Don't Hurt Laurie! is a young adult novel about child abuse by Willo Davis Roberts, first published in 1977. It is the story of Laurie Kolman, an 11-year-old girl who lives with her mother Annabelle, stepfather Jack, and younger step-siblings Tim and Shelly. Laurie has been subject to repeated physical abuse at the hands of her mother throughout her life. Annabelle always explains Laurie's injuries away as the result of the girl being clumsy or stupid, and always manages to stay one step ahead of suspicious teachers or doctors by packing up the family and moving frequently, thereby making it impossible for her daughter to make close friends. Laurie doesn't tell anyone about the abuse, figuring she won't be believed because she's a kid. Her only comfort is her stepbrother Tim, who, being eight years old, isn't in a position to do much more than lend a sympathetic ear.
After Annabelle moves the family to a duplex in the country following the hand-gashing incident, Laurie finds some solace in her friendship with the neighbor boy, George, who suffers from a degenerative bone disease, and in the companionship of a stray puppy named Amigo, but her home life only gets worse. Numerous s emerge and are dashed just as quickly. At one point, after Laurie accidentally breaks one of her mother's best dishes, Annabelle actually threatens Laurie's life. The situation finally comes to a head when Annabelle knocks Laurie unconscious during a particularly severe beating, and Laurie runs away to her step-grandmother, Nell, and finally tells her about the abuse. Annabelle's husband takes her to counseling, and Laurie, Tim and Shelly move in with Nell temporarily, Laurie uncertain about her future but hopeful that she now has someplace to turn if her mother abuses her again.
This book contains examples of:
- Abusive Parent: Annabelle, and how. Few mothers would dare to actually throw a knife at their daughters or beat them with a fireplace poker. Annabelle thinks nothing of doing either. There's some emotional abuse too, with Laurie constantly being reminded how much like her deadbeat, no-good father she is.
- Annabelle reveals in counseling that her own mother abused her in some terrible ways, though it isn't revealed exactly how.
- Adults Are Useless: A number of adults notice Laurie's injuries but are either too naive or can't be bothered to do anything about it. Laurie's own stepfather, Jack, just regards her as an introverted oddball without giving it a second thought. Later on, he refuses to leave Annabelle even after learning that Annabelle also hit his son during her assault on Laurie. The doctors at the hospital where Laurie's hand is stitched up are suspicious, but do nothing. A bus driver and even a police officer see Laurie bruised and bleeding and also do nothing; the police officer is even convinced Laurie is a runaway and is about to return her to her mother's custody when Nell steps in to take charge of the situation. In fact, Nell is arguably the only adult in the book who isn't useless, and even she was initially oblivious to the severity of Laurie's situation although she had her suspicions.
- Calling Parents by Their Name: Not outwardly, as that would only escalate the abuse, but Laurie thinks of her mother as "Annabelle," not as "Mom," reasoning that Annabelle lost the right to be thought of as "Mom" long ago.
- Disappeared Dad: Laurie's parents are divorced, and it's implied her father is a deadbeat who can't be bothered even to send his daughter a birthday card. Laurie constantly dreams of her father coming to rescue her from her mother's wrath, which never happens.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Laurie uses some of her mother's hair curlers. In a scene disturbingly reminiscent of Mommie Dearest, Annabelle's reaction is to yank one of the curlers - hair and all - right off her daughter's head, and then to throw her to the floor and kick her. And when Laurie accidentally breaks one of her mother's dishes, Annabelle essentially threatens to kill her. Over a dish.
- Everything's Precious with Puppies: Laurie and George befriend a stray Labrador Retriever puppy with a broken leg, whom they name Amigo and nurse back to health. The kids are ultimately unsuccessful in keeping the dog's existence a secret from Laurie's mother, who in addition to beating Laurie unconscious also announces she "got rid" of the dog, and Laurie, assuming this means Amigo is dead, is heartbroken. It turns out Annabelle only took the puppy to the pound, and Laurie and Amigo are happily reunited at the end.
- Hope Spot: Just when it seems Laurie's life is about to change for the better, her hopes are dashed. She manages to make friends with one of the popular girls in her class, only for Annabelle to announce the family is moving again and Laurie will have to change schools. At her new school, she works up the courage to tell her music teacher, Miss Mullen, about the abuse, but on the day Laurie plans to talk to Miss Mullen, the teacher is stricken with appendicitis and put on sick leave for the rest of the year. She even ends up in danger of losing the two positive constants in her life, George and Amigo. The book ends on an optimistic note, but without anything really resolved - it's uncertain whether counseling will help Annabelle to be a better mother or whether Laurie will finally have some peace and stability in her life.
- Karma Houdini: Annabelle is never charged or made to face any legal repercussions for her treatment of her daughter, only ending up in therapy by the end of the book. Jack refuses to leave his wife, even though she struck his own son too.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Once Laurie confides in Nell and the scope of the abuse becomes clear, Nell delivers a scathing one to Annabelle and Jack.
- Title Drop: Laurie's stepbrother Tim yells, "Don't hurt Laurie!" while trying to defend his stepsister from her mother's wrath. It earns him a bruise on his own face.