Recommended Reading List of Books on Death, Dying and Bereavement For Adolescents and Young Adults

Books on this list have been personally read and reviewed; each also appears on recommended reading lists of CHiPPS (Children’s Project on Palliative/Hospice Services of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Pediatric Palliative Care, and NHPCO (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization).

Brief descriptions of each title are intended to provide guidance concerning topics and themes. I always recommend, however, that you examine a specific book for yourself to determine its strengths, weaknesses, and suitability for the adolescent or young adult to whom you might offer it. Many parents and professionals find it helpful to read the book on their own before recommending it to a teenager or young adult.

  • winn-dixie

    Because of Winn-Dixie

    Because of Winn-Dixie – a big, ugly, happy dog – 10-year-old Opal learns new things about her long-gone mother from her preacher father. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal makes new friends among the somewhat unusual residents of her new hometown, Naomi, Florida, and Opal begins to find her place in the world and let go of some of the sadness left by her mother’s abandonment seven years earlier.

  • before-i-die

    Before I Die

    Tessa has just months to live. Fighting against hospital visits, endless tests, and drugs with excruciating side effects, Tessa compiles a list: it’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of “normal” life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up.

  • comeback-season

    The Comeback Season

    High school freshman Ryan Walsh, a Chicago Cubs fan, meets Nick when they both skip school on opening day, and their blossoming relationship becomes difficult for Ryan when she discovers that Nick is seriously ill and she again feels the pain of losing her father five years earlier.

  • esperanza

    Esperanza Rising

    Esperanza’s expectation that her 13th birthday will be celebrated with all the material pleasures and folk elements of her previous years is shattered when her father is murdered by bandits. Esperanza’s mother then decides to join the cook and gardener and their son as they move to the United States and work in California’s agricultural industry.

  • fault

    The Fault in Our Stars

    Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

  • fire-in-my-heart

    Fire in My Heart, Ice in My Veins: A Journal for Teenagers Experiencing a Loss

    A journal for bereaved teenagers to write about their loved one. The author encourages the journalist to write about his/her feelings, affirms those feelings are normal even when some of them feel crazy, that writing will help explore and express feelings, and that writing is a way to ensure that the loved one will never be forgotten. The workbook provides a concrete template for journaling and insight on how the activity of expressing feelings through writing can promote remembrance and healing.

  • grieving-teen

    The Grieving Teen: A Guide for Teenagers and Their Friends

    This compassionate guide addresses the special needs of adolescents struggling with loss, and offers teens pragmatic tools they need to work through their pain and grief. Writing both about and for teens, the author helps teens address the gamut of strong and difficult emotions they will experience and the new situations they will face, including family changes, issues with friends, problems at school, and the courage needed to move forward during life-shattering grief.

  • healing

    Healing a Teen’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Caregivers

    A compassionate resource for friends, parents, relatives, teachers, volunteers, and caregivers, this book offers suggestions to help the grieving teen cope with the loss of a loved one. Often people do not know what to say—or what not to say—to someone they know who is mourning; especially an adolescent. The author addresses what to expect from grieving young people, and how to provide safe outlets for teens to express emotion. Included are tested, sensitive ideas for “carpe diem” actions that people can take while remaining supportive and honoring the teen-ager’s loss.

  • how-it-feels

    How It Feels When a Parent Dies

    Eighteen young people ranging in age from seven to seventeen discuss the questions, fears, and bereavement they experienced when one of their parents died, speaking openly of their experiences and feelings. As they speak we see them in photos with their surviving parent and with other family members, in the midst of their everyday lives.

  • a-music-i-no-longer

    A Music I No Longer Heard

    This anthology contains seventy true stories of men and women who lost one of their parents while they were still in their teens, and describes how they, as adolescents and young adults, coped with the loss.

  • outsiders

    The Outsiders

    Three brothers struggle to stay together after their parent’s death. This is the story of their quest for identity among the conflicting values of their adolescent society.

