I remember the first time my heart broke. I was 8 years old, hiding in the library, trying to stifle my sobs as tears streamed down my face and onto the pages of the book I was reading. It wasn’t a romantic disappointment that shattered me; it was the sheer power of the words on those pages.
It’s not often that a book elicits such a visceral reaction from me, but when it does, it’s strangely satisfying. Allowing your emotions to completely consume you is a unique experience. When a book has the ability to break your heart so profoundly, it has the power to momentarily halt time. After I pick myself up from the floor, wash away the evidence of my tears, and realize that the world is still spinning, I find myself appreciating life even more.
Books hold immense power.
If you’re searching for a read that will tug at your heartstrings in the most beautiful way, look no further. Here are seven books that will entice you to search for the nearest kitten to cuddle:
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Narrated by personified Death against the backdrop of the Holocaust, The Book Thief follows Liesel, an orphan who finds solace with a new family in Munich. The heart-wrenching aspect of this book lies in Death’s poignant depiction of a specific character towards the end. Set during World War II, this story is already poised to leave its mark on your heart, but there’s that scene… that kiss. Brace yourself, because tissues alone won’t be enough.
2. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Mia’s life takes a devastating turn when a car accident claims the lives of her family. In a coma and confined to a hospital bed, she can hear the voices of those around her, torn between staying and fighting or letting go. What truly breaks your heart in a book is when the protagonist is faced with an impossible choice. If I Stay explores the agony of making that decision when there is no clear right answer.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I discovered this book when my baby was just a few months old, and it struck a chord deep within me. At times, I clung to my child while promising to protect him from a world as bleak as the one depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale. This dystopian novel defies convention, painting a grim picture of a world ruled by an oppressive government. It offers little hope, reminding us that we often accept the lives we’re given and suggesting that sometimes, the only way to resist is through personal rebellion.
4. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
I was one of the last people to read this book, expecting a suspenseful murder mystery, not a story that would make me pull over on the highway, pausing the audiobook as I fought back tears. At its core, The Girl on the Train is about flawed individuals; no one is truly virtuous, especially not the narrators. But what makes this story exceptional is its ability to make you empathize with why these characters engage in despicable acts. I never thought I’d relate to a lying, angry, alcoholic, but the scene where Rachel explains her pent-up rage and descent into addiction shattered me.
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Sirius Black. That name alone is enough to break your heart.
6. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Challenger Deep is not your average book. It delves into the journey of Caden, a boy who sees two distinct realities. In one, he is headed to a rehab facility for group therapy, and in the other, he finds himself on a peculiar pirate ship that constantly changes. Both realities feel equally real to him. This book left me feeling utterly helpless. Caden is a good-hearted character, and I never wanted him to experience pain or suffering. As one reality becomes more dominant, I yearned to rescue him from the pages. Alas, it was beyond my power.
7. A World Without You by Beth Revis
When I began writing A World Without You, I never intended to break anyone’s heart, least of all my own. However, as I delved deeper into the story, it became incredibly personal. What started as a time-travel adventure centered on a boy’s quest to save his girlfriend trapped in the past transformed into a tale of mental health. I discovered that my narrator wasn’t in a school for superheroes but instead resided in a boarding school for students with mental health struggles. Due to my own brother’s battle with mental health, this story became deeply personal, forcing me to confront buried emotions and issues. The end result is a book that resonates so intimately with me that I often needed breaks to distance myself from its world and return to my own reality. It broke my heart, yet it also provided healing as I wrote the story I wished my brother had experienced. I couldn’t rewrite the past, but I could craft this narrative about a boy who yearns for change.