Cohn, Rachel. You Know Where to Find Me. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2008. First cousins Laura and Miles were raised like sisters, but even Miles didn’t know that Laura intended to commit suicide. In the aftermath of Laura’s funeral, Miles struggles to understand Laura’s motives. She must also deal with the reality of her best friend, with whom she is secretly in love, falling in love with one of Laura’s friends (and the person who most made Miles feel like an outcast). A strong story of dealing with loss and personal identity. High School.
Creech, Sharon. Chasing Redbird. NY: Scholastic, 1997. Zinny feels that she may have caused the death of her beloved aunt. As she struggles to sort through her feelings, she finds a weed-covered path leading from her family’s farm to…the end is a mystery. Intent on discovering where the trail leads, Zinny begins a journey that will help her accept both her aunt’s death, her family’s unique characteristics, and the unwanted advances of Jimmy. A wonderful upper elementary/middle school read.
Creech, Sharon. The Wanderer. (2000). NY: Scholastic. 13-year-old Sophie is the only female crewmate on board the Wanderer. Along with her three uncles and two male cousins, Sophie traverses the Atlantic, learning about her cousins, what it means to be part of a family, and how to deal with her own past, one filled with loss. A Newberry Honor Book.
Crutcher, Chris. The Sledding Hill. (2005) NY: Greenwillow. When Eddie Proffit loses his dad and his best friend, Billy Bartholemew within three months of each other, he retreats into silence as he struggles to make sense of the deaths. Eddie’s musings are made more “interesting” by the fact that Billy has decided to “hang around” to watch how Eddie deals with the Reverand Tartar and his insistence on banning the Chris Crutcher book Warren Peece. This story is a wonderful blending of a young person dealing with death against the back drop of a school censorship case. While students will love this one, it feels like Chris really wrote this for the teachers who love to teach HIS books. For High school readers.
Crutcher, Chris. Deadline. (2007) NY: Greenwillow. When Ben Wolf finds out that he has one year to live—his senior year of high school—he decides to make the most of it. He goes out for football, “woos” the beautiful Dallas Suzuki, and drives his government teacher nuts when he decides to make a push to have a street in Trout, Idaho renamed in honor of Malcolm X. He also decides NOT to tell anyone that he’s going to die. Told with typical Crutcher humor and honesty, this book provides an intriguing look at how one teenager looks at death and what his loss will mean to his family and friends. In addition, Crutcher brings the main character of his first book—Louie Banks from Running Loose—to serve as Ben’s football coach, surrogate father, and mentor as Ben moves closer to his own death. For High school readers.
Deaver, Julie. Say Goodnight, Gracie. New York: Harper and Row, 1992. Morgan and Jimmy have been friends
forever. But when Jimmy is killed in a car accident, Morgan finds that many of her feelings about him are unresolved and coming to terms with his death takes the support of her family and friends in ways she had not envisioned. Middle/high school read.
Downham, Jenny. Before I Die. NY: David Fickling Books, 2007. When Tessa goes out of remission with her leukemia, she begins to make a list of the things she wants to do before she dies. And so starts the biggest adventure of Tessa’s life. During the months she has left, Tessa falls in love, reunites her parents, befriends her little brother, becomes famous, and comes to terms with her own mortality. A strong book with a powerful ending. High school.
Forman, Gayle. If I Stay. NY: Dutton Books, 2009. After Mia is injured in a car accident and is lying in the hospital in a coma, her mind deals with the present and her past through flashbacks detailing the events of her life with her parents, her brother Teddy, her grandparents, and her boyfriend, Adam. Her out-of-body experience protects her to some degree from dealing with the emotions related to the critical injuries her parents and Teddy have sustained and allows her to watch her loved ones deal with her injuries and and the impact of the accident to her family. Throughout, we get a picture of a loving family who dealt with day-to-day life in a forthright, proactive manner that allowed Mia to make the best choices she can about whether "to stay or go." Middle/high school.
Forman, Gayle. Where She Went. NY: Dutton Books, 2010. In this sequel to If I Stay, Adam becomes the focus on the story as he tells what happened to him and to Mia as Mia began to recover from her injuries. Adam, while still in love with Mia, has been badly hurt by what he perceives as Mia turning away from him, pushing him out of her life after she decides to go to Juilliard a year after the accident. After an awkward meeting in New York, Mia and Adam must explain to each other what has happened to each in the years of Mia’s recovery. Solid sequel. High school.
Jocelyn, Marthe. Would You. Natalie and Claire have always been close, but with Claire getting ready to head off to college, both girls realize they have different goals for the summer. Shortly after Claire decides to break up with her boyfriend, she runs into the street and is hit by a car. The rest of the book follows Natalie as she considers life and death as well as the banal everyday things. This is an effecting book for younger high school students.
