1. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
"My third-grade class read it together, and when it ended I was so distraught that my mother had to come get me from school because I was completely inconsolable."
— Shannon LeBlanc, Facebook
2. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
"I think the first book I remember crying at was Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. We read it in second grade and up to that point, I'd only encountered books where everything turns out fine. And the fact that Sadako was a real girl who really died was devastating to me."
— Nikki Glassley, Facebook
3. A Child Called "It" by Dave Pelzer
"I had no idea as a kid that children could be abused by their own mother. My parents let me read whatever I wanted, so when I pick this one up, no one worried about it. My mind was blown when the narrator's own mother stuck her finger in his throat to make him vomit up his school lunch and even more so when she rubbed his baby bother's dirty diaper in his face. This novel has created a monster who can't get enough twisted stories; nothing shocks me anymore."
— Maja Markovic, Facebook
4. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
"My mom made me read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson when I was 10 so I could be more cultured than my friends. Anyone who has ever read that story knows that was not the right story to make a 10-year-old read before bed."
— Emma Finlayson, Facebook
5. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
"I couldn’t sleep by myself for days after I read it. The rats’ song was insanely creepy."
"Just the fact that the other mother locked up her parents in that mirror and took those kids’ souls (and killed other children who weren’t known about) messed me up. Also, how everything she created in that perfect world of hers was completely fake and was only out to kill her. Yikessss."
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
"The Giver totally fucked me up as a kid. My school librarian was usually pretty chill with me borrowing books a little above my reading level, but she wouldn't let me borrow The Giver. When I finally got a chance to read it in sixth grade, I was so thankful that she didn't let me read it earlier."
— Colleen Rebecca, Facebook
7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
"It was crazy to me that kids MY AGE (at the time) were capable of killing each other without a second thought. I was also terrified that I would be put in a situation like that because I wasn’t fast or strong or clever. It made me want to take gym class a lot more seriously."
8. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
"This book seriously fucked me up. My mum used to sing the song to me whenever I was sad. Later, when I started babysitting, the kids would always ask me to read it, but I couldn’t without crying! And about a year ago, I found out that Munsch had written it about the two children that his wife had miscarried. They never conceived again, and that just re-fucked me up!"
9. The Wrong Number by R.L. Stine
“I always thought Goosebumps books to be entertaining, but never scary. That is, until my 9-year-old self read The Wrong Number. It’s about three teenagers who make a prank call that ends up going to a murderer that then begins to stalk them. Also, one of them is arrested for those murders. I couldn’t sleep alone or use the telephone for about two months after that."
10. The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein
"That book STILL gets me! It’s all about this shape that is missing a piece. So he tries to find a piece to fill his empty space. But then he later realizes that he doesn’t need a piece to be whole. You gotta read it! You’ll cry real tears. You will sob!!"
11. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"A Little Princess broke my heart again and again. Literally cried several times."
12. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
"It was kind of clear what was going to happen by the time they returned to the tower, but it was still the most helpless and alone the series had ever made me feel."
13. Between the Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
"I was in fourth grade at the time and didn’t know the Genocide of Baltic People happened. I had terrible, gut-wrenching feelings reading the final pages of the book. I remember crying to my mom for an hour talking about how the two children of the story didn’t deserve the struggles of war they went through."
14. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
“When he was going to be burned, I cried. It made me want to go hug every single one of my stuffed animals."
15. Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
"People keeping other people in an 1840s village, which is really an attraction but they don’t know it’s actually 1996, and letting them die of diphtheria, and attempted druggings and killings. Yeah, my third- or fourth-grade teacher read this book to my class."
16. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
"This book messed me up when I was maybe 6 or so. I had just lost a dog, so it spoke to me in a special way."
17. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
“Just learning about all the people who loved him and lost him was so haunting and heartbreaking, and it’s one of my favorite childhood books. Not to mention the twist at the ending (it got me every time)."
18. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
"The stories were so flippin' scary! The pictures were terrible too. I got so scared after reading one of the stories that I got mad at the book! I did everything I could to destroy it: threw it, kicked it, jumped on it, punched it and whatever else I could do."
19. The Girl in the Box by Ouida Sebestyen
"It’s about a girl who was kidnapped and thrown into a root cellar (the Box). She survives off of stale doughnuts and by journaling on the typewriter and single ream of paper she had in her bag (remember, this book is from the ’80s/’90s)!!"
20. The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
"Most books I had read by then had a happy ending, except this series. Although Lemony Snicket said you will be disappointed the moment you start the first book, I assumed it would get better in the end. But it never did; it really was a series of unfortunate events. Friends lost touch, hope was nowhere to be found, and loved ones died."
21. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
"When I found out that [redacted] was dead, I was DISTRAUGHT. I felt like one of my very own best friends had died, and it was heartbreaking. This was the first time I ever really took a minute of my life to ponder the possibilities of someone that close to my age dying. As in, actually not existing anymore, and never to exist again. It really shook me, and the effects of this book still resonate within me to this day."
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Note: Submissions have been edits for length/clarity.