Children can be innocent, inquisitive and the embodiment of hope. But those characteristics make for boring stories. Sometimes authors enjoy creating a fictional child that is just plain nasty. Draco Malfoy might be a bigot and a bully, but he’s rarely dull and is a vital ingredient in the Harry Potter novels. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would not be such a tasty read without greedy Augustus Gloop, bratty Violet Beauregarde and the spoiled Veruca Salt.
While Draco, Augustus, Violet and Veruca may be distasteful, they are actually quite mild-mannered compared to some of the horrible children literature has to offer. Authors have not restrained themselves from portraying children as utterly evil. We plumbed the depths of fiction to find 25 examples where authors have not restrained themselves from portraying children as utterly evil. Then we topped that list off with 10 more reader suggestions.
While these books are fiction, and human evil-doing is prevalent in literature, there is something especially unnatural and disturbing when the perpetrator is a child, as if it represents the perversion of innocence itself. Be warned, some of these books have the potential to be distressing, particularly for parents. Some of the young characters in this selection abuse, torture, murder and commit demonic acts with barely a second thought. David Seltzer even gave us a youthful antichrist, Damien from The Omen.
Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock and Frank from The Wasp Factory are two examples of how evil characters can also be extremely complex. Skilled authors can make the reader ponder the key question of why a child has become bad to the bone, while being so young.
Three words: 'psychopathic child killer'.
A pair of nine-year-olds blackmail their elders to the point of causing their suicide.
She may not murder but is 'quite a piece of work'.
He murders his father then seeks out career criminal Tom Ripley.
The son of Ryuji, who belongs to a savage gang of boys who believe in “objectivity”
Cherub faced youngster with no moral compass or remorse
Manipulates her family by saying she knows who killed the family patriarch.
The girls of this boarding school would make Angela Brazil faint in horror.
She ages through the book, but this is a terrible child who becomes a worse adult
This daughter is the queen of blackmail and deceit.
It’s hard to describe Frank and his rituals – he’s very, very twisted.
This infamous child is every parent’s worst nightmare.
As the older sister of a murder victim, Rosalind becomes entwined in the investigation.
While not evil like some on the list, this foul-mouthed reprobate has few virtues.
It wasn’t Regan’s fault that a demonic spirit possessed her.
It’s nearly impossible for a parent to see that their child was born bad.
The 17-year-old Pinkie is a merciless thug in this classic.
Rynn is a mysterious child with an absent poet of a father and a nose for trouble.
‘Chris’ is the mean-spirited snobbish teenage girl who leads the torment of Carrie.
He enacts terrible psychological punishment on classmate Margot.
Coleridge said Matilda was “superior in wickedness to the most wicked of men.”
A boy whose twin brother is intertwined with a series of deaths in a rural community.
This grotesque, violent and hateful child is tearing a family apart.
Kevin is a sociopath who murders several classmates in a school massacre.
He epitomizes the worst aspects of human nature in this must-read.
This child from hell turns out to be the antichrist.
After terrorizing others she is cast out of her clique to become the victim of her own bullying.
Another example of demonic possession ruining a childhood.
In order to impress his high school sweetheart, Nick goes off the rails.
A family struggles after their teenage son murders his girlfriend.
Boy A and Boy B were both convicted of murdering a young girl.
A group of children are left alone and run amok in ways you would never imagine.
She cares for her sister Constance but something is not right with this 18-year-old.
Andy rapes a classmate at a school party with long-running, serious consequences for the victim.