Lester, Julius. When Dad Killed Mom. (2001). NY: Harcourt. When Jenna and Jeremy’s father kills their mother on a public street in their hometown, the two are forced to take sides. With Jenna firmly allied with her father, who she sees as misunderstood, and Jeremy taking his mother’s side, the two siblings find it difficult to help each other through their respective grief and anger. But when Jeremy finds his mother’s diary, it is inevitable that the truth of their parents’ life together will be made public, and the reality of their life and marriage shock everyone involved. A fabulous read for middle and high school students.
McDaniel, Lurlene. Until Angels Close My Eyes. New York: Bantam Books, 1998. Leah, a cancer survivor, finds herself dealing with her beloved stepfather’s cancer even as she develops a romantic relationship with Ethan, a young Amish man whose own cancer-stricken sister befriended Leah when they were both in the hospital. Another middle/high school text.
Nicholls, Sally. Ways to Live Forever. NY: AAL, 2008. Sam has leukemia, and despite the best efforts of his doctors, nurses, and parents, he probably doesn’t have long to live. But Sam wants to make the most of every minute he has, and this book becomes his journal of what he wants to and does accomplish. Written with gentle humor and raw emotion, this is a strong book for middle school readers.
Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia. New York: Avon Camelot Books, 1978. A young boy and girl form a
close, special friendship, but when the girl dies trying to teach Terabithia, their secret hideaway, the boy is plunged into grief. One of those special books that stays with the reader because of the vivid development of character. Upper elementary/middle school.
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. The Dead and the Gone. NY: Harcourt. After an apocalyptic event devastates the earth, Alex Morales and his sisters must face life in NYC without their parents, without stable governmental support, and without consistent food and electrical supports. An interesting story with strongly built characters. High school.
Rodowsky, Colby. Remembering Mog. NY: Avon, 1996. Two-years after her sister’s murder, Annie is still dealing with her feelings of guilt and loss. On the verge of her high school graduation, Annie wonders if she can ever truly get on with her own life without giving up her memories of Mog. Middle/high school.
Scott, Elizabeth. Love You/Hate You/Miss You. NY: Harperteen, 2009. After a car accident in which her best friend, Julia, is killed, Amy plunges into months of depression because she can’t get over the reality that she killed her friend. However, through the letters Amy writes to Julie—ordered by the number of days since Julia died, the reader and Julie begin to untangle the real relationship and the events that led up to the accident. A strong book focusing on how one does or doesn’t cope with the various problems in life. High School.
Stork, Francisco X. the Last Summer of the Death Warriors. NY: AAI, 2010. Pancho is struggling with his sister’s death and the guilt he has for not protecting her. When the police won’t help, Pancho decides that he will figure out what happened on his own, no matter what the cost to himself. Sent to live in the county orphanage, Pancho is befriended/hired by D.Q. to be D.Q.’s “companion.” Pancho finds out that D.Q. has cancer and that D.Q. has determined that he will control his treatment, not his mother. D.Q. coins the term “Death Warriors” and it is through their combined journey that both young men come to terms with their personal goals and demons. Strong book for high school readers.
Taylor, Brooke. Undone. NY: Walker, 2008. When Kori is killed in a car accident, her friend Serena deals with her grief by trying to fulfill Kori’s “dreams” list, an assignment given by their teacher asking them to list the 5 items they would never dream could happen. As Serena goes about Kori’s tasks, though, she finds that she might be fulfilling some of her own dreams at the same time. A strong book about dealing with teen-age death. High school.
Vrettos, Adrienne Marie. Sight. NY: McElderry Books, 2007. Dylan has the unique and generally unwanted gift of being able to visualize the last moments of a child’s life. Dylan works with the police, but even they can’t make her feel safe when she begins to suspect that the Drifter, a serial killer who terrorized their community and then disappeared, has returned. A suspenseful novel with a solid ending. High school.
Wittlinger, Ellen. Blind Faith. NY: Simon and Schuster, 2006. When her grandmother, Bunny, dies, Liz Scattergood knows she’s lost someone important in her life, but she doesn’t know that she will also lose her mother to depression, and, eventually, to a group of spiritualists who promise Liz’s mom that they can help her talk to Bunny from beyond the grave. Liz uses her friendship with new neighbors Courtney and Nathan, who are dealing with their own mother’s illness, to try to figure out how to respond to the issues of death and dying that surround her. A wonderful middle/high school read.
Zevin, Gabrielle. Elsewhere. NY: Square Fish, 2005. When 15-year-old Liz is killed by a hit-and-run driver, she does “elsewhere,” and it is to that place that the reader follows. Liz finds out that the dead live their lives backwards so that hey can go back to earth and have another life. But Liz finds that life in reverse is also life, and she experiences love and caring for others in her death. An interesting take on life after death that raises some interesting issues for the reader. Middle school.