Book Recommendations: YA Books That Deal with Grief - National Council of Teachers of English
Back to Blog

Book Recommendations: YA Books That Deal with Grief

This blog post was written by NCTE member Liz Shults.


Teachers are incredible. I mean, you all knew that, right? If you are engaging on the NCTE blog, you are probably already aware of the awesomeness of teachers —  particularly teachers of literacy! (Oh, and if someone hasn’t told you that you are awesome today, YOU ARE!)

I’m especially grateful for Twitter, which allows me to connect with teachers from around the country (world?) any time during the year. My Twitter teacher friends are nonstop with the excitement to share what they are doing in the classroom, give feedback and resources, and offer general encouragement. Using the hashtag #nctevillage, I’m able to connect immediately with teachers who have ideas I never would have thought of.

I was recently exploring the idea of identity and grief as it shows up in YA literature. Grief is an integral, inescapable part of the human experience and so often our students have experiences in which they have to navigate grief for the first time, and thus figure out what their identity is or will be within or beyond that grief. I knew the YA books that I had read that dealt with these things, but I knew there had to be more. Thus, I consulted my #nctevillage on Twitter:

#nctevillage : What YA books can you recommend that deal with grief or death? I already have We Are Okay, The Serpent King, and Long Way Down. Would love your other suggestions.

The following are all the incredible resources that were shared. I was able to cull through these and add many, many books to my library order and Amazon wish list. I hope this list is as helpful to you as it was to me!


The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Summerlost by Allie Condie

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, translated by Dạ Oanh

Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen

Someone like You by Sarah Dessen

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Tears of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Signs of You by Emily France

In Your Shoes by Donna Gephart

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

100 Days by Nicole McInnes

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osbourne and Veronica Fish

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Nation by Terry Pratchett

A World Without You by Beth Revis

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldbery Sloan

Girl against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Sadie by Courtney Summers

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Thank you to everyone from the #NCTEvillage who made book suggestions!

























































Looking for even more resources for dealing with grief in the classroom?

  • Language Arts, Vol. 94, No. 5, May 2017
    • Theme: Trauma, Loss, and Literacies
  • English Journal, Volume 107, Number 2, November 2017
    • Theme: Death in the English Classroom

Find even more resources here.


Liz Shults is in her seventh year teaching high school English in Birmingham, Alabama. She has been a member of NCTE for almost a decade, and is a former NCTE Lead Ambassador. She is currently reading Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin.