A Top Ten List: Book that Heal by Caitlin Lore
Part of my reading philosophy lies in the power of story. Since I was a child, stories have shaped me. I’ve listened to how I was created, heard about love that has saved me, and escaped into worlds that have healed me. Most of the stories in my life come back to what Henry David Thoreau once said: that “all good things are wild and free.” Like Max, I have entered hundreds of possibly thousands of stories, rumpus-ing ever so wildly free, creating and crafting my reader’s soul.
In the darkest times of my life, the power of story has saved me. Stories—the act of telling them, of listening to them, and of reading them—are powerful, and for me they are most powerful in moments of grief. As a new ELA teacher, I have a fear of watching my students grow (or not grow) through struggles as the school year passes. Whether it be struggles at home, bullies at school, or worst of all—loss—I fear not being able to comfort my students with the right words. Yet, I hold onto hope that in lieu of those moments, the power of story will enter in. In that hope, I hold dear stories that have comforted me in times of loss and grief knowing that I have experienced their influence so that one day, I may place their pages in the hands of someone who needs them.
For the Young Adult–
10. In Honor by Jessi Kirby
I am often drawn to stories with military ties as I have been an Army Wife the whole of my marriage. Though I have never lost anyone close to me to war, there is a part of me that understands Honor’s hurt, pain, and confusing situation. This is a transformative story that speaks to the deepest part of our hurting hearts and belongs in the hands of any young reader dealing with military, or any type of, loss.
9. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
I cannot count the times I have read and re-read this particular Dessen book. It’s often my go-to recommendation for those who love contemporary summer stories and swoon-worthy reads, but it’s also a story that reminds us to breathe into the moment and take a step beyond it. As Macy learns to cope with a huge loss in her own life, she reminds readers, and me, that single moments matter. They teach us to fly and help us feel alive again.
8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I dismissed this book for quite a while as I was dealing with my own pile of loss. After all, Hazel Grace is a teenager with cancer, and that simply screams sob fest. But with lines such as, “I fell in love the way you fall asleep. Slowly, and then all at once,” TFIOS changes you. It’s a story that hurts your heart, yes, but heals it at the same exact time. It gives you joy for your breath. It teaches you to live.
7. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
This story was recommended to me by a young reader friend of mine at a time when I needed it most. I was looking for a beach read, and she said this was more than that. It was about something real. Taylor is living through the slow loss of someone she loves, and at the same time trying to figure out her own self. What she doesn’t realize is that her summer will reveal hope, love, and chances she never thought possible; chances that remind young readers that time is temporary and that every moment is a moment to love, live, and start over.
For the Middle Schooler–
6. The Heroes’ Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Often, laughter is the best medicine, especially in times of grief. For that, a humorous tale like Healy’s is the most powerful form of comfort for a young reader. A tale of the Princes Charming, this take of fairy tales gone awry and the shenanigans that ensue had me forgetting that sadness existed.
5. Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Packer
Through much of my teacher training, I encountered too many junior high students who seemed well beyond their years due to life experiences. Often times I had no words for them as I am still collecting my own life experiences. In those moments, I turned to Stella and Angel’s tale. These girls encourage laughter, deep thinking, and the importance of friendship in hard times as their story weaves its way into a reader’s heart.
4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan
Fantasy is a genre I will always turn to when I need a safe escape. Percy’s adventures through Greek mythology in the real world help me to forget about the grief that has surrounded me. Seeing as his story spans five novels, when I feel in a bit of a rut, I know my escape doesn’t have to end anytime soon. I’m often handing students series books because I feel their power is just a little bit stronger than a standalone. Like many of the characters, I often feel deeply changed by the time I’ve reached the end. And perhaps, I’ve even left my struggles behind.
3. Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
Not only does Harry’s story last long enough to help heal my heart, but as he struggles with his own grief throughout the series, his experiences and adventures teach readers. One of my favorite scenes in the entire series happens in book one when Dumbledore tells Harry that, “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that,” for his simple message is a nod to any reader going through a hard time. Like Harry, we must keep living; the hard times will pass.
2. Keeper of the Lost Cities / Exile by Shannon Messenger
The first two novels in this series found me. I had had them sitting on my shelf for quite a while and picked them up only to discover them telling me I’m not alone. Twelve-year-old Sophie has her life changed in an instant, and a continued theme throughout the two books is that of loss. In a fantastical story of elves and hidden worlds, Messenger offers readers an escape from the hard moments, nodding back to an old favorite of mine, and encouraging readers that just because they may be wandering in life, they are never truly lost.
1. Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
By believing in the power of story, I believe that books can sometimes choose us. They sneak their way onto our to-read lists and library queues only to find us when we absolutely need them. A deeply touching tale about the beauty from loss, Liesl’s story was just that for me. It is about a girl and her ghost friend; a tale about losing and finding things; and a tale that keeps itself hidden until the exact moment a reader needs its deep magic.
Caitlin Lore is a lover of story, a reader who believes the power of words shape life. She’s officially a first year English Language Arts teacher with a classroom that might possibly have apparated from Hogwarts full of 6th through 8th graders. Instead of lesson planning, she’s often reading piles of books to share with her students and blogging those thoughts on The Hopeful Heroine or on Twitter (@hopefulheroine or @MsLReads)