The story starts when D.W. is kidnapped. This sends the once happy Read family into chaos, and Mr. and Mrs. Read end up divorcing soon afterwards, with Arthur in his mother's custody and Kate in her father's. Years later, a now-adult Arthur works with his mother at her store. When a familiar looking young woman enters the store one night, things take a sudden turn. With his mother missing and D.W. confirmed alive, Arthur is on a mission to avenge his family and save his sister.
How to Break a Family provides examples of:
- Adaptational Jerkass: It's true that your child's disappearance can stress you to the point of anger, but both Jane and David are out-of-character. They're more quick-tempered than in canon and it takes very little for them to divorce.
- Adaptational Nice Guy: D.W. shows none of her usual brattyness and selfishness as an adult in this fic; it might be justified by her outgrowing that phase since she is older now.
- Adult Fear: The Tibbles dare D.W. to buy candy for them. D.W. tries to go to the store alone but, being only four, has a hard time finding it. A guy in a van tells her he has candy and D.W. believes him. This leads to her being kidnapped. No one can find D.W. and she is considered likely dead. Fourteen years later she's finally discovered, but she's been beaten and abused that entire time.
- Asshole Victim: Averted with D.W.. Although in canon she was a Spoiled Brat who tormented her brother on a regular basis and was rude to many other people as wellnote , Arthur and her parents are still worried when she gets kidnapped, with the former even swearing vengeance on the kidnapper when she comes back fourteen years later, and as mentioned on the show's Characters page, she did have several Pet the Dog moments in canon.
- Creepy Stalker Van: 4-year old D.W. was lured into an unmarked van by a strangers using sweets. She was kidnapped and remained missing for over a decade.
- Dark Fic: It's definitely not canon compliant levels of darkness. The story revolves around D.W. being kidnapped and tortured. The news leads to a rift between Arthur's parents and his grandmother dying of a sudden heart attack. Once D.W.'s reunited with Arthur years later, he's out for revenge.
- Dead Fic: The story hadn't been updated since 2012.
- Death by Adaptation:
- Thora can't handle the news of D.W.'s kidnapping. Her heart gives out.
- Jane is murdered early on trying to save D.W. after they're reunited.
- Furry Reminder:
As soon as Mr. Read, Mrs. Read, Arthur and Kate left the room, Mrs. Read furiously turned towards her ex-husband.
- Used in an exchange in chapter 2:
"Are you happy now?" she yelled, tears filling her eyes, "It was your irresponsibility that got DW kidnapped, and now you are taking Kate away from me! What type of a husband are you, you you selfish, horrible pig?!"
"As far as I know," Mr. Read replied dryly, "I am an aardvark."
- In the final chapter posted before this became a Dead Fic, Mr. Ratburn explicitly referred to Buster as a rabbit. Although it was more so said in the context of him being a metamorphical "sneaky rabbit" because he'd broken out of prison seven times, he follows it up with "no pun intended", which makes it into this trope.'
- Karma Houdini: Tommy and Timmy Tibble caused D.W. to be kidnapped by daring her to go buy candy for them, but when asked by the adults if they'd seen her beforehand, they manage to avoid getting in trouble by lying and saying they hadn't.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Averted. Despite D.W. being a selfish Bratty Half-Pint who was rude to many people including her friends at times, nobody in the story is happy that she was kidnapped, not even Arthur, the person whom she bothered the most as his Annoying Younger Sibling.
- Mature Animal Story: The fic is set in a World of Funny Animals but starts with a four year old getting kidnapped.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: D.W., even more-so than in canon. She's never once called her full name.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Kate begins hanging out amongst older kids at ten. By age fourteen she's already drinking and smoking. One of her friends also encourages her to prostitute herself, but one day she meets a guy who is turned off by how young she is. It turns out the guy was her brother Arthur.
- Turn the Other Cheek: Despite the fact that D.W. pretty much treats Arthur like crap in the show, he's still upset when she gets kidnapped and wants to see her saved, and even swears Revenge on the culprits after she's found.