YA Books That Will Absolutely Wreck You
Do you like to feel things? I do. I really do. In addition to essentially being a human laugh track, I also cry at just about everything (and in public). And you know what, I think that’s a sign of healthily experiencing emotions. I’d even venture to say my overly expressive emotions border on therapeutic. Books, in particular, tend to provoke strong emotions. There are even certain sections of favorite books I will reread, even though I know they’re going to make me cry. If you’re looking for a similarly tear-filled experience, here’s a list of books that will absolutely wreck you.
An Appetite for Miracles
Danna Mendoza Villarreal’s grandfather is slowly losing himself as his memories fade, and Danna’s not sure her plan to help him remember through the foods he once reviewed will be enough to bring him back. Especially when her own love of food makes her complicated relationship with her mother even more difficult.
Raúl Santos has been lost ever since his mother was wrongly incarcerated two years ago. Playing guitar for the elderly has been his only escape, to help them remember and him forget. But when his mom unexpectedly comes back into his life, what is he supposed to do when she isn’t the same person who left?
When Danna and Raúl meet, sparks fly immediately and they embark on a mission to heal her grandfather…and themselves. Because healing is something best done together—even if it doesn’t always look the way we want it to.
Brighter Than the Sun
Every morning, sixteen-year-old Sol wakes up at the break of dawn in her hometown of Tijuana, Mexico and makes the trip across the border to go to school in the United States. Though the commute is exhausting, this is the best way to achieve her dream: becoming the first person in her family to go to college.
When her family’s restaurant starts struggling, Sol must find a part-time job in San Diego to help her dad put food on the table and pay the bills. But her complicated school and work schedules on the US side of the border mean moving in with her best friend and leaving her family behind.
With her life divided by an international border, Sol must come to terms with the loneliness she hides, the pressure she feels to succeed for her family, and the fact that the future she once dreamt of is starting to seem unattainable. Mostly, she’ll have to grapple with a secret she’s kept even from herself: that maybe she’s relieved to have escaped her difficult home life, and a part of her may never want to return.
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow
Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.
Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.
But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.
Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.
We Contain Multitudes
Jonathan Hopkirk, a Walt Whitman fan, and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky, a football player, are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment.
With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and familial strife, Jonathan and Kurl must struggle to hold onto their relationship—and each other.
An Arrow to the Moon
Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers from the intended path. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, his connection with the wind, and now this strange girl at his new school. He’s determined to escape the noose tightening around his wretched family in punishment for their past mistakes…but time is running out.
Luna Chang feels unmoored and overwhelmed by her parents’ expectations. It’s the last year of high school and graduation looms ahead, bringing with it the dreaded question of her future. The path forward is paved and waiting. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by a boy she can’t stop thinking about, and the curious arrival of fireflies who are much more than they appear.
As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, and as everything around them begins to fall apart, they must figure out who they are meant to become and what they are fated to do.
They Went Left
by Monica Hesse
Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else–her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja—they went left.
Zofia’s last words to her brother were a promise:Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet.Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.
But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her—or help her rebuild her world.
When the Stars Lead to You
by Ronni Davis
Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things. The stars. And the boy she fell in love with last summer.
When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer ever, she thinks her heart will never heal again. But over the course of following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together.
Now it’s senior year, and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it, as she prepares for a future studying galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school.
Can she forgive and open her heart to him again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?
Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel
by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s griefover the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.
Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore — even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend.As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?
No longer tangled in his once incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.