Middle Grade and YA Books About Suicide

In a recent blog post, Michele Haiken, a middle school teacher in Rye, New York, shared a personal story about teen suicide, explored often missed warning signs that a teen might be suicidal, and then listed what she considers the best young adult books on the topic. Her blog post is moving and important, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about teen suicide. This topic is particularly timely given recent reports showing that teen suicide rates are climbing, especially among adolescent girls.

The books on her list are quite good. One of them -- It's Kind of a Funny Story -- is a favorite of mine and is a must read for all parents who want to understand teen depression and suicide. However, almost all of the books on her list (including It's Kind of a Funny Story) contain quite mature themes (such as alcohol abuse, sex, and drugs) that some parents of middle schoolers might not be comfortable with. 

For parents and middle school students looking for books about suicide that do not contain such mature themes, here are some options:

  • Friends for Life is a book that touches on suicide in gentle yet effective way. The main characters have two things in common: They can see a ghost named Jessica, and they have all considered taking their own lives. This is a book about the power of friendship -- and also the power of seeking help when life becomes too difficult to bear.
  • Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart is about Isabelle, who has moved with her mother to Milwaukee following her father's death. When the story opens, Isabelle is deep in grief over the loss of her father and her home. New friends and neighbors slowly break through, but true healing does not begin until Isabelle reveals how her father died -- from suicide.
  • My Brother's Shadow is about Kaia, who has been "frozen" ever since she found her brother dead from suicide. She has lost her mother to grief and her friends to their inability to understand what she is going through. Only when she meets a ragged and unspeaking "wild boy" at school does she begin her journey back to to warmth and life.  
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