Look, sometimes I just want an old-fashioned, sloppy cry. And it’s not because I’m sad or because something terrible has happened. In fact, it’s for the exact opposite reason: I want to cry because everything is fine and while my schedule’s open, why not carve out some me-time to have a good cry? The following list includes my go-tos for heartbreaking and tear-inducing books that bring out the tears in the worst of times and the best of times. Pull out the tissue box, find a comfy seat, and stay hydrated — you’re gonna be shedding a lot of water!
War, loss, and grief intertwine in this exquisite novel, but the hope of freedom lingers just around the corner.
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.
The death of her mother leads to an era of self-discovery for Leigh Chen Sanders, as she navigates the space between her and her family's past and the present.
Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.
When Michie is forced to define who she is for her college scholarship essays, she reckons with a budding romance, the pressure of deadlines, and her estranged mother coming back into her life. High emotional content here is guaranteed to get the waterworks flowing! (Ok, I can’t “guarantee” it, but you’re gonna cry).
High school junior Michie is struggling to define who she is for her scholarship essays, her big shot at making it into Brown as a first-generation college student. The prompts would be hard for anyone, but Michie’s been estranged from her mother since she was seven and her concept of family has long felt murky.
Enter new kid and basketball superstar Derek de la Rosa. He is very cute, very talented, and very much has his eye on Michie, no matter how invisible she believes herself to be.
When Michie’s mother unexpectedly reaches out to make amends, and with her scholarship deadlines looming, Michie must choose whether to reopen old wounds or close the door on her past. And as she spends more time with Derek, she’ll have to decide how much of her heart she is willing to share. Because while Michie may not know who she is, she’s starting to realize who she wants to become, if only she can take a chance on Derek, on herself, and on her future.
So, here’s the thing. Penny and Tate keep almost kissing, but they’re also kind of enemies. And one of their moms needs a liver transplant, and the other one’s mom is providing the transplant. So, they all move into together. What could go wrong?
Penny and Tate have always clashed. Unfortunately, their mothers are lifelong best friends, so the girls’ bickering has carried them through playdates, tragedy, and more than one rom-com marathon with the Moms. When Penny’s mother decides to become a living donor to Tate’s mom, ending her wait for a liver transplant, things go from clashing to cataclysmic. Because in order to help their families recover physically, emotionally, and financially, the Moms combine their households the summer before senior year.
So Penny and Tate make a pact: They’ll play nice. Be the drama-free daughters their mothers need through this scary and hopeful time. There’s only one little hitch in their plan: Penny and Tate keep almost kissing.
It’s just this confusing thing that keeps happening. You know, from time to time. For basically their entire teenaged existence.
They’ve never talked about it. They’ve always ignored it in the aftermath. But now they’re living across the hall from each other. And some things—like their kisses—can’t be almosts forever.
The echo of World War II has left Europe in pieces, and Zofia without a family. Well, almost. Her brother is still alive, and she must scour the post-war continent to find him while dealing with the loss of her family and the life she used to know.
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.
On the borderline between life and death, Tessa must decide if she can survive in a world without Skylar.
After bouncing around in foster homes for most of her childhood, seventeen-year-old Tessa Jacobs doesn’t believe she deserves love — not from her adoptive parents, and certainly not from anyone at school.
But everything changes when she has a chance encounter at the local movie theater with Skylar, a senior from a neighboring town who’s a true romantic. Their budding relationship quickly leads to the kind of passionate love you only see in the movies. And Tessa starts to believe she might be deserving of a happy ending after all.
When tragedy strikes, Tessa wakes up alone in the hospital with no memory of how she got there. And Skylar has passed away. As Tessa begins her relentless search for answers, Skylar’s spirit reaches out to her from the other side. Desperate to see him one last time, Tessa must unravel the pieces of their relationship — and the truth might even lead her into the afterlife itself.
For Hunter and Luna, a lot is working against them. There’s a Romeo-and-Juliette-esque dislike between their families, there are lots of secrets, and they are, well, teenagers. But, together, they learn to handle first endings and new beginnings.
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.