There are many different kinds of books out there. For instance, some books make you laugh, (at least on the inside) and other books make your brain hurt. Some books are bubbly and fluffy and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Some books take hold of your heart and proceed to mercilessly pulverize it.
There are books in all of these categories that I love. But today I am going to talk about some of my favorite books in the Heart Crushing category. These are the most fun, aren’t they?
But I am sure that all of you would love to share my suffering! How, you ask, can I possibly join in on the anguish???
Never fear! I have compiled a nice little list of books that crippled my poor heart, in the hopes that you will be inspired to read them as well.
1. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Earth has already been attacked once, and we’re not going to let it happen again. I can’t say the same for my traumatized heart.
Ender is a child who has been messed with since before he was even born. He literally exists to be a weapon for the government but he is a CHILD and he needs someone to hug him.
The problem is that he’s so messed up he would probably kill you if you attempted to hug him, but that’s just proof that he needs it.
Ender is tormented by his brother, his teachers, and his own mind. He faces isolation and life-threatening situations and leadership positions before he is eleven years old.
He has a desperate need to win, to pulverize his enemy, but really he just wants to see his sister.
HE WANTS TO GO HOME, BUT HE DOESN’T KNOW WHERE THAT IS.
2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Gene has a deep-set envy of his best friend Phineas, but he doesn’t even realize it.
Talk about depressing.
This book didn’t so much crush my heart as it did smother it with damp and slightly mildewed towels.
It’s a good book. It’s well written, and the characters are complicated, interesting human beings. I really felt like I got inside of Gene’s head. I felt like I was Gene.
Which is possibly why I felt genuinely depressed after reading this book.
The story is set at a boarding school in New England, so think Dead Poets Society. But more depressing.
3. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Bruno doesn’t understand what is going on. At all.
But this is not The Lego Movie. This is the Holocaust, so if you don’t think everything ends in anguish you are dead wrong.
This book is masterfully crafted. It is about World War II, but it is from the unique perspective of the young son of one of the German officers. It is amazing how much the author is able to reveal to us through the eyes of a little boy who doesn’t understand most of what he’s seeing.
As the reader, you understand much too well.
It is a poignant story of friendship in war, with plenty of devastation for all.
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Okay, so technically this book isn’t really as heart-wrenching as some of the others, but as a twelve year old reading this for the first time I WAS NOT PREPARED.
This is the last book in the Harry Potter series, and J.K. Rowling has really developed her characters a whole lot by now. It’s quite impressive how real they all feel. You actually care about them and don’t want them to die.
Ha. Ha ha.
This is literally the only book that I’ve ever read that had me sobbing on the floor. Maybe I was really tired that day, I don’t know. But that definitely happened.
5. The End by Lemony Snicket
Another book you maybe weren’t expecting to be on this list.
The first time I read this as a ten year old I was as cool as a cucumber (aside from being bitter about how it ended) but as a twenty year old reading it for the second time I WAS NOT PREPARED.
I got way too attached to the Baudelaire orphans the second time around. I took this series way too seriously.
Thus, upon reaching the armchair where the three dying siblings huddled together to read a book written by their parents I just about lost it.
Also the baby! Somehow that whole thing meant a lot more to me the second time. I am a huge sucker for the redemption of tragedy through the life of a child for some reason. This essentially happens in Harry Potter too (TEDDY) and I LOVE IT.
6. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book…shattered me.
HOW COULD THEY BE SO CRUEL TO MY CHILDREN?
Set during World War II (again), this book follows the stories of Werner, a German boy, and Marie-Laure, a French girl. Werner joins Hitler Youth and Marie-Laure helps the resistance when her city is occupied by the Germans. Needless to say, they both experience the war in radically different ways.
The writing style is rich and full of imagery. The juxtaposition of the contrasting stories is fascinating. Marie-Laure and Werner are both wonderful characters, but Frederick (Werner’s friend) and Jutta (Werner’s sister) are the ones that break my heart and traumatize me to this very day.
