The tragedy of a young life cut unexpectedly short is a common theme in many books like Fault in Our Stars. The book, which follows the brief relationship between a pair of young cancer patients, drew attention to similar books when it was made into a successful film. The unfortunate circumstances in books like Fault in Our Stars are not always chronic diseases, but they always force their young protagonists to make hard choices about what’s important in life.
Books like Fault in Our Stars highlight the importance of living each moment of life to the fullest. When people have decades of life to look forward to, it can be easy to get caught up in the drudgery of living and forget to find the wonder in life. The harsh circumstances and limited lifespans afforded to the protagonists of books like Fault in Our Stars help readers to remember to seize the day and not take life for granted.
#1 – If I Stay
After a terrible car accident, Mia is left with a simple choice: She can return to her body, or she can leave the world of the living behind. As Mia contemplates her choice, she thinks back to the past, looking for a reason to live. She also watches as her remaining family members and friends visit her comatose body, willing her to live yet again.
#2 – Looking for Alaska
Miles Halter is dissatisfied with his bland and safe life at home. He decides to enroll at a boarding school and meets a variety of new friends, including Alaska Young. Alaska is a young woman full of energy who shows Miles a new way to live. However, tragedy awaits the new group of friends, forcing them to face difficult consequences of Alaska’s actions.
#3 – Eleanor & Park
Eleanor, a 16-year-old girl facing her first day at a new school, feels immediate rejection from her new peers when no one will make space for her on the school bus. With the help of a shared love of music and comic books, she begins bonds with Park, a fellow outsider at the school. As their relationship blossoms, they must face a number of obstacles, including disapproval from their parents.
#4 – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Greg Gaines, a social misfit who loves to make movies, heeds his mother’s plea to restart his friendship with a childhood friend, Rachel, who is slowly dying of leukemia. One day, he brings along his friend Earl to meet Rachel. Earl shows Rachel some of Greg’s movies, spurring her to encourage Greg to follow his dream of applying to film school. In this book, like Fault in Our Stars, Rachel’s eventual death forces Greg to look within to find the inspiration to follow his dreams.
#5 – This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl
Esther Earl, Lori Earl, Wayne Earl and John Green
Esther Grace Earl, a vivacious young woman, passed away at age 16 but left behind a legacy of joy. In this nonfiction book, her surviving family members and friends share her message through her journal entries, poems and drawings. This book serves as the fulfillment of Esther’s unrealized dream to become a published writer.
#6 – Before I Die
As with many books like Fault in Our Stars, a young girl must deal with a terminal disease. With only months left to live, Tessa is determined to live her life to the fullest despite endless doctor visits and drugs with painful side effects. She creates a list of goals to complete before her death, including committing a crime and becoming famous. However, her ultimate goal is to find love before she dies, and a neighbor named Adam may be her perfect match.
#7 – Paper Towns
Quentin Jacobsen has long pined for his childhood friend, Margo Spiegelman, and gladly answers her request for help when she decides to get revenge on everyone who wronged her while she was in high school. After a night of mischievous fun, Margo disappears. Quentin discovers a series of clues that lead him on an adventure to find Margo.
#8- The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This coming-of-age book like Fault in Our Stars opens with a 15-year-old boy named Charlie writing letters about his life as a wallflower at his high school. Charlie is struggling to navigate the challenges of being a teenager, dealing with the suicide of a friend, and nursing his crush on a girl named Sam. When Charlie gets caught up in the drama of some new friends, repressed memories of his distant childhood take hold, threatening to ruin the new life he has discovered for himself.
#9 – The Sea of Tranquility
After an act of random violence, Nastya Kashnikov is no longer the girl she once was. The attack left her hands mangled, ending her dreams of becoming a concert pianist. When she moves to a new town, she is determined to keep her past hidden. Josh Bennett is also dealing with own tragic circumstances, and the two soon find themselves drawn together.
#10 – The Spectacular Now
Sutter Keely enjoys flying through life by the seat of his pants, hardly concerning himself with the future like the other high school seniors. He goes from one good time to another, looking only for the next fun party or silly prank he can pull. Aimee, a socially awkward high school student, soon becomes involved in his world and makes him reconsider his partying ways.
#11 – Will Grayson, Will Grayson
John Green and David Levithan
This novel is told from the perspectives of two high school boys with the same name: Will Grayson. The first Will Grayson is a quiet student who laments about his crush on a girl named Jane. The second Will Grayson is a gay youth struggling with depression. The two boys eventually meet and are shocked by the coincidence of sharing the same name while living polar opposite lives.
