100 books like Save Me, Kurt Cobain

By Jenny Manzer,

Here are 100 books that Save Me, Kurt Cobain fans have personally recommended if you like Save Me, Kurt Cobain. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Theories of Relativity

Don Aker Author Of The Space Between

From my list on grappling with loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having been a teacher for many years, I have had the great fortune to be surrounded by young people most of my adult life. As a result, I’ve been witness to countless moments reflecting the struggles of teenagers facing various challenges in their lives. Without question, one of the most painful is having to grapple with loss, and regardless whether it involves a friend, a family member, a home, an opportunity, or any number of other misfortunes, the act of facing and rising above that loss is often character-defining. I will always be grateful to my many students whose candour and courage have both inspired me and informed my own writing.

Don's book list on grappling with loss

Don Aker Why did Don love this book?

Sixteen-year-old Dylan has lost everything. His mother has thrown him out of their house and he’s forced to live on the streets, begging for handouts and avoiding the thugs that threaten him daily. During my work as a literacy mentor, one of the teachers I supported taught a particularly challenging group with a ringleader (I’ll call him Sean) who frequently interrupted lessons with unruly outbursts. I suggested that the teacher try ending his lessons ten minutes early and reading a few pages of Theories of Relativity as a reward when the group performed well. A week later when I came to observe the teacher’s practice, Sean stopped me before class and demanded, “Have you read Theories of Relativity?” I pretended I hadn’t and he breathlessly summarized the story they’d heard so far. And during the lesson, he shushed anyone whose behaviour might have interfered with that day’s reading, which…

By Barbara Haworth-Attard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Theories of Relativity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Binding Unknown, Date not stated


Book cover of Nix Minus One

Don Aker Author Of The Space Between

From my list on grappling with loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having been a teacher for many years, I have had the great fortune to be surrounded by young people most of my adult life. As a result, I’ve been witness to countless moments reflecting the struggles of teenagers facing various challenges in their lives. Without question, one of the most painful is having to grapple with loss, and regardless whether it involves a friend, a family member, a home, an opportunity, or any number of other misfortunes, the act of facing and rising above that loss is often character-defining. I will always be grateful to my many students whose candour and courage have both inspired me and informed my own writing.

Don's book list on grappling with loss

Don Aker Why did Don love this book?

Nix Minus One is a heartbreaking story of a 15-year-old boy who must come to terms with the death of his older sister, Roxy, whom he adored. Told in free verse, it recounts the guilt he feels at having argued with her on the night she got drunk at a party and staggered into the path of an oncoming truck. I loved how each poem can stand alone but, sequenced together as they are, they form an unforgettable narrative. More than a novel about the sorrow of loss, this is a poignant, beautifully written story about the painful process of healing.

By Jill MacLean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nix Minus One as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

An exquisite middle-grade novel by the award-winning Jill MacLean

Fifteen-year-old Nix Humbolt doesn't talk much. He's barely outgrown his "Fatty Humbolt" days, and although he is taller and leaner now, he has learned it is best to keep a low profile. He dreams about his only friend's girl, but of course she is hopelessly out of his league. Lonely and introverted, he is happiest in his father's woodworking shop, where he builds exquisite boxes and tables. The only battles Nix fights are on his Xbox - until the day he finds the guts to fight for Swiff Dunphy's neglected dog.…


Book cover of Keep This to Yourself

Don Aker Author Of The Space Between

From my list on grappling with loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having been a teacher for many years, I have had the great fortune to be surrounded by young people most of my adult life. As a result, I’ve been witness to countless moments reflecting the struggles of teenagers facing various challenges in their lives. Without question, one of the most painful is having to grapple with loss, and regardless whether it involves a friend, a family member, a home, an opportunity, or any number of other misfortunes, the act of facing and rising above that loss is often character-defining. I will always be grateful to my many students whose candour and courage have both inspired me and informed my own writing.

Don's book list on grappling with loss

Don Aker Why did Don love this book?