It’s too terrible to think about. But sometimes I do anyway just to screw up my brain.
7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Yet another World War II backdrop.
First, I fell in love with the writing style. It is so striking and unique, and undoubtedly effective. It’s teeming with imagery and encompasses all the senses. It’s light and dense at the same time, like poetry. It’s hard to describe.
Then I fell in love with the characters: Liesel, Rudy, Rosa, Hans, Max- they took hold of me, and they wouldn’t let go.
Then the heart crushing happened.
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I have issues with this book, but Charlie is amazing and I love him.
Charlie is entering his freshman year of high school.
That right there should let you know how depressing this is going to be.
This book is chock full of abusive relationships. People trying to relate to each other in all the wrong ways. It’s desperately sad. We are all yearning for love so much that sometimes we subject ourselves to horrible things in order to get it. We will do whatever we can to belong.
It’s messy. It’s painful. It’s full of stuff that I’m not comfortable reading, but the characters are so real and so heartbreaking that I don’t regret reading it.
Charlie is the most sensitive, thoughtful kid imaginable. I couldn’t help but love him. The way he thinks about things is beautiful and sad.
9. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
This story totally took my off guard. I don’t know what I was expecting.
But I wasn’t expecting to find a book that shattered my soul and settled firmly into a spot on my Favorite-Books-of-All-Time list.
Jack is an average 6th grader living with his parents on a farm in Maine. They have cows. Joseph, two years older, is Jack’s new foster brother.
Oh, my dear, dear, Joseph.
Joseph tried to kill his teacher. Joseph went to a juvenile detention center. Joseph has a baby daughter that he’s never seen. And now he’s staying with Jack’s family.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this book was purposefully designed to destroy me.
This is one of the only books that has ever made me cry. It was a bit of a delayed reaction though. I finished the book on Friday, walked around in shock for a couple days and finally cried my heart out on Sunday morning. I knew I was crying for the book, even if it was late. It was weird.
10. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Ugh, this book takes everything inside me and mixes it up in a blender. FEELS GREAT.
C.S. Lewis decided to retell the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the perspective of Psyche’s older sister, Orual. This should be fun.
The story is set in the primitive kingdom of Glome, where they worship Ungit (Aphrodite) and everything is pretty much a nightmare. There is so much darkness and oppression. It’s suffocating to read about at times.
Parts of this book make me feel yucky but it’s SO GOOD. C.S. Lewis really delves into Orual’s, um, well, psyche. It’s disconcerting how much I resonated with Orual’s thoughts and feelings sometimes. She is such a conflicted, broken character.
She cracks open my heart and crawls inside. I became Orual in the same way that I became Gene. But this book, though heavy, is not quite as depressing as A Separate Peace.
11. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
In my opinion, this story has one of the most unbearably bittersweet endings of all time. I love it so much.
I’ve read this…five or six times now? And I always cry at the end. Without fail. It’s kind of weird. I think, “Well, this time I probably won’t.” And then I do.
There is a very deep and special place in my heart for the hobbits. When my darling Shire lads get emotional, I just can’t help but get emotional too.
They’ve finished the quest. The Ring is gone. They’re picking up the broken pieces of their home, but there are some things that are broken beyond repair. There are some things we have to let go.
Letting go is so hard.
Sometimes books penetrate deep inside of us, and it is a beautiful thing. I love it when a book resonates with me and unlocks the emotions that are pent up inside of me. Sometimes it’s a relief and sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I cry and enjoy being torn apart by the characters, and other times I feel kind of icky and I’m forced to think about troubling matters while my heart squeezes painfully in my chest.
How do books manage to do these things to us?
Your turn! What books caused you to become emotionally compromised? Have you ever cried while reading a book? Do you like books that make your heart feel like it went through a blender? Have you read any of the books I mentioned, and did any of them destroy you like they destroyed me? Let’s weep together!