Teen books about death and grief
When a friend or family member dies, you might not want to talk to anyone about what you’re feeling at first. In this case, reading about death and grief ‒ whether real or fictional ‒ might help. The following books have all helped young people make better sense of bereavement and grief.
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When parents die: learning to live with the loss of a parent (1999) by Rebecca Abrahams (Taylor & Francis Inc, £17.99)
This book covers the course of grieving, from the immediate aftermath of a parent’s death through to the point of recovery. It pays particular attention to the many circumstances that can prolong and complicate mourning.
Dying to know (2010) by Andrew Anastasios (Hardie Grant Books, £9.99)
Dying to Know was written after many conversations with doctors, people with terminal illness, funeral industry professionals, religious leaders, and those who’d just lost a friend or family member. It doesn't claim to have all the answers. Just ideas, advice and inspiring illustrations about a subject none of us can escape.
The Grieving Teen: A Guide for Teenagers and Their Friends (2000) by Helen FitzGerald (Fireside, £8.84)
This book offers advice for teenagers coping with the death of a parent, friend or loved one. It discusses the emotional impact of bereavement, signs and symptoms of getting into trouble, and special needs and concerns during the grieving process.
When a friend dies: a book for teens about grieving and healing (2005) by Marilyn E Gootman (Free Spirit Publishing, £7.99)
This book speaks directly and simply to anyone who has suffered the loss of a friend.
Straight talking about death for teenagers: how to cope with losing someone you love (1993) by Earl Grollman (Beacon Press, £10.99)
This book explains what to expect when you lose someone you love. It discusses normal reactions to the shock of death including disbelief, anger, panic and loneliness. It also looks at grief’s effect on your relationships, surviving birthdays and anniversaries and how you can work through your grief and begin to live again. There’s a journal section where you can record your memories of the person who died, your feelings about the loss and your hopes for the future.
I Never Told Her I Loved Her (1997) by Sandra Chick (Livewire Books for Teenagers, £3.99)
This book explores a range of feelings, including the guilt experienced by Frankie after her mother dies.
A Gathering Light (2004) by Jennifer Donnelly (Bloomsbury Publishing, £5.59)
This is the story of the coming of age of a strong, selfless heroine. Mattie is torn between her family responsibilities, her desire to be a writer, and the excitement of a first romance. Her dilemmas and choices are quietly reflected in the life of a young woman found drowned in a lake, a woman whom Mattie gets to know only through a bundle of letters left in her possession. The tale of the drowned girl merges with Mattie’s own story, giving her the courage to define her own future.
The Lost Boys’ Appreciation Society (2004) by Alan Gibbons (Orion Children’s Books, £5.45)
Gary, John and Dad, too, are lost without Mum. Gary is only 14 and goes seriously off the rails, getting involved with local thugs and teetering on the wrong side of the law. John is wrestling with GCSEs and his first romance – the gorgeous Olivia Bellman. But he’s carrying the burden of trying to cope with Gary and Dad at the same time. And they’re all living with the memories of someone they can never replace.
The Fault in Our Stars (2013) by John Green (Penguin Books Ltd, £7.99)
Hazel is 16 and is living with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Her life changes when she meets, and falls in love with, Augustus Waters at a cancer support group. The story follows their friendship and shared cancer journey.
Alone at Ninety Foot (1999) by Katherine Holubitsky (Orca Book Publishers, £6.98)
A powerful story about how a 14-year-old girl grieves for her mother, who has committed suicide. Sometimes in control, often overcome with grief and tears, Pam finds solace in the nearby canyon where her mother, in the depths of depression, jumped to her death. It’s here that Pam finds the peace that enables her to hold her life together.
On Eagles’ Wings (2004) by Sue Mayfield (Lion, £6.99)
Tony’s mum is dying and there’s nothing he can do about it. He can’t always put on a brave face and his dad won’t talk about things. Tony has to find his own way in this awful situation.
Bridge to Terabithia (1977) by Katherine Paterson (Harper Collins Children’s Book Group, £3.99)
This story is about the friendship of two school friends. Leslie dies in a tragic accident and Jess fears he is somehow to blame. Through his sadness he rebuilds his relationship with his father and helps his younger sister.
Wipe Out (2003) by Mimi Thebo (Collins, £9.99)
Eleven-year-old Billy’s mother has just died, and the colour has left his world. His father, too, is suffering. Billy is sent away to stay with his Auntie Mary, whom he thinks is as dull and grey as the house she lives in. But gradually, with the help of his aunt and her friends, Billy begins to express his grief openly. He then takes action to bring the colour, and his father, back into his life.
Vicky Angel (2007) by Jacqueline Wilson (Corgi Yearling Books, £5.99)
Jade’s best friend Vicky dies in a road accident after they have quarrelled on the way home from school. Jade blames herself for her friend’s death. This story is about grieving following a difficult and complex relationship. It also explores how the isolation felt by Jade is made worse by adults who don’t understand.
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