#12 – An Abundance of Katherines
Colin Singleton is a smart 17-year-old obsessed with girls named Katherine, having dated and been dumped by over a dozen of them. With his friend Hassan, Colin heads out on a road trip after high school graduation to console himself from his latest breakup. Along the way, he meets a girl named Lindsey, who has her own history of dating woes.
#13 – Anna and the French Kiss
Anna must leave behind her old life, friends, school and crush as she heads to boarding school in Paris. Her outlook changes upon meeting Etienne St. Clair, a charming young man who is unfortunately already in a relationship. Even with the odds stacked against her, Anna becomes friends with Etienne and hopes that something more than friendship may grow between them.
#14- Ask the Passengers
Astrid Jones is grappling with a number of tough questions and has no one to turn to. She spends hours lying on the same picnic table to watch the airplanes flying overhead. As she watches, she imagines telling the passengers about her problems, including her growing confusion over her sexual identity. With a twist of magic, some of the passengers can actually feel Astrid’s emotions, creating a unique novel with multiple perspectives.
#15- Before I Fall
After a day of roses and fun at school on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, popular student Samantha Kingston meets a tragic end in a car accident. When she wakes up, however, she finds herself alive on the same Friday morning, giving her a chance to relive the day all over. Samantha soon discovers that she can make changes as she keeps reliving the day, giving her the power to change her future.
#16 – It’s Kind of a Funny Story
When ambitious student Craig Gilner enters the exclusive Executive Pre-Professional High School in New York City, he can already imagine his bright future ahead of him. After school starts, however, he begins to believe he’s only an average student compared to his peers and starts to feel the pressure of the school closing in on him. After contemplating suicide, he instead checks himself into a mental hospital. During his stay, he connects with a number of delightful characters who help him see the brilliance inside of himself.
#17 – My Sister’s Keeper
Kate, like many characters in books like Fault in Our Stars, has been fighting leukemia since she was a child. Her younger sister, Anna, was born to give Kate a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant. Although Anna loves her sister, she struggles with the endless doctor appointments, shots and treatments she must undergo to help Kate. Finally, Anna decides to take charge of her own life, making a decision that could rupture her family forever.
#18 – Jellicoe Road
Jellicoe Road holds a special meaning to Taylor Markham; it’s the place where her mother abandoned her when she was only 11. Now 17, Taylor is the leader of a group of friends at her boarding school, but she depends on her friend Hannah for guidance and support. When Hannah mysteriously disappears, Taylor must confront her own past to find Hannah.
#19 – The Beginning of Everything
Once a star athlete and popular student among his peers, Ezra Faulkner finds himself a social misfit after his girlfriend cheats on him and a car accident shatters his knee. Ezra begins to hang out with new friends and quickly bonds with Cassidy Thorpe, an intelligent girl with a love of adventure. Although Ezra’s new life makes him happy, he quickly realizes that not everything is as it seems and that it’s easy to misread the intentions of those around him.
#20 – The Probability of Miracles
For Cam Cooper, moving to a town called Promise in the middle of Maine doesn’t sound too appealing. As with many of the characters in books like Fault in Our Stars, she’s already spent most of her life in the hospital and is now facing an early death due to her terminal disease. Promise, however, is known as a place full of miracles, and it doesn’t take long before Cam begins to notice the endless sunsets, flamingo sightings and purple dandelions. One day, a mysterious envelope arrives with a list of tasks for Cam to complete before she dies.
#21 – Thirteen Reasons Why
Two weeks after the suicide of a classmate named Hannah, Clay Jensen finds a box full of cassette tapes on his porch. In the box, Clay finds a letter from Hannah, explaining that he was one of the reasons she committed suicide. The book’s narrative uses the perspective of both Clay and the young woman, explaining the events that shaped both their lives and led to Hannah’s untimely end.
#22 – A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
After Julia’s unexpected death in a car accident, her friends band together to stage a play in her honor. Cass, Julia’s best friend, is intimidated by the idea and feels out of place with Julia’s other friends. Instead of preparing for the play, Cass decides to go on the road trip she and Julia had originally planned for the summer. Eventually, she returns to help Julia’s friends and discovers a place to belong.
#23 – A Walk to Remember
In a small town in North Carolina, Landon Carter befriends a classmate named Jamie, the daughter of the town’s preacher. Although the two come from different backgrounds, their friendship leads to a blossoming romance. However, Jamie is stricken with leukemia and is not expected to live for long. Landon, however, takes it upon himself to fulfill her simple dreams before she dies.
