and then gets kidnapped and tortured by a sadomasochistic clone lord until he splits into four personalities."
Cat in Psion, Catspaw and Dreamfall by Joan Vinge:
As my friend Laurie says, :The protagonist is an orphaned child, half-human, half-Hydran, and telepathic in a society that has persecuted Hydrans and all those with psi abilities." Plus he's a mistreated street punk, who lives in dirt and flees the carrion crews who want to enslave him as "contract labor." Early on, he gives up his last marker for a short-lived beautiful dreamtime, which leaves him gasping and bereft. A typical sentence early on goes: "His drug-heavy body jerked with panic."
So there you go - just read these books, and tell your therapist goodbye!
Additional reporting by Alasdair Wilkins. Thanks also to Twitter pals kittystryker, gerryblog, beckastar, whump, PhilDarnowsky, cecilseaskull, miniver, heatherlyshaw, kiala and LunaticSX, and Facebook pals Tim Chevalier, Tara O'Shea, James Limbach, Kathleen Warnock, Richard Hartzell, Stephanie Lee Jackson, Sam J. Miller and Laurie Beth Brunner. You guys rule!