5 Books Featuring Grief Amanda Recommends

Hey, lovelies! I seem to read a lot of books that have the topic of grief. This is completely by accident, but I think this is a common topic in books because it’s something that every person has to deal with in their life at some point. I think it’s also often used in books because everyone grieves differently, so there are so many different ways to portray a characters grief in a book. Most of these books have other plot lines that go hand in hand with the grieving characters, but the books I’m going to mention today are all books that I really loved and would recommend to anyone.

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Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
“Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish. Aching, powerful, and unflinchingly honest, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.”

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Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.
That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered. Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer—but can she track them down before they come for her?”

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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
“In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.”

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The Year They Fell by David Kreizman
“When a horrible tragedy unites five very different high school seniors, they discover the worst moment of your life can help determine who you really are in the powerful YA novel, The Year They Fell. Josie, Jack, Archie, Harrison, and Dayana were inseparable as preschoolers. But that was before high school, before parties and football and getting into the right college. Now, as senior year approaches, they’re basically strangers to each other. Until they’re pulled back together when their parents die in a plane crash. These former friends are suddenly on their own. And they’re the only people who can really understand how that feels. To survive, the group must face the issues that drove them apart, reveal secrets they’ve kept since childhood, and discover who they’re meant to be. And in the face of public scrutiny, they’ll confront mysteries their parents left behind–betrayals that threaten to break the friendships apart again. A new family is forged in this heartbreaking, funny, and surprising book from award-winning storyteller David Kreizman. It’s a deeply felt, complex journey into adulthood, exploring issues of grief, sexual assault, racism, and trauma.”

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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
“Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life. Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.”

Out of all of these books my favorite was probably Clap When You Land, specifically the audiobook. I also listened to the audio for Far From You and Summer Bird Blue, so I can recommend those on audio as well. I really loved all five of these books. I want to highlight The Year They Fell because I really loved it, but I’ve never seen anyone talking about it on any bookish social media. Don’t be surprised if you see me featuring that one more. As always, my reviews are linked (if I’ve reviewed it) if you just click on the title of the book. Let me know if you’ve read any of these or if you’ve added any of these to your TBR list because of this post!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

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GoodReads Summary:
For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.
Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.
As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.
A Million JunesReview:
This book really surprised me. I actually almost unhauled it two different times. But I’ve since read Emily Henry’s adult romance novel and the novel she co-wrote with Brittany Cavallaro. So, I wasn’t quite ready to give up on A Million Junes. I am so glad I held myself back from unhauling because I gave this book five stars on GoodReads.
We follow June. She goes to the local carnival with her best friend, Hannah. This is when June see’s Saul Angert for the first time in three years. He left town with little explanation and now he’s back. June’s family has one rule, and it’s to stay away from the Angert family. No surprise here that she doesn’t. June finds that she’s sort of attracted to Saul. But Hannah has had a crush on him forever and June wants to respect Hannah’s feelings. I really appreciated this aspect of the story. The fact that June was so thoughtful of her best friend’s feelings really made me love their friendship. I also loved that even when she got Hannah’s okay to act on her feelings for Saul, June didn’t just blow Hannah off. I don’t love girls that blow of their friends once they get interested in a guy.
Now, for the romance. I really liked Saul and June together. I loved the forbidden aspect of their friendship. It definitely led to some funny parts of the story where the pair were trying to keep Saul’s identity a secret. I thought the things that they experienced, the losses that they had in common, were a beautiful part of this story. I also really enjoyed the two sharing their family stories and trying to get to the truth of the two versions.
Overall, this story was beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a story of grief and love and figuring out how to continue living after losing those close to you. I loved the magical aspects of the story. They were beautifully written and the magic was beyond fascinating. I am now a huge fan of Emily Henry and I’ve bought her other backlist titles. If you like magical realism and stories filled with emotion, this is the book for you.

Quotes:

“Letting go is not forgetting. It’s opening your eyes to the good that grew from the bad, the life that blooms from decay.”

“Grief is an unfillable hole in your body. It should be weightless, but it’s heavy. Should be cold, but it burns. Should, over time, close up, but instead it deepens.”

“When people pity you, it’s like they don’t realize that the exact same thing is coming for them. And then I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable and have to pity them, because, like, do you not realize that it’s always someone’s turn? You haven’t noticed everyone gets a few blows that seem so big you can’t survive them?”

“Maybe for some people, falling in love is an explosion, fireworks against a black sky and tremors rumbling through the earth. One blazing moment. For me, it’s been happening for months, as quietly as a seed sprouting. Love sneaked through me, spreading roots around my heart, until, in the blink of an eye, the green of it broke the dirt: hidden one moment, there the next.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow

Summary:
Here is what happens when your mother dies.
It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.
That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.
Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.
How to Make Friends with the DarkReview:
I adored Glasgow’s first novel, so when I saw she was coming out with another, I knew I needed to read it. Tiger’s story was a difficult one. One full of grief and changes and a little bit of rebellion. This story was a character-based story, one that follows Tiger as she tries to figure out how to continue living after losing the most important person in her life.
Stories about grief are always hard for me. I have lost too many people in my life and stories like these always bring it back to the surface. Tiger’s story was full of mistakes and lessons that she learns. I really liked the way that the story ended, not perfectly but hopeful.
This review will be short and to the point. How to Make Friends With the Dark is a powerful story about grief and loss. How to keep living after losing the most important person in your life. The mistakes you may make and the things you do to be better. Glasgow’s writing is beautiful and I loved every page. If you like hard-hitting character-driven stories, this is the one for you.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Summary:
There’s death all around us. We just don’t pay attention. Until we do.
Since her brother, Tyler, committed suicide, Lex has been trying to keep her grief locked away. But memories of Tyler haunt her every step, and there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.
Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.
Review:
Cynthia Hand is an author I’d heard of in passing but didn’t actually pick up any of her books until The Lady Janies series that she writes with Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton. So when I found some of Cynthia Hand’s book on BookOutlet I bought them. I’m glad I picked this one up because it was a beautiful story. Though, I listened to this on audio from my library.
We follow Lex as she tries to deal with the fact that her brother killed himself. This was such a powerful story about grief and what comes after losing someone. I really cannot imagine what it is like to be the surviving sibling. I have three brothers and two sisters and I really cannot even fathom what it would be like to lose a single one of them, let along for one of them to take their own life. So that was hard for me. It was tough to think about, but it makes Lex relatable because she’s sad and essentially stopped doing anything and everything that she loves. She is forever changed. We start off following Lex as she is in therapy. I thought that was really interesting because it’s basically saying that it’s okay to get help and that sometimes you need to talk to someone. I think that Lex developed beautifully. She was realistic with her grief, but also let herself slowly take steps forward to moving on with her life. Part of her wanted to live in her grief and misery, but she knew she shouldn’t and did her best to make those small steps forward.
There were a handful of supporting characters that made the story just that much better. So many people care about Lex and do what they can despite her pushing them away. I liked her friends because they just kept trying, while also knowing when to give her space.
The other thing I really enjoyed about this book is the flashbacks. Throughout the story Lex is writing letters about “the last times.” So, while she’s writing these letters, she is essentially telling us about these times in the past in a way that transported the reader there. I really love stories that do this, the time traveling in stories is one of my favorite things. I just love getting to see into the past, while still being in the story if that makes sense.
The Last Time We Say Goodbye was an insightful and thoughtful book about what happens to those that are left behind when someone kills themselves. This book got me thinking, and kept it that way. I think it was wonderfully written. I also really loved the ending. I think the ending was absolutely perfect.
I mentioned that I listened to the audiobook. I think the narrator was absolutely incredible. She kept me interested. She gave distinctly different voices to all the characters. I really loved listening to this story. I wish it was one that was talked about more often.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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One Small Thing by Erin Watt

Summary:
Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.
Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…
Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.
Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.
one small thingReview:
I received this book from NetGalley as an ARC (though I think the book was released last month). I was super excited to get this book because I read the Royals series also by Erin Watt and I really enjoyed it. The synopsis of this story was really intriguing to me. I really enjoy reading about characters going through some trauma or awful life event and coming out better on the other side. There’s always just really great character development in books like this. One Small Thing was no different.
I knew I was going to like Beth within the first few pages because of one specific line. She’s told by her mother to clean the area for her stuff in their mudroom and while she’s doing so she’s telling us what she has there. One of the things she moves around and cleans is “a stack of Sarah J. Maas books that I’m reading for the eightieth time.” Right there I knew I liked her because I absolutely adore a main character that reads, though this was really the only mention of books, that’s okay. I really enjoyed reading about Beth and her struggle to deal with her feelings of grief and frustration that come with the death of a loved one. It was really interestingly written in a way that she wasn’t really able to properly grieve because she was so upset about so many other things in her life, such as her parents and their suffocating and unbearable rules. Because of her parents’ behavior, she starts to rebel and just finds herself in more and more trouble.
I understand that her parents are grieving the loss of their firstborn daughter and they want to protect the daughter that they do still have left, but I think they went overboard. It was to the point where if I were Beth I would have absolutely run away and stayed somewhere else away from them. I would not have been able to deal with them and just take the crap they were throwing at Beth.
I absolutely adored Chase. I was right alongside Beth falling in love with him even though everyone thought it was wrong. This is a guy that Beth was supposed to hate, but she finds herself attracted to him before she knows who he is. Then after she finds out who she is she deals with the shame and guilt because all of these people are telling her how she should be feeling, but she’s still drawn to him, still attracted to him. Let me just say, I LOVE FORBIDDEN LOVE. In this book, it has more frowned upon love than actually forbidden, but the feels are still the same. I honestly could not get enough of Beth and Chase together. They were just so good for one another even though they both tried to fight it. They were both what the other needed. Chase has no problem telling Beth she was being a spoiled ass brat and she needed to think about her actions and how she was treating people. This really had an effect on Beth. This wasn’t the only thing that Chase set her straight about either. I think that’s why I liked them so much because neither was afraid to tell the other how things really are and they need to get over themselves and do better. They’re just two people that were different parts of a horrible life event that were trying to figure out how to move forward and continue living their best lives. I see no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to do that together.
There were a few side characters that I just have to mention. Jeff was garbage and I hate him. That’s all I’m going to say about him or else I will rant and I don’t want to do that. Beth’s best friend Scarlett is one that I mostly liked. They fight like typical high school girls and it was sad and horrible and made me really happy that I don’t have to deal with that petty drama anymore. Fighting about boys and not listening to your friends who are almost always right, it was super relatable but also made me mad because I’m out of that phase of life. There were a few members of staff at Beth’s high school that I just really loved. I think the high school did an excellent job of trying to support Beth and checking in with her even though she’s a high schooler that doesn’t want to talk about her feelings with any adults. I think it was a nice touch to the story.
Overall, I was pleased with this book. It was a really interesting read about two characters trying to deal with the same traumatic event where one is the victim and the other caused it. There was such a fascinating dynamic to this story and I loved every second of the forbidden love aspect. I also liked the tie-in with the title of the book. The idea is that you just need ‘one small thing’ to get you through each day. It was a really nice input into the story and it was something that I could really relate to within my own life. The writing wasn’t overly fancy or complicated so it made for an easy read of a story I really enjoyed. I liked most of the characters well enough but adored our two main characters. This was a nice quick read with a great story.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.