#24 – Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour
The death of Amy Curry’s father in a car accident dramatically changes her life, and her mother decides to move the family from California to Connecticut. Amy is tasked with driving the family car to Connecticut, so she enlists the help of an old family friend, Roger. Together, the two embark on a wild road trip that will help them heal old wounds and look to the future again.
#25 – And We Stay
One day at school, a student named Paul walks into the building with a stolen gun. After threatening his girlfriend, Emily, he takes his own life and sends her reeling into anger and guilt. Her family sends her to a boarding school in the hopes of giving her a fresh start. While at the school, Emily makes new friends, gains an appreciation of Emily Dickinson, and begins to look for ways to heal from her past.
#26 – Deadline
Similar to other books like Fault in Our Stars, this book focuses on a young high school student learning to make the most of his short life. Ben Wolf can’t wait to start his senior year of high school. However, he receives some distressing news about his health and is only given a short time to live. Ben comes up with a plan to make the most of his remaining time, including becoming the best football player at his high school and helping people around town. Ben decides not to tell anyone around him what’s going on, and the pressure of his secret eventually begins to break his fragile resolve.
#27 – Every Day
A is a teenager who wakes up every single day in another person’s body. To keep his sanity in check, A has created a series of rules, such as avoiding emotional attachments. All his rules go out the window when he inhabits the body of Justin and meets Rhiannon, Justin’s girlfriend. From that moment, A can only imagine being with her, but A’s dream may be impossible to reach.
#28 – Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Leonard Peacock has a terrible secret: He is planning to kill his former best friend and then turn the gun on himself. Before enacting his dreadful plan, Leonard wants to say goodbye to the four individuals who matter the most to him: a neighbor, a classmate, a teacher and the girl he loves. As he speaks to each person, more of Leonard’s painful past is revealed to the reader.
#29 – Looking for Alibrandi
As Josephine Alibrandi begins her last year at her Catholic boarding school, she feels ready to experience all that life has to offer. However, she finds herself caught between her grandmother’s old-world ways and the strict rules of the nuns at her school. Josephine ultimately must decide to free herself as she falls in love and learns her family secrets.
#30 – Me Before You
Living in a boring small town, Louisa Clark seizes the opportunity to care for Will Traynor, a young man who lived life in a big way before becoming wheelchair-bound. At first, Will is rude to Louisa, but she refuses to allow him to step on her and begins to care more about his future. When he reveals shocking plans, Louisa must work hard to convince him that life still has much to offer.
#31 – Shine
When Cat’s friend is viciously beaten, she decides to discover the identity of the attacker. However, she struggles to find allies in her town; even the town’s sheriff has written the case off as a crime committed by an outsider. Cat refuses to give up and manages to get to the bottom of the shocking crime.
#32 – Love Story
This classic romantic story inspired many books like Fault in Our Stars. Oliver Barrett has his life planned out; he intends to go Harvard and become a lawyer. His plan is set adrift when he meets Jenny Cavilleri, a beautiful woman from a very different background. Oliver’s father quickly disapproves of their relationship and tries to break the couple apart. The couple’s differences are no match for their love, but a leukemia diagnosis threatens to tear them apart.
#33 – The Disenchantments
Colby and his friend Bev have been planning to tour Europe with Bev’s band after graduating from high school. After graduation, Colby is shocked when Bev tells him that she is canceling the trip to prepare for college. Although heartbroken, Colby still tags along with the band as they traverse the Pacific Northwest.
#34 – Where She Went
In the sequel to If I Go, Mia is still picking up the pieces of her life after the car accident that claimed her family. Now living in New York City, she is renowned cellist. Adam, her high school sweetheart, makes a surprise appearance, and the two spend the evening wandering the city. Together, they relive the past and consider changing old decisions.
#35 – Winger
Ryan Dean West struggles to survive at the exclusive Pine Mountain Academy, a boarding school for the wealthy. He’s stuck sharing the same dorm room with a bully, and the girl he loves can’t stop thinking of him as a little boy. However, his friends have even bigger problems than him, and a shocking event will force him to rethink his life.
#36 – Wintergirls
Laurie Halse Anderson
Cassie and Lia are childhood friends who decide to compete with each other at losing weight. Cassie’s destructive habits ultimately lead to her death at age 18. Lia is wracked with guilt, knowing that Cassie tried to call dozens of times just before her death. Lia also knows that her life may be leading her down the same path.
#37- A Monster Calls
Each night, a scary monster comes to visit Connor in his bedroom. Connor’s concern with the mysterious monster distracts him from the real problems in his life, including his mother dying of cancer and a father who is too busy with a new family. Everyone around Connor seems content to let him live in denial, but the monster decides to set things right before it’s too late.
