Black Swan, £6.99 stg

Harley Altmyer is 18. Once upon a time, he was thinking of getting a job, living at home for a couple more years with the family he loved. Then, hopefully, he'd buy a house, get married and maybe even have a few kids himself but that was before his life turned into a very active minefield.

Now his father is dead, his mother is in prison for the murder and he is guardian of his three younger sisters. He has two crummy jobs, a fantasy sex life, big worries about the kids and he sees a court-appointed therapist once a month – not exactly the life he had hoped for.

Amber, who's sixteen and incredibly beautiful, starts having sex with any boy who looks twice at her, Misty won't talk to him and Jody, like any normal six-year-old, has a lot of questions that Harley just can't answer.

The only way out seems to be through a relationship with his middle-aged neighbour, Mrs Mercer. For a very brief moment Harley experiences happiness, but there doesn't seem to be an end to his problems.

'Back Roads' is an intense book about the ultimate dysfunctional family. Through Harley, author Tawni O'Dell looks at how a young man copes with life while dealing with physical and sexual abuse, financial difficulties and relationship problems. But all is not doom and gloom and occasionally I even laughed aloud. Well worth a read and I look forward to her next novel.

Charley Maine