  • part-of-me-died

    Part of Me Died Too

    Eleven true stories about young people who experienced the loss of family members or friends. The chapters progress from relatively simple deaths, such as the loss of a pet or the anticipated death of an aged grandparent, to more complex deaths, such as the loss of a sister and a mother to AIDS or the death of an abusive father.

  • secret-life-of-bees

    The Secret Life of Bees

    Fourteen-year-old Lily and her companion, Rosaleen, an African-American woman who has cared for Lily since her mother’s death ten years earlier, flee their home after Rosaleen is victimized by racist police officers, and find a safe haven in Tiburon, South Carolina at the home of three beekeeping sisters, May, June, and August.

  • a-summer-to-die

    A Summer To Die

    Thirteen-year-old Meg and her sister Molly couldn’t be more different. Molly is beautiful and popular, while Meg is brainy and introverted. Accepting these differences has always been difficult for Meg. When Molly falls ill, however, Meg must learn not only to accept Molly and her life, but to accept death.

  • rainbow

    There Is a Rainbow Behind Every Dark Cloud

    Eleven children, 8 to 19 years old, explain what it is like to have a life-threatening illness and the choices that youngsters have in helping themselves (for example, when first told about one’s illness, in going back to school, coping with feelings, and talking about death). The children themselves contributed most of the black and white drawings. (Published in 1978; available through ‘other sellers’ on Amazon; see also companion book about siblings, Straight from the Siblings: Another Look at the Rainbow).

  • straight

    Straight from the Siblings: Another Look at the Rainbow

    Brothers and sisters of children who have a life-threatening illness write about the feelings of siblings and ways to help all of the children who are involved in such difficult situations. The siblings also contributed most of the drawings in this book. They remind readers that coping with loss and grief are not just post-death experiences. (Published in 1982; available from ‘other sellers’ on Amazon).

  • time-for-dancing

    A Time for Dancing

    Seventeen-year-old best friends Samantha and Juliana tell their stories in alternating chapters after Juliana is diagnosed with cancer.  Sam tries to be a true friend, supporting Jules during the weeks of testing and doctors and treatments, but the horrifying pain and indignities that Jules suffers, and the feeling that she has lost control over her own life, force Jules to a place where even Sam cannot follow.  Now both Jules and Sam must learn to accept the unacceptable – that Jules’ cancer may not go away.  How each, in her own way, comes to face the possibility of Jules’ death, and learns to celebrate her life.

  • weird

    Weird Is Normal When Teenagers Grieve

    Weird Is Normal When Teenagers Grieve is unique because it is a self-help book for grieving teens written by an actively grieving teen. Author Jenny Lee Wheeler lost her father to cancer when she was fourteen and validates for her peers that they have the right to grieve in their own way and according to their own timetable, that how they express their grief may be different from those of adults around them, and that they aren’t going crazy. Dr. Heidi Horsley writes in the Foreword, “Teen grief is often overlooked and unacknowledged … Jenny’s journey will strike a note with teenagers who have experienced the loss of someone they love”.

  • adolescent

    Adolescent Encounters With Death, Bereavement, and Coping

    This book provides a framework with a robust focus on death, bereavement and coping during adolescence in its own right and examines unique circumstances that impact adolescents in particular. Adolescent development concurrent with meaning making when death occurs are explored, and the role of culture and context are examined throughout. The challenges to the tasks of adolescence: identity, independence and intimacy are explored when the adolescent encounters an experience with death.

  • friend-dies

    When a Friend Dies: a Book for Teens about Grieving and Healing

    The death of a friend is a wrenching event for anyone at any age. This sensitive book answers questions grieving teens often have, like “How should I be acting?” “Is it wrong to go to parties and have fun?” and “What if I can’t handle my grief on my own?” The advice is gentle, non-preachy, and compassionate; the author has seen her own children suffer from the death of a friend, and she knows what teens go through. The revised edition includes quotes from teens, resources, and insights into losing a friend through violence.