YA Books About Grief and Loss

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Adiba Jaigirdar

Staff Writer

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher. She resides in Dublin, Ireland and has an MA in postcolonial studies. She is currently working on her own postcolonial novel and hopes that someday it will see the light of day outside of her computer screen. Twitter: @adiba_j

Grief is an unfortunate part of life that most people have to contend with at one point or another. For most of us, grief and loss have been more present than ever in the past few years that we have spent in the pandemic. Many of us have lost loved ones to COVID and have to go through an entirely new grieving process because of the way everything operates during a pandemic. So, while grief comes from suffering a loss, it can look completely different for each person and for each circumstance.

Dealing with grief when you’re younger, for example, can look quite different from grieving as an adult. This is why it’s more important than ever that there are young adult novels that portray grief and loss, and show us the ways in which teens deal with the grieving process. Thankfully, there are many YA books that portray grief and loss in a multitude of ways. They range from grieving family members, friends, and partners, and show how grief can look vastly different for different people. And hopefully, for anybody going through the grieving process, they make things just a little bit easier to deal with. Here are ten great young adult novels that speak about grief and loss.

YA Books About Grief and Loss

Cover Image of "Sunny G's Series of Rash Decisions" by Navdeep-Singh Dillon.

Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon

When Sunny G’s brother died, he left just one thing: a notebook filled with very little. Now it’s up to Sunny to fill it up with rash decisions, like cutting his hair, shaving off his beard, not wearing a turban anymore, and even opting to go to prom over a big fandom party. But then he meets Mindii Vang, who seems to be far better at making rash decisions than him, like stealing his notebook and running off with it on her motorbike. As Sunny chases her down, his prom night of rash decisions turns into something more adventurous, romantic, and definitely more rash than he could have planned. At its heart, Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions is about one wild prom-night filled with rash decisions, romance, and finding yourself. But it’s threaded with a wonderful exploration of grieving a loved one and trying to figure out who they were in the great big absence that death leaves behind.

You've Reached Sam cover

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out. But when her boyfriend Sam tragically dies, everything changes. Heartbroken, Julie tries to forget him, but then a message Sam left behind forces memories of him back to her mind. She calls Sam’s phone just to listen to his voicemail one last time. And Sam picks up. This emotional story about losing a loved one unexpectedly, with a magic twist, will definitely tug at heartstrings and make you shed a few tears.

Turtle Under Ice cover

Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

After the loss of their mother, sisters Rowena and Ariana drifted apart, trying to figure out their grief in their own ways. But when Ariana disappears in the middle of a snowstorm, it’s up to Row to piece together the mystery of where her sister went and why. Turtle Under Ice is a beautiful novel-in-verse that portrays how grief can look different for each individual person experiencing it. It’s a powerful novel about grieving and sisterhood.

Book cover of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since she left everything behind. Nor has she dealt with the truth herself. But when her best friend Mabel comes to visit her in college, Marin will finally be forced to confront the tragedy, grief, and truth from the life she’s been trying to escape. Told in Nina LaCour’s beautiful and evocative prose, We Are Okay is a novel that will leave you in tears but with hope in your heart. It’s a profound novel about grief, tragedy, and love.

Book cover of The Voice in My Head

The Voice In My Head by Dana L. Davis

Indigo and her identical twin sister Violet have always been close. But in a few hours, terminally ill Violet plans to die via medically assisted suicide, and Indigo has no idea how to deal with that. That is, until she hears a mysterious voice claiming to be God, who tells her that if Indigo takes Violet to a remote rock formation in the Arizona desert, her sister will live. Violet agrees to make the journey, so Indigo and their whole dysfunctional family set off on a road trip filled with mishaps, strange lodging, and stranger people. The Voice In My Head is both hilarious and heartbreaking and is a moving portrayal about a family that had to deal with the idea of a loved one who is hours away from death.

Book cover of Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games. That is, until he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs. He’s eager to find out the truth of what really happened, but nobody in his family is willing to talk about Jun. So, Jay finds himself traveling back to the Philippines and doing everything in his power to uncover the truth and the events that led to his cousin’s death. Patron Saints of Nothing is a powerful book that ties grief with the Philippines’ political situation.

Cover of The Meaning of Birds

The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown

Jess has always struggled with anger issues, but when Vivi comes into her life and their relationship blossoms, Jess learns how to deal with her pain. That is until Vivi suddenly passes away and Jess is left to deal with the devastating loss all on her own. She pushes everyone away and throws away the plans for the future she had created when Vivi was around. Instead, she throws herself into her work-study programme and makes unexpected new friends, as she tries to find a way to heal from her loss. The Meaning of Birds is a devastating and moving book about the unexpected loss of someone you love and how difficult and messy the process of grieving can often look.

Cover of and the stars were burning brightly

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando

When 15-year-old Nathan discovers his brother Al has died by suicide, his whole world is torn apart. He can’t understand why Al would do what he did. Convinced that there is more to the story than meets the eye, Nathan begins to retrace Al’s footsteps, meeting Al’s former classmate Megan along the way. Both of them are determined to keep Al’s memory alive, though they have different ways to of doing so. And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is an emotional story that portrays how two people can lose the same person, but deal with the grief of it in completely different ways.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman book cover

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Rumi Seto doesn’t have the answers to everything. But she has her younger sister and the two of them have their music. But then Lea dies in a car accident, and their mother sends Rumi off to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Thousands of miles away from home, Rumi learns to navigate her loss, her mother’s abandonment, and the sudden absence of music in her life. Can she find her way back to the song that she and Lea never had the chance to finish? Summer Bird Blue is an honest, raw story about the grief of losing one’s sister.

Astonishing Color of After Cover

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

Leigh Chen Sanders is sure that when her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. When she travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time, Leigh is determined to find the bird, her mother. But along the way, she uncovers family secrets and forges new relationships with her grandparents. Written in Emily X. R. Pan’s unforgotten lyrical prose, The Astonishing Colour Of After is a poignant story of friendship, romance, family, grief, and hope.

If you’re looking for a few more books to help your through the grieving process, make sure to check out The Books I Read and Didn’t Read While Grieving, and 8 Of The Best Books About Grief and Recovering From Trauma.