Hi, I'm Rachel, and I cry about fictional characters! Honestly, it doesn't even have to be a sad story for me to cry. I cried over Ted Lasso just a week or two ago. There's nothing quite like a good cry about people who don't exist IRL (or, in one case on this list, people who do exist but do so in a world I don't usually connect with: sports). So here are some of my favorite reads that got me teary-eyed, starting with the happy tears variety and moving into the gut punches.
by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty wants out of her small, Indiana town, but when her financial aid for the school of her dreams falls through, she has to come up with a plan. Remembering that her school gives money to the prom king and queen for scholarships, she decides to run, and in the process finds herself falling for her one of the other girls in the competition, Mack.
2. Dragon Hoops
by Gene Luen Yang
This nonfiction story by graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang stars Gene as he follows the basketball team at the high school where he teaches, despite the fact that he's never really "gotten" sports. Their season leads them closer and closer to the California State Championships, and Gene finds himself immersed in not only the thrill of the game, but also in the stories of the players.
by Adib Khorram
Full disclosure: I definitely happy cried during the first book, but I then happy cried like 14 times during the sequel. So go ahead and get yourself both.
Three things to know about Darius Kellner: 1) He's a nerd. 2) He's got clinical depression. 3) He is about to take his first trip to Iran. While there, he gets to know his ailing grandfather, loving grandmother, and other family members. He also meets Sohrab, who becomes his first real friend. Sohrab makes Darius feel like a new version of himself. But as the trip winds down, he has to wonder if he can still be the new Darius without Sohrab by his side.
A lot of the books after this point talk about grief and loss, so I wanted to give you a quick idea of what to expect. If you're not in a spot to read about that right now, you can skip those numbers!
Death of Friend: 4, 12, 14
Death of Parent: 9
Death of Sibling: 6, 10, 14, 17
Death of Significant Other/Ex: 7, 11, 14, 16
Death & Abuse: 5
by Ashley Schumacher
Amelia and Jenna were brought together by the Orman Chronicles series, written by young (and reclusive) N.E. Endsley. When the pair get a chance to attend a book fest where Endsley will be, what starts as a dream quickly goes wrong: Jenna gets a chance to meet the author, Amelia doesn't, and the two have a blowout fight. Before they can make up, Jenna is in a car accident and dies. But a mysterious rare edition of the Orman Chronicles makes its way to Amelia, who wonders if it's from Jenna, and she tracks it to a small bookstore in Michigan, where she comes face to face with Endsley.
by Tami Charles
Denver is the star of this novel-in-verse, but more importantly, she wants to be a big music star with her friends Dali and Shak. When they catch the attention of Sean "Mercury" Ellis, one of the biggest R&B stars in the world, he pulls them into his circle, providing hours in the recording studio, parties, and perks in exchange for sacrifices and lies. But the dream quickly turns into a nightmare, and Denver realizes she's caught in the dark side of Merc's world.
by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Rumi Seto was sure of one thing: that she'd spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. But when Lea dies in a car accident, her mom, dealing with her own grief, sends Rumi to live with her aunt in Hawaii. While there, she meets the "boys next door" — a teen surfer named Kai and an 80-year-old named George — and she tries to crawl her way back to the songs in her heart.
by Adam Silvera
Despite the fact that Griffin’s first love, Theo, moved to California for school, Griffin always believed they would find a way back to each other. But when Theo dies in a drowning accident, Griffin is distraught. There is one person who could potentially understand what Griffin is going through — Jackson, the boy Theo was dating at the time of his death. Griffin's journey through love, loss, OCD, and messy emotions is told in alternating past and present points of view.
by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Danny's path is set thanks to a scholarship to RISD and the blessing of his family to pursue art. But when Danny finds a box in his parents' closet that's filled with old letters and family secrets, around the same time as the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook Danny's friend group to the core, everything is soon in danger of crumbling.
by Margie Fuston
Since the first vampire revealed his existence on live TV, Victoria and her dad have shared a love of the undead, even when the vampires were driven back into hiding. After her dad is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Victoria is determined to find a vampire so that she can become one and save her dad. With the help of her estranged best friend Henry, she heads to New Orleans, where she meets Nicholas. Before he can potentially give her what she desires, she'll need to prove she loves life enough to live forever, even if the challenges feel like a betrayal while her father is dying.
10. The Lucky Ones
by Liz Lawson
Eleven months ago, May survived a school shooting, though her twin brother was not so lucky. Zach's relationship and all but one friendship ended when his lawyer mother decided to defend the shooter. One night when May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band, Zach happens to be at band practice, and the two collide.
by Nita Tyndall
When Maggie Bailey dies, Corinne Parker is heartbroken. The pair had been dating, despite their rival cross-country teams, and in addition to her sorrow, she also has to grieve in private, since Corinne's bisexuality (and their relationship) was a secret. The only one who seems to understand how Corinne is feeling is Elissa, Maggie's ex, and she'll help Corinne learn to be honest with the people in her life...and herself.
12. Early Departures
by Justin A. Reynolds
Jamal and Q were best friends until two years ago, back before Jamal's parents died in a car accident that he blamed Q for causing. And after Q dies in a drowning accident that Jamal tried to save him from, Jamal gets a second chance at a goodbye thanks to a new technology that will reanimate him for a short time. Now Jamal must figure out how to make things right with Q while trying to determine how to break the news of his death.
by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Sophie would do anything for her best friend Peter, who's been on the kidney transplant list as long as she's known him. When she learns that she is a match, donating a kidney is the obvious choice. Post-transplant life for Peter isn't what either of them expected. While Sophie hoped her crush might finally be reciprocated, Peter's developing feelings for guitarist Chase, and Sophie's bitterness grows as the distance between them increases.
by Ashley Woodfolk
After the loss of her best friend, Tavia, Autumn sends messages she knows won't be answered. Shay is struggling to keep it together after her twin sister Sasha passes away. And Logan can't seem to stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Bringing these three teens together is the music of one band, proving that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.
by Ashley Herring Blake
Grace Glasser is doing her best to lay low until she graduates so that maybe then she can finally have her own normal life. Trying to focus on her upcoming audition for a music school in New York proves especially difficult when her unreliable mother begins dating the father of Grace's ex-boyfriend. But then she meets Eva, who has her own share of ghosts, and the two begin to fall in love.
by Dustin Thao
Julie had the future all planned out — she and her boyfriend, Sam, would move out of her small town, go to college in the city, and spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies, and a devastated Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries to forget him. But when she becomes desperate to hear his voice one more time, she calls his phone to listen to his voicemail...and he answers. The connection is temporary, but it's a second chance at a goodbye.
by Brittney Morris
Whenever Alex touches an object or a person, he sees into its future. Whether it's a vision of himself using the ice cream scoop to serve ice cream or a vision of him and his girlfriend at the brink of a breakup, he just has to deal with it. But when he touches a photo that presents him with a vision of his brother's imminent death, it becomes a race against the clock to try and save him.