The best YA books for when you need a good cry

Who am I?

Actually, I’m known for writing funny books, so I don’t know how that makes me an expert on books that make you cry. But I guess I’ve always counted on stories to help provide an outlet — an escape to a happy ending, a laugh-out-loud moment, or sometimes, a chance to ugly cry into my pillow. My YA debut, Above All Else takes place on Mount Everest, and the reality is that the stakes are terribly high there. And for young adults, figuring out who you are, and what matters to you, is a big part of the journey…even when you’re not on a mountain where mistakes and missteps can be life or death.

I wrote...

Above All Else

By Dana Alison Levy,

Book cover of Above All Else

What is my book about?

Best friends Rose and Tate have trained their whole lives to summit Mount Everest, world’s tallest peak. Spring of their senior year they set out for Nepal with Tate’s dad and their family friend. As they travel, Rose and Tate’s relationship changes along with the landscape, and there’s a new and different closeness between them. But with new intimacy comes new secrets.

The higher they go, the higher the stakes: altitude sickness, extreme weather, expedition politics, and their own emotions threaten their long-held goal of reaching the summit. When the unthinkable happens, Rose and Tate face impossible choices about each other, their families, and their dreams. Because at 29,000 feet, in the Death Zone, they must decide what—or who—they value above all else.

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The books I picked & why

Code Name Verity

By Elizabeth Wein,

Book cover of Code Name Verity

Why did I love this book?

Code Name Verity ticks a ridiculous number of boxes for my favorite kinds of books. Female friendships? Check. Puzzles and mind games? Check. Incredible writing? Check. A snapshot into something I knew nothing about (women pilots in WWII)? Check. Super-moving emotional ending that destroys me but also is deeply satisfying? Check and check again. 

This book is historical fiction, a genre that when done well is just so amazing…it brings me into a time and place I know nothing about, and connects the past to the present. There are spies, daring rescues, and friendships that transcend everything, and bravery and storytelling and…basically everything! And yes, you’ll ugly-cry, but trust me, it’s worth it.

By Elizabeth Wein,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Code Name Verity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I have two weeks. You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.'

Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Code Name Verity is a bestselling tale of friendship and courage set against the backdrop of World War Two.

Only in wartime could a stalwart lass from Manchester rub shoulders with a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a special operations executive. When a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France, she is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in…

Book cover of They Both Die at the End

Why did I love this book?

Okay, this book warns you that you’re going to cry in the title. It’s speculative fiction, with fantastic/supernatural elements that make the story work. The two main characters, teen boys in NYC who are strangers to each other, are informed by phone that they will die that day. And they know they have to make the time count. A meditation on friendship, romance, and the meaning of life and death, this one definitely hits in the gut. Silvera’s own background brings his characters, who are Cuban and Puerto Rican, and who identify as LGBT+, vividly to life. Even though they do both die in the end, I’m glad I read it, and glad I got to meet them at all. Which, ultimately, may be the whole point of the book.

By Adam Silvera,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked They Both Die at the End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the INTERNATIONAL NO. 1 BESTSELLER THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END comes an explosive examination of grief, mental illness, and the devastating consequences of refusing to let go of the past.

Please note that covers may vary.

You're still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real world where this morning you're having an open casket funeral. I know you're out there, listening. And you should know I'm really pissed because you swore you would never die and yet here we are. It hurts even more because this isn't the first promise you've…

The Sky Is Everywhere

By Jandy Nelson,

Book cover of The Sky Is Everywhere

Why did I love this book?

The Sky Is Everywhere does that amazing thing…taking a book that opens with the death of a sibling and making it gorgeous and playful and ultimately joyful. Part of it is how beautiful Nelson writes, with snippets of poetry woven through the text. Part of it is the absolute weirdness and awesomeness of the supporting characters. Part of it is the super-swoony love story that plays out, because death doesn’t stop love. I’ve reread this book several times, and yes, I cry every time, but somehow still feel better for having read it.

By Jandy Nelson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Sky Is Everywhere as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now an Apple TV+ original film

New York Times bestselling author

Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal

"Entirely compelling." The Guardian

"Heartwarming." The Independent

For fans of Jojo Moyes, David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell. Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life - and suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two boys. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow; the other comforts her in it. But the two can't collide without Lennie's world exploding...

Picture Us in the Light

By Kelly Loy Gilbert,

Book cover of Picture Us in the Light

Why did I love this book?

Picture Us in the Light is the kind of book I want to fling at people who snidely look down on young adult books. It’s the story of Danny Cheng, who got into his dream college and is excited for his next chapter, except that the ghosts of his past are too much a part of him to just let go. It is nuanced, and beautifully and carefully written to portray the hearts and souls of the characters, all of whom are imperfect but also so, so lovable. Somehow Gilbert manages to be achingly honest about mental health, family secrets, the Asian American experience in America, LGBT+ relationships, and more, while crafting a deeply satisfying and ultimately optimistic story. But yeah, bring tissues.

By Kelly Loy Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Picture Us in the Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Picture me madly in love with this moving, tender, unapologetically honest book."—Becky Albertalli, #1 best-selling author of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father's closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Bay Area family, he realizes there's much more to his family's past than he ever imagined.

Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family's blessing to pursue the…

Clap When You Land

By Elizabeth Acevedo,

Book cover of Clap When You Land

Why did I love this book?

This is another one that you know will make you cry: the father of the main characters dies in a plane crash. (I’m not ruining anything…it’s right on the back cover!). But two girls, one in the Dominican Republic and one in New York, are both mourning the same man, and neither knew their sister existed until now. The tragedy of their loss is layered with the tragedy of these deep buried secrets. But Elizabeth Acevedo, who writes in verse, manages to bring so much life and vibrancy and humor and heart into these girls! And ultimately there is a tenderness in how she treats all the characters…she shows us their love, their connections, and ultimately their willingness to move forward together.

By Elizabeth Acevedo,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Clap When You Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The stunning New York Times bestselling novel from the 2019 Carnegie Medal winning, Waterstones Book Prize shortlisted author of THE POET X. 2020 Goodreads Choice Award Winner of CLAP WHEN YOU LAND.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people...

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal's office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a…

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