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A matter of life and death

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It can often be difficult to discuss death and bereavement with teenagers, or even for teenagers to do so with parents/carers.

In the wake of debate and controversy in the media about books for teenagers exploring difficult topics such as terminal illness or suicide, we recommend some books that deal frankly with issues of life and death.

  • Elsewhere

    Author: Gabrielle Zevin

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 13+

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  • Elsewhere

    Author: Gabrielle Zevin

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 13+

    Life ends catastrophically suddenly for Elizabeth Hall, in a road accident. Not for her a future filled with love, marriage and ch…

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  • Before I Die

    Author: Jenny Downham

    Interest level: 14+

    Reading age: 9+

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  • Before I Die

    Author: Jenny Downham

    Interest level: 14+

    Reading age: 9+

    Stunning in its beauty and honesty, this is an exceptional and utterly compelling read.

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  • Ostrich Boys

    Author: Keith Gray

    Interest level: 11+

    Reading age: 11+

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  • Ostrich Boys

    Author: Keith Gray

    Interest level: 11+

    Reading age: 11+

    When teenager Ross Fell is killed, his closest friends are horrified by the sham and hypocrisy of his funeral.

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  • Crongton Knights

    Author: Alex Wheatle

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 12+

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  • Crongton Knights

    Author: Alex Wheatle

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 12+

    McKay's life on the South Crongton Estate is rough. His Mum has died, his Dad works all hours of the day to keep away the Bailiffs…

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  • Next

    Author: Various Editor: Keith Gray

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 12+

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  • Next

    Author: Various Editor: Keith Gray

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 12+

    Following on from the success of Losing It, Keith Gray has edited a new collection of eight short stories for young people explori…

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  • Undone

    Author: Cat Clarke

    Interest level: 14+

    Reading age: 14+

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  • Undone

    Author: Cat Clarke

    Interest level: 14+

    Reading age: 14+

    Jem and Kai have always been best friends - until Kai commits suicide and Jem's world collapses.

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  • Mind the Gap

    Author: Phil Earle

    Interest level: 12+

    Reading age: 12+

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  • Mind the Gap

    Author: Phil Earle

    Interest level: 12+

    Reading age: 12+

    When Mikey's unreliable, mysterious and more than slightly dodgy dad Vinny dies, Mikey seems to lose himself and spirals into a se…

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  • Slog's Dad

    Author: David Almond Illustrator: Dave McKean

    Interest level: 11+

    Reading age: 10+

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  • Slog's Dad

    Author: David Almond Illustrator: Dave McKean

    Interest level: 11+

    Reading age: 10+

    Slog's dad is in heaven, but Slog is sure he'll see him again some day. David Almond and Dave McKean tell a sensitive story of gri…

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  • Red Ink

    Author: Julie Mayhew

    Interest level: 14+

    Reading age: 14+

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  • Red Ink

    Author: Julie Mayhew

    Interest level: 14+

    Reading age: 14+

    This beautifully-written coming of age story interrogates family, identity, memory and the myths and superstitions we create for o…

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  • Long Way Down

    Author: Jason Reynolds Illustrator: Chris Priestley

    Interest level: 12+

    Reading age: 12+

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  • Long Way Down

    Author: Jason Reynolds Illustrator: Chris Priestley

    Interest level: 12+

    Reading age: 12+

    Written in verse, Long Way Down is breathtakingly gripping and spectacular. You almost read it without breathing; the ac…

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  • Optimists Die First

    Author: Susin Nielsen

    Interest level: 12+

    Reading age: 12+

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  • Optimists Die First

    Author: Susin Nielsen

    Interest level: 12+

    Reading age: 12+

    Petula's life is ruled by anxiety, fear and pessimism after her little sister died two years before. Then she meets Jacob, and an …

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  • Car Wash Wish

    Author: Sita Brahmachari

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 7+

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  • Car Wash Wish

    Author: Sita Brahmachari

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 7+

    Fourteen-year-old Hudson has Asperger's Syndrome, and knows his brain works differently. This entertaining and thought-provoking s…

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  • Butter

    Author: Erin Jade Lange

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 13+

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  • Butter

    Author: Erin Jade Lange

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 13+

    Bullied at school, and weighing over 400 lbs, Butter feels he has nothing left to live for, and announces he will eat himself to d…

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  • Every Shiny Thing

    Author: Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison

    Interest level: 11-14

    Reading age: 11-14

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  • Every Shiny Thing

    Author: Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison

    Interest level: 11-14

    Reading age: 11-14

    Alcohol addiction, non-traditional families, bereavement and social inequality are just some of the themes in this unusual coming-…

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  • Skin Deep

    Author: Laura Jarratt

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 13+

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  • Skin Deep

    Author: Laura Jarratt

    Interest level: 13+

    Reading age: 13+

    The car crash that left her best friend dead has left Jenna with scars both emotional and physical. She feels as though her life i…

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  • Ghost Boys

    Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes

    Interest level: 10-13

    Reading age: 9+

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  • Ghost Boys

    Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes

    Interest level: 10-13

    Reading age: 9+

    In Chicago, a white police officer shoots and kills black 12-year-old Jerome, mistaking his toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, yo…

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  • A Monster Calls

    Author: Patrick Ness From an idea by Siobhan Dowd Illustrator: Jim Kay

    Interest level: 11+

    Reading age: 10+

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  • A Monster Calls

    Author: Patrick Ness From an idea by Siobhan Dowd Illustrator: Jim Kay

    Interest level: 11+

    Reading age: 10+

    Connor's mum has cancer and life is changing. There is the nightmare, then there is school, where people avoid him, or persecute h…

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  • The Colour of the Sun

    Author: David Almond

    Interest level: 12+

    Reading age: 12+

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  • The Colour of the Sun

    Author: David Almond

    Interest level: 12+

    Reading age: 12+

    David Almond returns to deliver a powerful story centring around the acceptance of loss of one’s childhood after a parent’s death …

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