#38 – Before I Go
In this book like Fault in Our Stars, the protagonist’s fear of hurting people by dying interferes with her ability to live. Daisy is devastated upon learning that her cancer has aggressively returned. She can’t bear to think of her husband, Jack, being alone after her death, so she concocts a plan to find him a new wife. Although looking for potential matches distracts her, she eventually finds her resolve starting to weaken.
#39 – Fly a Little Higher
This nonfiction book describes how one person can reach millions of people through a single song. When Laura Sobeich encouraged her young son, Zach, to write letters to his family and friends before cancer claimed his life, he decided to complete the task through songwriting instead. His song, “Clouds,” enchanted millions with a simple message of love.
#40 – We Were Liars
Each summer, Cadence’s wealthy family gathers on a private island near Cape Cod. For Cadence and her group, summer means endless adventures and fun together. During Cadence’s fifteenth summer, a mysterious accident befalls her, leading to periods of amnesia and relentless migraines. Seeking out the truth of what happened may mean digging through some painful family secrets.
#41 – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Jennifer E. Smith
Much to Hadley’s annoyance, her father is remarrying and she must attend the wedding in London. During Hadley’s flight, she has a chance meeting with Oliver, a young man who is also on his way to a wedding. The flight passes quickly as the two talk endlessly and find many similarities. After their arrival in London, the two must depart, and Hadley wonders if they will ever see each other again.
#42 – The Truth About Forever
Macy isn’t looking forward to the summer; it promises to be filled with long hours at a boring library job. However, unexpected events appear, such as a fun new job with a catering company. She also meets Wes, an artistic young man with the ability to turn Macy’s quiet life upside down.
#43 – The Lovely Bones
Susie Salmon watches from heaven as life goes on without her after her brutal murder. Her family struggles to accept her fate, and their lives fall apart as a result. Although Susie feels the urge to move on and stop watching her family, she can’t help but watch and hope that eventually peace will find them all.
#44 – What Happened to Goodbye
Mclean is used to packing up and moving to a new town; it’s a fate she’s been stuck with since her mother and father divorced. In each new city, Mclean tries to fit in with a new persona, ranging from the ditzy cheerleader to the drama geek. When she arrives in Lakeview, she’s already equipped with a new persona. All her plans change when she meets her neighbor, Dave.
#45 – Zac and Mia
In this book like Fault in Our Stars, seventeen-year-old Zac Meier is facing an uphill battle against leukemia. Mia is also a resident of the same cancer ward, and the two form a friendship when they begin to communicate by tapping on their common wall. When the two are released from the hospital, they must go their separate ways. Later, Mia runs away from home, coincidentally ending up in Zac’s town.
#46 – Beautiful Ruins
In 1962, a young Italian innkeeper notices a striking woman approaching his inn by boat. He learns that she is an American actress and is near death. Years later, the innkeeper makes his way to Hollywood, searching for the fate of the young woman he met decades ago. Throughout the story, the reader is treated to a wide cast of characters and a tale that jumps back and forth between the two time periods.
#47 – All the Bright Places
Young Theodore Finch is obsessed with death, constantly spending his time thinking of ways to die. Each time he tries to enact a plan, however, something stops him. During one such attempt, Theodore meets Violet Markey, a young woman struggling to deal with the death of her sister. The two quickly form a bond, realizing that they can be themselves when they’re together. Even as Theodore helps Violet begin to live again, he can barely keep his own demons at bay.
#48 – Too Young To Die
High school student Melissa Austin feels on top of the world. Her grades are fantastic and she’s earned herself a spot on the school’s Brain Bowl team. However, her doctor delivers a tragic blow with the news that she has leukemia. Despite her attempts to live in denial, Melissa begins to feel the effects of her serious illness. In this book like Fault in Our Stars, the help of her loving family and her best friend, Jory, helps Melissa maintain her resolve to live her life to the fullest.
#49 – Code Name Verity
Maddie and Verity are friends who are working as spies for the British government during World War II. When their plane is shot down, Verity is captured and forced to recount her story to the Germans. Throughout her confession, Verity details her friendship with Maddie, including their past history and why she abandoned Maddie in the plane’s wreckage.
#50 – Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
On a bookshelf in a bookstore, 16-year-old Lily leaves a list of dares. Dash, bored over the winter holiday, decides to try the challenges. Without knowing anything about each other, Dash and Lily leave messages for each other throughout New York City, slowly building a bond despite their anonymity. Unlike many books like Fault in Our Stars, this book doesn’t end in tragedy, but the pair must overcome their preconceived notions of each other when they finally meet.