Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called “It” captures an often unseen side of domestic violence

The tragic childhood of Dave Pelzer is captured in a single novel


Angel Villalobos

A Child Called “It” is all from Pelzer’s perspective and based on his life.

A Child Called “It” contains descriptions of physical abuse, neglected children, and substance abuse. Reader discretion is advised.

A Child Called “It” is a book that captures Dave Pelzer’s life entirely from his perspective. 

Dave Pelzer was one of the most severely abused children in California. He was often tortured, beaten, and starved by his alcoholic mother.

While this book may not be for everyone as it contains a lot of triggering topics, it is a well written and emotional read that captures a very hard real life topic.

This book captures a side of domestic abuse that many may not have not heard about on their own through the media. Adults and young people often associate abuse with men, but this book shows that women, can indeed be abusers as well. Pelzer’s mom was his abuser for years.

The first time I read this book, I remember feeling sick to my stomach and crying over and over again. I couldn’t help but imagine what Pelzer went through just to stay alive, what he went through from such a young age.

The rest of this review contains small spoilers. Reader discretion is advised. 

The book starts by telling us that Pelzer does (of course) make it out alive, though it wasn’t easy. Pelzer was in bad shape: his mother had beaten him so badly there was no way to hide what she had done. Throughout his horror-filled childhood, Pelzer had to promise his mother that he would tell the school it was an “accident” if they asked questions.

Dave’s early life was happy; in fact, he lived a fairly normal life. His mother appeared to love him deeply and genuinely care about his wellbeing. Pelzer doesn’t even know what the change was, but she turned from a loving mother to an abusive alcoholic within a matter of years.

The abuse was very hard on Pelzer. He went many days without food, once surviving ten days with purely water.

His mother’s abuse easily could’ve ended Pelzer’s life. When his mother “accidentally” stabs him, she refuses to let him be treated at the hospital.

Pelzer is a living example that anything is possible — even in the worst of times he was able to power through and conquer his dreams. 

Overall, I’d rate this novel a 9/10. I think Pelzer did a brilliant job highlighting the fact that no matter how detrimental the effect of childhood abuse might be, if one truly is dedicated to improving their situation and achieving a better life, it’s possible.

It’s definitely not an easy book to get through, and it will throw you around emotionally, but it is worth it.