I realized the other day, while pilfering Mel’s bookshelves with a couple other friends, that I have a really high tendency of recommending books that have made me cry. Which seems kind of crazy, because hello–that means they’re SAD. And they left me ALL TORN UP INSIDE. So why in the world would I tell other people to read them?
— And yet, for some reason, I keep recommending this select group of Super Well-Written Sad Books anyway. And I keep reading them, over and over and over again. Because if a book can make me cry–and I don’t mean just “get a little weepy” but, like, full out “SOB MY EYES OUT”–then it’s something really special.
I don’t know if this makes me a masochist or what, but these are some of my favorite books. And no matter how many times I read them, they make me burst into tears. (Honestly, just thinking too much about a couple of these will make my eyes burn.)
Are you ready for this?
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Goodreads Description: I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
Why It Made Me Cry: I went into Code Name Verity knowing it was going to be a depressing read. I mean–just look at the description, there. What I wasn’t expecting was the fact that it’s not just a depressing novel about WWII; it’s also a really great story about friendship and sacrifice and what it means to be human. And the writing is just so beautiful, the characters feel real. I swear the girls in this story aren’t fictional; as I was reading this, they were right there beside me in my dorm room, breathing and feeling. And for months afterward, when I got nervous or upset about something, I found myself thinking, “Fly the plane, Maddie,” and then having to hold back tears. This is one of my absolute favorite books ever, and I don’t say that lightly.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Goodreads Description: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
Why It Made Me Cry: I didn’t actually cry too much with this one, but it did leave me with such a hollow, unsettled feeling at the end, the first time I read it I just walked around in a daze for the rest of the day. It’s one of those books that you can’t just read in pieces; you have to read it in one sitting, the same way almost the entire book takes place over the course of one night. A lot of this book is bitter and angry and lost, and altogether it’s very much human. It’s a shard of glass through your heart. It’s the best book on suicide I’ve ever read.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Goodreads Description: “How about a story? Spin us a yarn.”
Instantly, Phoebe Winterbottom came to mind. “I could tell you an extensively strange story,” I warned.
“Oh, good!” Gram said. “Delicious!”
And that is how I happened to tell them about Phoebe, her disappearing mother, and the lunatic.
As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe’s outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold — the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.
In her own award-winning style, Sharon Creech intricately weaves together two tales, one funny, one bittersweet, to create a heartwarming, compelling, and utterly moving story of love, loss, and the complexity of human emotion.
Why It Made Me Cry: I don’t know exactly what it is about this book that gets me, but when I first had to read it back in elementary school, it left me messed up for weeks. I was torn between burning the thing and recommending it to everyone I knew. The story is achingly gorgeous, and when I finally dug out my copy a couple months ago to re-read for the first time since elementary school, I think I might have cried even harder than before. It makes you want to hold your family closer; bury yourself in your mother’s embrace and stay there sobbing until there’s nothing left of you.
Marley and Me by John Grogan
Goodreads Description: The heartwarming and unforgettable story of a family in the making and the wondrously neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life.
Why It Made Me Cry: Spoiler–the dog dies at the end.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Goodreads Description: Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same.
Why It Made Me Cry: I’ll be honest, there’s a lot I didn’t like about this book. It had some scenes that did more to make me feel uncomfortable than to further the characterization or plot. (I mean, I get why they’re there, and they do further the characterization and plot. And the POINT is to make you uncomfortable. But I don’t know. I guess they were just things I didn’t personally need, so I didn’t benefit from the discomfort, if that makes sense. Anyway.) But in total, it really is a beautiful book, like all of John Green’s are, and the second half (the “After”) is one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever read. If you’re a John Green fan, you’re probably wondering why I have Looking for Alaska on here instead of The Fault in Our Stars, but honestly TFIOS just didn’t do it for me; I enjoyed that book, and I saw why everyone said it made them cry, but it didn’t even get me misty eyed. I could connect better with the depressing situation in this one, which sounds–you know–depressing. But I could. And it made me cry. So this is the one on the list.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Goodreads Description: What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.
The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
Why It Made Me Cry: I think I’ve actually met more people who dislike this book than like it, but it’s one of my all-time favorites and it helped me through a tough time junior year of high school. The writing is beautiful, the characterization is amazing, and the plot is gritty and messy but ultimately… gosh, I don’t even know how to describe it. I almost want to say “precious,” but then you might think I mean that in a “Ooh, look at the baby! He’s so precious!” sort of way, and it’s not that at all. But it did leave me feeling like this book was sort of a gift, at the end. A gift from the narrator to the reader. It’s well worth the read.
While there are definitely a few other books out there that have made me cry throughout the years, these were the ones that first came to mind. They’re all very different books, with the only uniting factor being that they deal with death in interesting ways.
Have you read any of these books before? What did you think of them? What books, other than these, have made you cry?
PS. I promise, I promise, I promise my England recap will be going up sometime in the coming week! This past week was just crazy with all the Independence Day stuff. But I really want to tell you about it!