Eighteen-year-old Mac is still coming to terms with the murder of his best friend, Connor, the fourth and final victim of a serial killer who terrorized their community the previous summer. Stumbling upon a note Connor wrote to him the night he died that suggests Connor knew the identity of the killer, Mac embarks on his own investigation to learn what the victims may have had in common. The author deftly threads throughout his story tantalizing clues that draw readers deeper into the mystery, building wire-taut tension as the characters move inexorably toward a resolution that readers won’t see coming but is ultimately satisfying. Far more than a skilfully crafted whodunit, Keep This to Yourself is a compelling coming-of-age story that explores the evolution of friendship and the consequence of truth.

By Tom Ryan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Keep This to Yourself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

2020 Arthur Ellis Award, Best YA Crime Book
2020 ITW Thriller Award, Best Young Adult Novel
2020 ALA Rainbow Book List

"Breathtakingly chilling...eerie and wholly immersive...A tightly plotted mystery." Kirkus Reviews starred review

It's been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac's best friend Connor was the murderer's final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he's drawn back into…


Book cover of I Am the Cheese

Don Aker Author Of The Space Between

From my list on grappling with loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having been a teacher for many years, I have had the great fortune to be surrounded by young people most of my adult life. As a result, I’ve been witness to countless moments reflecting the struggles of teenagers facing various challenges in their lives. Without question, one of the most painful is having to grapple with loss, and regardless whether it involves a friend, a family member, a home, an opportunity, or any number of other misfortunes, the act of facing and rising above that loss is often character-defining. I will always be grateful to my many students whose candour and courage have both inspired me and informed my own writing.

Don's book list on grappling with loss

Don Aker Why did Don love this book?

Adam, the narrator of I Am the Cheese, lost his parents in a malicious car accident and, during the course of the novel, he attempts a journey to discover the truth behind what happened to them. Published in 1977, I Am the Cheese is the very first YA story I read as a young adult that did not unfold as I’d anticipated. The world of the novel was much darker than any I’d encountered before in YA literature, and for the first time I realized that I couldn’t necessarily believe what the first-person narrator was telling me. This was an eye-opener for me, both as a reader and as a future author who would eventually explore various ways to tell my own stories. More important, I Am the Cheese has stood the test of time, remaining as engaging (and disturbing) a read as ever.

By Robert Cormier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am the Cheese as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Before there was Lois Lowry’s The Giver or M. T. Anderson’s Feed, there was Robert Cormier’s I Am the Cheese, a subversive classic that broke new ground for YA literature.
 
A boy’s search for his father becomes a desperate journey to unlock a secret past. But the past must not be remembered if the boy is to survive. As he searches for the truth that hovers at the edge of his mind, the boy—and readers—arrive at a shattering conclusion.
 
“An absorbing, even brilliant job. The book is assembled in mosaic fashion: a tiny chip here, a chip there. . .…


Book cover of The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

Taylor Tyng Author Of Clara Poole and the Long Way Round

From my list on middle grade series to laugh out-loud.

Why am I passionate about this?

While one-off stories are fantastic, I love that children's series lets readers return to trusted characters. Series allow children to see a wider arc of character development and decision-making—often imperfect and in transition—when they are trying to figure out how to identify and connect with the world themselves. That shared experience over time is why I only write series myself—to let kids evolve alongside their favorite characters.

Taylor's book list on middle grade series to laugh out-loud

Taylor Tyng Why did Taylor love this book?

This is a series to grow with and a story about the powerful bond of sisters.

No matter your age, there is a sibling you can identify with, whether it be their personality, challenges, or growth stage. Add a lot of getting in each other's way and a ton of heart, and The Vanderbeekers is a must-read, especially for girls. Also, make a fantastic read-aloud!

By Jeanne Birdsall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Penderwicks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The Penderwicks: four sisters, as different as chalk from cheese, yet as close as can be.

The eldest, Rosalind, is responsible and practical; Skye, stubborn and feisty; dreamy, artistic, budding novelist, Jane; and shy little Batty, who doesn't go anywhere without her butterfly wings. And not forgetting Hound, their large lumbering lovable dog.

