Heart wrenching novels are very therapeutic for me. Personally, I crave feeling. I’ve had books and movies that have made me have to go and lay down for a while until I can move on and feel somewhat normal again. It’s quite an experience, indeed.
Now, for me, a truly heart wrenching novel has more than just sadness. There is sadness, happiness, anger, pain, joy, elation, etc. It circles around the whole grid, yanking my emotions from one end to the other, and that is truly what brings me into a major book hangover when it all ends.
So, I would like to share with you 5 heart wrenching novels that I love. There are many others, of course, so perhaps I will do a few sequels to this post. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see more!
Okay, get out your tissues and let’s crack on.
5. The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan
In an 1600s era village, Marnie becomes a reluctant wife for a less-than-deal husband. After she is widowed just after their marriage, though, she becomes an outsider as the villagers suspect her of murdering her husband. With no one else to turn to, Marnie befriends the only other outsider in the village: a raving, homeless, mute boy she dubs Raven. As Raven and Marnie develop a bond, and she discovers what is truly ailing him, the villagers come at them with a vengeance. Soon, the whole ordeal will threaten Marnie, Raven, and both of their lives.
This is a remarkable story of two broken people who heal each other only to be tested again as outside forces threaten to blast everything to bits. This book is hard to read at times, but you cannot help but cheer and pray for Marnie and Raven until the very end.
4. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flag
Evelyn, a dissatisfied housewife, accidentally meets and befriends a woman called Ninny at a nursing home. As they talk, Ninny begins telling Evelyn her life story, which includes the many tales of two other women–tomboyish daredevil Idgie, and sweet church-going Ruth. Idgie and Ruth’s lives are full of laughing, crying, friendship, hatred, violence, and everything in between. Once Evelyn hears of their past, her present will never be the same.
Okay, for this one, I actually saw the movie first. I was at my grandmother’s house, bored, and it was the only movie she owned. Literally, the only one. I had never been too keen on giving it a shot because, hey, who likes the same movies as their grandma?
I did give it a shot, though, and I absolutely loved it. I laughed, I cried, I re-watched like a madwoman. After that experience, I just knew I had to seek out the book. I did, and boy, those emotions came rushing back at me all over again. So. many. feels. Do yourself a favor and give it a go.
3. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Noah and Jude are twins, and their story is told in alternating viewpoints, the first half from Noah and the second half from Jude. During the early years with Noah, the twins are best friends and inseparable allies. Life happens, but they stand strong together. Then it skips forward a few years. Suddenly, we are with Jude, the twins aren’t even speaking anymore, and we have no idea what happened in the middle that tore them so wretchedly apart. Their journey back to each other will leave you crying, laughing, and sometimes both at once.
I picked this book up on a whim when I first read it, but it was one of the best “whims” ever. The story, like all others on this list, is moving and poignant and gut-wrenching. The real star of this book, though, is the writing. This was one of my first experiences with truly dazzling writing. This is the kind of book that makes you want to be an author, even if you had no interest in it before, just so you can learn to write like that. If you do yourself the favor of checking out this book, you won’t be able to stop yourself from gobbling up every page.
2. The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas
If you’ve read the Throne of Glass novels, you know that Celeana goes through many changes and reveals many layers of herself over time. Some of those layers are expected, and some are not. In The Assassin’s Blade, a series of short stories about our favorite assassin, Sarah J. Maas gives us a deeper look into Celeana’s life, background, and what makes her who she is. The stories in this book come together to make one whole, amazing person. The range of emotions is steep, as Celaena goes through everything you could possibly imagine and then some. If you would like a deeper look into the psyche of a wildly popular character, or if you just want to read some awesome high fantasy that will leave you with a massive book hangover, then I definitely recommend picking up The Assassin’s Blade.
Don’t Hurt Laurie by Willo Davis Roberts and Ruth Sanderson
I read this novel as a child, and I read it so many damn times that I knew the story by heart. Even then, though, I couldn’t stop reading it. This novel, a children’s book, is the story of Laurie, a young girl who is abused by her mother. Her stepdad is kind, but distant and unaware, and the only ones who believe her are her young siblings. Laurie’s struggles through abuse and mistreatment, from a child’s perspective, are just about as heart-wrenching as it gets.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson is most famous for her novel Speak, the story of a girl who was sexually assaulted and the resulting trauma. However, it is Wintergirls that makes my list. This is the story of Lia, a girl with an eating disorder. At first, it starts off normal enough. Lia and her best friend Cassie want to lose a little weight. What starts innocently, however, spirals into a harrowing disease that eventually claims Cassie’s life. Now, Lia, racked with guilt, is still struggling with her own illness. Her ongoing struggle and subsequent return to wholeness is crushing.
Lia’s story will leave you trembling and unable to look away, and that’s what it did for me. I’m not a person who ever struggled with an eating disorder, but this novel will make you understand exactly what it feels like.
1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders. Oh, boy, The Outsiders. This is a coming-of-age novel about a boy called Ponyboy and his subsequent encounters with friendships, love, family, drugs, gang violence, and redemption. This novel is filled to the brim with feeling and golden words. Ponyboy might be the greatest YA hero of any novel, but he would never know it.
I had to put this novel first, because it was the novel that got me into reading. This started it all. Once I read this novel, I couldn’t stop, and it was all downhill from there. For that reason alone, it deserves the number one spot, and it will always be a favorite of mine. This story of an innocent narrator who learns about the harshness of life is one that I never forgot.
Let me know in the comments which heart-wrenching novels you love!