I don’t know how old I was when I read Bridge to Terabithia or Where the Red Fern Grows, but both books left me feeling hollowed out like a watermelon with my emotion scraped down to the rind. But despite the sadness, books that bring the tears are often the most memorable, the ones that stay with you long after you’ve moved on. Here are four tearjerkers that are worth your blood, sweat, and well, you know.
This book will be filed under the Young Adult section in your local bookstore, but you should forgive yourself if you wind up reeling. But you should hurry up and read it before you run out to see the movie, which stars Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teenager with terminal thyroid cancer who unexpectedly falls in love with Augustus Waters, a charming and eccentric dreamboat she meets in her Cancer Kid Support Group. I know what you’re thinking—why would I want to torture myself? But John Green’s characters are exquisitely written, and their story is impossibly funny, given their plight, and it’s told with a gumption and earnestness that will stay with you.
A girlfriend of mine just told me she finished Me Before You without shedding a tear. After filing her under cold and unfeeling, I chalked it up to a somewhat predictable ending. But whether or not you cry at the end, you will love being in the company of Jojo Moyes’ heroine, Lou Clark, a 26-year-old woman who takes a job as a “care assistant” to an acerbic and wealthy 35-year-old man named Will Traynor, who has spent the past two years as a quadriplegic after being hit by a motorbike. Their quirky and unconventional love story unfolds over the next six months, while Lou blossoms and discovers who she is and who she wants to be.
First published a decade ago, The Time Traveler’s Wife was Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel, but it had the piercing voice of a woman who was herself frustrated in love when she wrote it. The book (and the movie) tell the story of Henry, a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel unexpectedly and nakedly (which proves to be awkward). He falls for a woman named Clare, and their story ping-pongs through the past, present, and future as his time-traveling disorder causes the pain of constant (and metaphorical) abandonment.
Unlike the typical tearjerkers that wait till the end to drop the hammer, the waterworks start on about page 3 in Khaled Hosseini’s first masterpiece. The story, about a friendship (and betrayal) between Amir and Hassan, two boys growing up in Kabul pre-revolutionary Afghanistan and the circumstances that rip them apart, is engaging, moving, and gut wrenching from the start.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something a little less weepy and a little more practical, try these four nonfiction winners.