This past weekend, my husband and I made the painful decision to put down our cat Isabelle. Although she was fifteen years old and sick for the past nine months, she went downhill in a matter of days. Losing her has been painful, and as I struggle to deal with my grief, I keep waffling between two extremes. Do I indulge my sadness and read books that provide an empathetic reaction? Should I distract myself by escaping into a scary or humorous book?
Unfortunately for me, I have no option but to work and do homework for my graduate classes. However, I know there are teens out there that have lost pets and are struggling with the same questions I mention above. For them, I provide the following suggestions.
Pet Stories: Books in which the relationship between the protagonist and pet is an important feature of the story.
The Summer of Riley by Eve Bunting: William has the perfect dog. But because Riley chased and injured a neighbor’s horse, Oregon law states that Riley must be put down. Can William find a way to save him?
Notes from a Liar and Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko: Ant deals with her dislike for her family with creative lies, volunteerism, and loving her dog Pistachio.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech: As he records his distaste for poetry, Jack slowly develops his own poetic voice and begins to deal with a personal tragedy.
Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan: The “world’s worst dog” eats couches, howls incessantly during thunderstorms, and inspires the love of his family. An adaptation of the adult book Marley and Me.
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass: Mia worries she is crazy because of her undiagnosed synesthesia. Thankfully she has Mango, her cat, to keep her centered.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: Tucked away in the Ozark Mountains, Billy buys two coon dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, with the hopes of raising them to be a top-notch coon-hunting team.
Humorous stories: So funny you forget your loss for a while.
Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar: Scott has such hope when he begins ninth grade. Then he falls in love with Julia on Day 1, his older brother is frustratingly absent, and his mother reveals that she is pregnant. As the year progresses, Scott becomes sleep-deprived and desperate.
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger: Told alternately by T.C., Augie, and Ale, this is a witty and heartwarming story about family, friendship, and choosing who you will be. (Come on, isn’t the title enough?)
Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen: The narrator is sent to live with relatives on a farm. However, one of those relatives is Harris, who creates mayhem and drags the narrator into his wild schemes. A quiet story of farm life it is not.
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck: The indomitable Grandma Dowdel is up to her old tricks, causing Mary Alice no small amount of embarrassment and pride. One of my favorite chapters involves an outhouse on Halloween.
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging (Georgia Nicolson series #1) by Louise Rennison: Georgia is the teen version of Bridget Jones. She is burdened with a slightly loopy four-year-old sister and Angus, her cat.
Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories about Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka: The escapades of author Jon Sciecska and his five brothers. Warning: includes cat yakking.
Scary stories: You’ll be too busy looking over your shoulder and holding your breath to think about anything else.
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson: Classic true (?) story of the Lutz family’s month of terror in suburban Long Island in 1975. This was much more than just a haunted house. I must have read this 10 times when I was in middle school.
I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan: Four teenagers commit a crime and then cover it up. Someone knows their secret, and wants revenge.
(Truly, anything by Lois Duncan will work. IKWYDLS is not my favorite from her. Check out Stranger With My Face, Daughters of Eve, and The Twisted Window, too.)
Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters by Gail Giles: When a letter arrives from Sunny’s dead sister Jazz, she knows something isn’t right. When “Jazz” returns, Sunny is suspicious and scared. Who is this imposter?
Acceleration by Graham McNamee: Duncan finds the journal of a serial killer in the lost-and-found of a subway station. With the help of two friends, he sets out to stop the murderer from continuing his killing spree.
Killing Britney by Sean Olin: Someone is killing everyone close to Britney. They say popularity has a price, but is this really what Britney deserves?
Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci: In a New Jersey suburb, two women die of brain aneurysms within twenty-four hours. Now the government suspects terrorists have unleashed a deadly biochemical agent. With each glass of water they drink, the people of Trinity Falls are poisoning themselves.