This week on Keeping Up With The Penguins, I made a confession: I actually got a little teary reading the book for this week’s review! Still Alice is the heart-wrenching story of a woman losing her mind to early-onset Alzheimer’s. I was fine for the most part, until her final student wrote her a letter to thank her for teaching him so well and remind her of all the wonderful things she had done…! I’d thought I was made of stone, but all of a sudden my eyes were wet. It’s super-rare that a book moves me to tears, but I kind of love it when they do. Is there anything more satisfying than a good ol’ cry?
This week, I asked Keeping Up With The Penguins readers what book makes them ugly cry. The answers are really surprising!
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
OK, fine, I wasn’t really surprised by this one. A book that chronicles the relationship of two teens living (and dying) with cancer is pretty much guaranteed to make most readers tear up at some point. In fact, John Green seems to have picked a topic for The Fault In Our Stars specifically designed to pull on the maximum number of heart strings. A doomed romance between two youngsters who should have the rest of their lives ahead of them? Next stop, Ugly-Cry City! (Read my full review of this young adult juggernaut here.)
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Now, this is more surprising territory! I looked forward to reading The Bell Jar for a long time – and, amazingly, it totally lived up to the hype! Plath’s real-life story is sad enough (she died by suicide barely a month after The Bell Jar was published), and this – her best-known work – draws a lot from her experiences of mental illness. (Read my full review of this heart-wrenching tear-jerker here.)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
I chuckled appreciatively when one lovely reader confessed to crying in Harry Potter – specifically, the scene where Dumbledore dies (and no, I’m not giving a spoiler alert for that, because if you haven’t read Harry Potter by now…). I don’t remember crying myself, but surely I must have – what kind of monster doesn’t get sniffly when Dumbledore is murdered by Snape… and then again, when we find out the heart-breaking reason why?
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
You might have noticed a bit of a trend emerging here: a lot of the books that make us ugly cry are written for and marketed to young adults. Why is that? Whatever the reason, according to Keeper Upperers, we can count E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars among them. This thriller follows the Sinclairs, a wealthy family, as they gather on a private island each summer… but there’s a dark secret (isn’t there always?). Read my full review here (and spoilers abound, beware!).
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Most of us had the privilege of reading Harper Lee’s essential, heart-wrenching classic in high-school (except for me, but I caught up for lost time – read my first-timer review here). Through the eyes of Scout, the young daughter of a criminal defense attorney in 1930s Alabama, To Kill A Mockingbird depicts the story of a black man accused of raping a white woman. If the beautiful simplicity of Lee’s prose doesn’t make you cry, you’re guaranteed to at least feel something for the victims of racial oppression in America’s Deep South.
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Jumping forward to a contemporary setting, what could be more likely to induce an ugly-cry than a touching father-son story told against the backdrop of the Taliban regime’s ascendancy in Afghanistan? That’s what you’ll find in The Kite Runner. It’s a multi-dimensional story of guilt and redemption, universal themes plonked into the middle of a setting that most of us struggle to imagine. More than one KUWTP reader has found some ugly tears here!
The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
And here’s one for the dog-lovers! I’ve got to admit, I haven’t found the courage to read The Art of Racing in the Rain yet – even though I love animals in literature, stories about dogs just pull on my heartstrings too damn hard and I’m a mess for weeks afterwards. According to the blurbs, it follows the story of a race-car driver and his dog; the dog believes that he can be reincarnated as a human in his next life, and sets about doing everything he can to prepare himself for the transition. I can feel myself tearing up just thinking about it…
What book makes you ugly cry? Have I missed your special favourite? Let me know in the comments below (or tell us over at KUWTP on Facebook!).