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7 Heart-Mending YA Books to Get You Through a Break-Up

by Iva-Marie Palmer

Photo credit: Leanne Temme, Photolibrary/ Getty Images

The one thing about young love that’s pretty certain is this: It leads to young heartbreak. Okay, fine, every so often there’s that extra-special love-at-first-sight-for-life pair but if we’re playing the odds, that’s just not in the offing for most of us.

Break-ups are inevitable and, if anything, a great learning experience before teens set out into the real dating world (or whatever iPhone app is passing for the real dating world these days).

If anything’s helped me through the nadirs of romantic despair, it’s reading (and French fries, coffee at 24-hour diners, and angsty journal entries), and these YA novels seem like good places to start nursing a broken heart.

  • Why We Broke Up

    by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman

    As break-up books go, this one is quite definitive, right down to the title. In it, Min Green is dumped by her (unlikely) boyfriend Ed Slaterton and chronicles the relationship — and the reasons for its demise — by putting significant objects in a box and explaining their raison d’etre. As an exercise, it’s not necessarily a bad one — the publishers even started a website, The Why We Broke Up Project, for readers to share their break-up tales.

  • Jane Eyre

    by Charlotte Bronte

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    It’s a classic and it may feel like homework because of that. But really, it’s a prescription, especially for a lovelorn female. If you don’t know the story, Jane is an orphan who’s grown up very alone until she accepts a job at Thornfield Manor and falls for its sullen and enigmatic owner, Mr. Rochester. But Jane is no flailing heroine ruined by love and her independence and strength make her an admirable role model (and a compelling main character).

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  • Eleanor and Park

    by Rainbow Rowell

    Set over the course of a school year, this is the love story of two star-crossed 16-year-olds who know that their love isn’t likely to last, but love each other anyway. Rowell has a knack for not just capturing the teenage experience, but feeling it in her bones and channeling it onto the page. This honest look at young love and its fragility can heal a heart or, for those of us a long ways from our first romance, make it feel those old feelings all over again.

  • The Disenchantments

    by Nina LaCour

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    Best friends Colby and Bev have a pact to graduate and hit the road to tour with Bev’s band. Then it’s off to Europe for a gap year. But Bev announces her plans to do the road trip and ditch Europe in favor of college. Colby’s left feeling a literal gap growing between him and his long-time best friend. Though it’s not a novel about a romantic relationship ending, in many ways, the tumults of friendship and how it has to change as we grow up is just as important. (Plus, a way to read about heartbreak without wallowing in it.)

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  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

    by Jenny Han

    Who doesn’t have a few unsent love missives under their bed? (If you don’t, well, hmm, I’m suspicious.) As she showed in her The Summer I Turned Pretty books, Han does teen-girl romantic longing well and this story is no exception. Letter penner Lara Jean writes to her crushes, then leaves the letters unsent, until one day someone delivers them. While not about heartbreak, per se, the story packs in the feels, which may allow the recently heartbroken to channel theirs to something new.

  • Open Road Summer

    by Emery Lord

    While a lot of YA fiction finds a tightly-wound overachiever seeking to be a little wilder and more rebellious, Lord’s tale goes in a different direction, as Reagan O’Neill aims to be less wild after her bad-news boyfriend breaks up with her. Reagan’s BFF Lilah Montgomery is setting off on a country music world tour — and nursing a broken heart herself — so a road-trip recharge is in the books, until Reagan meets cute Matt Finch. The contemporary romance is certainly escapist, but isn’t that what one needs while mending a broken heart?

  • Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto

    by Eric Luper

    Laughter is the best medicine. Sometimes we laugh with someone, sometimes at them and sometimes in relief that whatever’s happening to them is NOT happening to us. Such is the case with this extremely funny book by Luper, in which Seth Baumgartner is dumped (at an Applebee’s) and spies his father out with another woman (also at an Applebee’s) and thus launches a podcast devoted to learning why on earth anyone bothers with this thing called love in the first place.