The four girls and their absent-minded father head off for their summer holidays, but instead of the cosy tumbledown cottage they expect, they find themselves on a huge estate called Arundel, with magnificent gardens ripe for exploring. It isn't long before they become embroiled in all sorts…


Book cover of The Girl and the Ghost

Sinéad O'Hart Author Of The Starspun Web

From my list on middle grade to sweep you into another world.

Why am I passionate about this?

All my books (I hope!) sweep the reader into another world – it’s one of my favourite themes in the books I love to read, as well as write. When I was about seven, I first read some of the books which would shape my life, including Elidor by Alan Garner and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engle, which brought me right out of my own life and into worlds as varied as the frightening interstellar realm of Camazotz and the battlefields of Elidor. I’ve been trying to capture that sense of ‘being swept away’ in my own work ever since.

Sinéad's book list on middle grade to sweep you into another world

Sinéad O'Hart Why did Sinéad love this book?

Alkaf’s book is, in her own words, ‘unapologetically Malaysian’. It also sweeps us into a mysterious, spooky, thrilling world, where a pelesit, a type of ghost bound to a person – in this case, a girl named Suraya – shows her that having your own familiar spirit might not always be fun. Pink (the name Suraya gives to her pelesit) risks pulling Suraya and itself into the darkness; can they save themselves, and one another? 

By Hanna Alkaf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girl and the Ghost as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

* Chosen as a 2020 Kirkus Prize Finalist for Young Readers' Literature! *

A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies.

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother's legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.

But Suraya doesn't know that pelesits have a dark side-and when Pink's shadows threaten to consume them…


Book cover of Clues to the Universe

Rebecca Thorne Author Of The Secrets of Star Whales

From my list on about loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a children’s novelist, I believe there’s nothing more important than showing kids it’s okay to experience emotion. Nothing is more powerful than watching someone rise to the occasion, and showing vulnerability in the process. Plus, middle-grade books are just fun—they let us create these fantastical ways to show very grounded, human needs. Rockets become friendships? Jellyfish offer understanding? Sign me up! It’s my pleasure to recommend these novels to kids everywhere (even the adult ones)!

Rebecca's book list on about loss

Rebecca Thorne Why did Rebecca love this book?

I finished this novel in a day, simply because of its incredible portrayal of emotion. Clues to the Universe follows Ro and Benji, two kids who couldn’t be more different. And yet, through circumstances of loss (and a class partnership), they find solace in a new friendship. Although it’s set firmly on the ground—based in the 1980s, on the heels of the Space Race—this book would appeal to the dreamers everywhere, the scientists and artists alike. Ro and Benji have a great dynamic, and while they lost their dads in very different ways, the grief is shared. A truly wonderful read!   

By Christina Li,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Clues to the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

This stellar debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.

Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics,…


Book cover of Maybe He Just Likes You

Dayna Lorentz Author Of Wayward Creatures

From my list on exploring ideas of justice and accountability.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a parent, I’ve been struck by the fierce sense of justice my children have, from the unfairness of one getting more screen time to bigger injustices, like bullying or discrimination. Kids have an innate sense of what’s right, of what’s fair, but they can also lack a sense of nuance and have rather Byzantine notions of what justice requires. I wrote Wayward Creatures to explore a different way of thinking about justice and accountability. Restorative justice practices seek to bring the offending party together with the people hurt by their actions to acknowledge the harm caused and find a solution together. These five books explore other aspects of what it means to seek justice.

Dayna's book list on exploring ideas of justice and accountability

Dayna Lorentz Why did Dayna love this book?

As the title suggests, this book asks readers to think about how to tell when action is required to bring justice to a situation. Mila finds herself on the receiving end of unwanted attention from boys in her class, but her friends tell her she’s overreacting. What’s a hug or a touch from a boy? It’s all just playful flirting, right? But it doesn’t feel playful or fun to Mila. In the end, Mila sets the record straight and makes her feelings heard. The ending features a restorative circle, which is an in-school version of the restorative justice process Gabe goes through in my own book.

