11 Touching YA Novels Featuring Characters Struggling With Grief
Losing a loved one is never easy, and it's especially difficult for teenagers, who are dealing with so much change already as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Reading about characters who are going through similar experiences can be cathartic and help with the healing process. The books on this list feature poignant stories about dealing with grief. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.
Young Adult Novels About Loss: Our 11 Picks
Helpful Resources for Dealing With Death
Grief can affect anyone, no matter how old they are. And while some can handle the loss of a loved one with the support of their family and friends alone, that might not always be enough. If you need professional help, or are looking to join a support group, these organizations are a great place to start:
- InfoAboutKids.com: Tools for healthy child & family development
- National Alliance for Grieving Children: Offers networking, information, and support
- The Dougy Center: A safe place for grieving families to share their experiences
- Our House: A grief support center for children, teens, and adults
- Foundation for Grieving Children: Assistance, counsel, & education for families
Dealing With Sudden Loss
Although death is an inevitable part of life, it's never easy dealing with the painful consequences. For teenagers, this can be exceptionally hard, especially if they already feel alienated. Books on the subject can help connect young readers to others who've gone through the same things. In no particular order, here are eleven touching young adult novels that feature characters struggling with grief.
Coming in at #1 is "The Beauty That Remains" by Ashley Woodfolk. Autumn, Shay, and Logan all go to the same school, but their social circles don't overlap much. However, all of that changes when tragedy strikes for each of them. Autumn's best friend perishes in an accident, Shay's twin sister dies from leukemia, and Logan loses his ex to suicide. As the teens mourn, they find common ground through music and discover that even death can't sever the bonds of love.
At #2 is "Dear Vincent" by Mandy Hager. Although Tara McClusky is only seventeen years old, she is burdened with many adult responsibilities. Her father is paralyzed, so she has to work part-time in a retirement home to help provide for the family. To make matters worse, she's still haunted by her sister's suicide five years ago. Tara's only solace is artwork, especially the work of Van Gogh. When she meets Max Stockhamer, one of the residents at the retirement home, and his grandson Johannes, they help her navigate through her anger, frustration, and depression.
Her father is paralyzed, so she has to work part-time in a retirement home to help provide for the family.
For #3 we have "Young Widows Club" by Alexandra Coutts. When Tamsen Baird got married at seventeen, she never envisioned she'd end up a widow that same year. After her husband Noah passes away unexpectedly, Tamsen moves in with her father and stepmother. As she wades through her bereavement, she must learn how to rebuild her life after experiencing unimaginable loss.
#4 is "Life After Juliet" by Shannon Lee Alexander. Becca Hanson is a junior in high school when her best friend Charlotte unexpectedly dies. Not wanting to deal with her anguish, she buries herself in the books she reads. It's not until she meets classmate Max Herrera that she begins to open up about her pain. With his support and understanding, Becca learns how to begin a new chapter in life after her friend's death.
The #5 selection is "The Secret to Letting Go" by Katherine Fleet. Daniel Hudson, still mourning the death of his girlfriend two years earlier, is eager to finish high school and move away from Florida. However, everything changes when Clover Scott moves to town. After saving her from a near-drowning, Daniel is intrigued by the mysterious girl. Both Clover and Daniel realize they must let go of the past in order to build a future together.
Daniel Hudson, still mourning the death of his girlfriend two years earlier, is eager to finish high school and move away from Florida.
At #6 we have "We Were Beautiful" by Heather Hepler. Fifteen-year-old Mia Hopkins is still reeling from the tragic accident a year ago that scarred her body and took her sister's life. Although her memories are unclear, she feels responsible for what happened. Mia's parents, who are also grieving, send her away to spend the summer with her grandmother in New York. While working at a cafe in the city, she befriends a girl named Fig, who helps her put together the puzzle pieces of that fateful night.
#7 is "Beyond Repair" by Lois Peterson. Since his father's death, Cam has felt an enormous amount to pressure to take care of his mother and younger sister. Cam's life is thrown into even more turmoil when his father's killer unexpectedly shows up at their home. Even after insisting that he leave the family alone, Cam keeps seeing the man around town and fears he's being stalked. In this emotionally charged novel, Cam is forced to confront the root of his anger and anguish.
Coming in at #8 we have "There Will Come a Time" by Carrie Arcos. After Mark Santos loses his twin sister Grace in a car accident, he is consumed with sorrow. Desperate to keep a connection with his sister, he reads through her journals and discovers things he never knew before. Emboldened by her words, he sets out to accomplish some of the goals written in the journal. Through these experiences, Mark learns what it means to truly live life.
After Mark Santos loses his twin sister Grace in a car accident, he is consumed with sorrow.
#9 is Emily X.R. Pan's novel "The Astonishing Color of After." Leigh Chen Sanders' life shatters when her mother commits suicide. However, when she hears a red bird outside her window calling her name, Leigh is convinced it is the reincarnation of her mother. She believes the bird wants her to go to Taiwan to visit her estranged grandparents. During her time there, she learns about the complexities of her extended family and begins to heal.
At #10 is "The Clay Lion" by Amalie Jahn. After Brooke Wallace's brother Branson dies from a lung disease, she wants to do everything in her power to rewrite the past. In her society, everyone is allowed to time travel once in their life, and Brooke makes the decision to go back in time to try to save her brother. However, preventing his death is fraught with challenges. Every alteration she makes in the past creates unexpected changes in the future, and Brooke must decide if she truly has the power to save her brother.
And finally, #11 is "Freefall" by Mindi Scott. Seth McCoy, an unambitious high schooler, is more focused on partying and hanging out with his friends than his school work. However, everything falls apart when his best friend Isaac dies after a night of drinking. Seth blames himself for Isaac's death and vows to become a better person, though he quickly finds out that it's easier said than done. When he meets classmate Rosetta, he learns that he is not alone in his struggle.