Sometimes you just need to curl up with a good book and gross-sob your heart out. It’s cathartic. It’s cleansing. And it’s preferable, because your other options include listening to Coldplay’s “Fix You” on a loop or rewatching the first ten minutes of Up over and over again, and I mean jeez. Ease up, Pixar. We’re only human, for God’s sake.
So whether you had a bad day, are going through a breakup, or you just have a lot of feelings, here are 7 of the saddest books of 2015, specifically designed to rip out your heart and stomp on it.
In a World Just Right, by Jen Brooks
Sometimes people will say, “This book made me cry,” and you’ll think, “Yeah, sure. But I’m an unfeeling, black-hearted wraith of apathy. Come at me, book.” Enter this book, which will most certainly come at you. When Jonathan wakes up from a coma after the plane crash that killed his family, he realizes he has acquired the power to craft fantasy worlds. This is how he winds up creating an alternate universe in which he’s no longer lonely and friendless but athletic, well-liked, popular—and dating his real-life crush, Kylie Simms. But when he loses track of which world is which—when he mistakes the “real” Kylie for the “fake” one and tries to kiss her in front of everybody—the plot takes a turn for the heartbreaking.
Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon
Sometimes people who are definitely not me will joke that they’re allergic to the sun because they spend so much time inside binge-watching Jessica Jones and living exclusively off of Cheese Nips. But 18-year-old Maddy Whittier really is allergic to the sun, and everything else, too. She has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, which means she must never leave the sterile bubble of her house. The only people she interacts with face-to-face are her mother and her nurse. Then Olly, the literal boy next door, moves in, and they begin a modern-day courtship through bedroom window notes and instant messaging. But like a princess locked away in a tower, Maddy yearns for escape. And when the vicious whirlwind of Olly’s home life rears its ugly head, she may not have a choice.
Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
When a book’s two main characters break up right off the bat, you might find yourself thinking you’re all strapped in and ready for a cute “will they make it work” romance, as Kady and Ezra struggle with loss and growing up and moving on. Not so. Cue the space invasion! Cue the warring megacorporations! Cue the artificial intelligence going rogue! And did I mention the plague? There’s a plague. Given all of this, it might not sound like your run-of-the-mill tearjerker. That’s fair. It’s a sci-fi space opera told in a uniquely epistolary style of hacked documents, emails, maps, and reports (which somehow completely works). But by the end of it, my eyes were gushing saline like there was no tomorrow.
The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds
Look, I’m not gonna outright say this book made me openly weep in a coffee shop. But there is a coffee shop where I am no longer welcome, so let’s just leave it at that. Seventeen-year-old Matthew Miller snags a job at a funeral parlor just months after the death of his mother. These are not ideal circumstances, but he needs the cash. What began as just another way to make ends meet, however, turns into a life-altering experience that shows Matt how differently we all mourn and ultimately how we pick ourselves back up. It’s a beautifully crafted testament not just to the grieving process but also to the streets, bodegas, and diversity of Brooklyn.
Extraordinary Means, by Robyn Schneider
Seventeen-year-old Lane had a pretty straightforward life until he was diagnosed with a strain of tuberculosis as drug-resistant as it is deadly. He’s sent to Latham House, a residential facility housing similarly terminal kids. There he reconnects with Sadie, an old acquaintance from summer camp who has been sick for about a year. The narration is shared between the studious Lane, who realizes he needs to live a little, and the authority-resistant Sadie, who has assembled a ragtag team of TB-diagnosed misfits. Slowly, the two come to terms with love, loss, mortality, and inevitability in a bittersweet and poignant tale.
Rules for 50/50 Chances, by Kate McGovern
If this one doesn’t make you weep, you have a robot heart. Having spent much of her life watching her mother suffer from Huntington’s, Rose is painfully aware she has a 50% chance of inheriting the degenerative disease herself. The way she sees it, her future is uncertain; everything hinges on the genetic test she can take at the age of 18. Then, and only then, will she learn whether she’ll live out a normal adulthood, or slowly deteriorate as her mother did. In the meantime, she has set some ground rules: don’t make plans you can’t keep, don’t fall in love, and knowledge is power. But when the time comes to take the test (and a possible romance gets thrown into the mix), Rose falls back on a fourth rule—which says rules are meant to be broken.
More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera
When people say a book is “gut-wrenching,” my default response is “Now that just sounds like an exaggeration. I have a steely constitution, and my gut does not wrench.” That being said, this one is pretty much gut-wrenching. It takes place in a near-future version of the Bronx where things are pretty much the same, except for the existence of some Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-esque science that can suppress traumatic memories. Which is exactly what Aaron Soto, who’s living in a one-bedroom apartment with his mother and brother after his father’s suicide, could use. Ultimately, this is a story of ruthlessly honest emotion, as Aaron struggles to be himself in a world that just won’t let him.