By Barbara Dee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maybe He Just Likes You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

2019 The Washington Post Best Children’s Book of the Year (Erin Entrada Kelly Pick)
A 2020 ALA Notable Children’s Book

“The novel’s all-too-familiar scenario offers a springboard for discussion among middle schoolers…Easily grasped scenarios and short chapters help make this timely #MeToo story accessible to a wide audience.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Realistic and heartbreaking.” —BCCB

Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates.

For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few…


Book cover of Close to Famous

Cori Cooper Author Of Bake Believe

From my list on baking magic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer that absolutely loves baking! There’s just something about taking commonplace ingredients and creating something extraordinary.  I’m amazed at the way food brings people together and lifts them up. That’s why I am so captivated by stories that include cooking or baking. All the better if there’s a strong family theme and an element or two of magic. I included books on my list that do these things really well, and relate to my own Bake Believe trilogy. Try not to get too hungry while you read!

Cori's book list on baking magic

Cori Cooper Why did Cori love this book?

Foster dreams of having her own cooking show one day but is hampered by a secret she’s never told anyone. When she and her mama have to skip town quickly to escape her mama’s crazy, Elvis-impersonating boyfriend, they end up in Culpepper. A tiny, little podunk place too small to be called a town. Foster wows the local, severely grumpy, cafe owner with her delectable baking skills and works out a deal to supply him with cupcakes and more. She also strikes up an unlikely friendship with a reclusive woman who gives Foster the courage to face her secret. This book was lovely from start to finish.

By Joan Bauer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Close to Famous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show like her idol, celebrity chef Sonny Kroll. Macon Dillard's goal is to be a documentary filmmaker. Foster's mother Rayka longs to be a headliner instead of a back-up singer. And Miss Charleena plans a triumphant return to Hollywood. Everyone has a dream, but nobody is even close to famous in the little town of Culpepper. Until some unexpected events shake the town and its inhabitants-and put their big ambitions to the test. Full of humor, unforgettable characters, surprises, and lots and lots of heart, this is Joan Bauer at her most…


Book cover of Drew Leclair Gets a Clue

Shawn Peters Author Of The Unforgettable Logan Foster

From my list on smart kids who save the day in unexpected ways.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a smart kid myself – I even have the report cards to prove it—and I always loved reading about other smart kids. As I got older, I realized that good grades and study habits are only part of the picture, because it’s emotional intelligence that helps us navigate the complicated parts of growing up. That’s why I wrote a book about a brilliant kid who learns to be part of a super-family, and that’s also why I love middle grade novels about clever kids who have to grow something other than their “book smarts” to figure out what they need to thrive. The books I’m recommending all get an A+ in that category.

Shawn's book list on smart kids who save the day in unexpected ways

Shawn Peters Why did Shawn love this book?

Who doesn’t love a good pre-teen mystery, and this one is different because the “crime” is totally current. Drew Leclair is a clever girl who adores true crime content with her dad, especially after her mother runs off with Drew’s school guidance counselor. Ouch! But when the school’s anonymous cyber-bully starts targeting her and other kids at school with cruel posts revealing their secrets, Drew leans on her deductive reasoning to expose the perpetrator. Along the way, she’s dealing with friend drama and eventually comes to see that sometimes, her brainy ways are really just a way of avoiding some tough emotions. Does Drew catch the bully? Does she make new friends, or lose the only friend she has? You gotta read to find out. 

By Katryn Bury,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Drew Leclair Gets a Clue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

In this modern take on Harriet the Spy, twelve-year-old Drew uses her true crime expertise to catch the cyberbully in her school—only to discover that family, friendship, and identity are the hardest mysteries to solve.

Drew Leclair knows what it takes to be a great detective. She’s pored over the cases solved by her hero, criminal profiler Lita Miyamoto. She tracked down the graffiti artist at school, and even solved the mystery of her neighbor’s missing rabbit. But when her mother runs off to Hawaii with the school guidance counselor, Drew is shocked. How did she miss all of the…


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