What's the most depressing story you've ever read?

Whether it be a book, short story or other.

Stories that leave a hole in your heart can be very awkward to recommend. First off, telling someone that they made you cry can be TMI in some situations. Second, you wouldn’t want to recommend something depressing to someone who might be going through hard times of their own. And sometimes they just leave a bad taste if you were expecting a happy ending, so it feels weird to recommend something that disappointed you in that way. But if the goal of writing is to make people feel things, I don’t know what can be more powerful than making someone actually shed tears.

So, are there any stories that absolutely gutted you? List as many as you want.


The Little Prince made me cry. I already knew what to expect (I read the plot summary in Wikipedia) but I still shed tears when I finished it.

IDK if it’s the most depressing thing I’ve read, but it’s the one I remember most clearly as of now :thinking:


Mine is the novelization of the movie My Girl, which I read when I was 12. I haven’t read it since then, but I still have it in storage somewhere. The movie is sad, but the book is absolutely crushing. I think it was the first time a book ever made me cry. It stuck in my thoughts for a long time after and I kind of obsessed over it. I mean, I haven’t read it in forever but it still has its imprint on me.

It’s the same with my pick. I might have read more depressing stories since then, but none of them left as lasting an impression on me.


Interesting :eyes: I might add it to my TBR


Good luck finding it. I’m convinced my copy is one of only a handful left. I plan to scan/OCR it and upload it to the internet archive at some point just so it won’t be lost forever.

(Ok, scratch that, I just found it on a sketchy epub site)


As much as sad books make me sad, I adore them because I’m a psychopath. And is also what I tend to write… and aim for. Haha

But if someone wanted a sad book, something to make them sob… I’d go with these recommendations:

  1. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

It’s a memoir, so if it doesn’t make you sad right off the bat… then something’s wrong with you. Lol.

The book recounts Jeanette’s past, from childhood to adolescence to an adult, all about how horrible her poverty-stricken life was. Her family would travel around, living in their car at times. Her parents were care-free and very loving, but had issues of their own. Her father did odd jobs and was also an alcoholic. Her mother was a painter. Her parents hated asking for money, for help, so they did whatever they could to survive.

Coming from a poverty-stricken background myself (though, not to this extreme personally), it hit close to home and made me cry quite a few times. My sister tried to get my mom to read it and she couldn’t finish it because my parents lived through worse between them dating and when we were younger or just barely existed (after they married and had a few kids).

Also, there is a movie adaptation that stars Woody Harrelson as her father and Brie Larson as Jeanette. It was a really good movie! But of course, left a lot of tears.

  1. Sadie by Courtney Summers.

Fictional book this time! It’s a thriller with a dash of mystery.

The story is about a nineteen year old girl who embarks on a journey to find her sister’s murderer. Her sister was thirteen. This made me cry mostly because of how young the sister was and how unfortunate their lives were. Such a good story, but can also be a tearjerker!

  1. Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

This is a dystopian novel, and with everything going on with the abortion stuff, it’s gonna be a bit of a big pill to swallow. The book is about three unfortunate characters who are on the run from being unwound.

Let me back up a bit to describe what that means. There was a war between pro-choice and pro-life… yes, on the topic of abortion. The government couldn’t decide what to do, so they found a common ground… with advanced technology and all. That decision? Teenagers between the ages of 13-18 who are unwanted are forced to go through a process called unwinding. This means they get sent to a concentration camp and they die—their body parts are donated to people who are in need of them. However, most don’t see it as death. That’s the compromise. People believe you are still living because your body parts are still active on someone else.

Gross, right? Well yeah. This book isn’t for the faint of heart. While it is YA and details are kept PG-13, the concept is pretty grotesque.

But the story is about the characters who want to live. You got one guy whose parents can’t handle his screw-ups anymore. An orphan who takes up “too much space” at the orphanage. And a religious kid who just turned thirteen and believed his entire life was devoted to giving himself to God (a tithe, they call themselves… basically a cult).

It’s not much of a tearjerker, but once you think of the concept and the struggle these characters go through, it can make you cry. It did to me, anyway.

  1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

My most favorite book in the world, and yes, it needs to be on the list even though I didn’t really cry when reading it but the movies make me bawl my eyes out so it deserves a spot on the list.

The concept is super depressing and with certain characters dying… or suffering… it’s enough to make you cry.

  1. Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul.

It was first a musical, turned into a book, then turned into a movie. Lots of people hated the movie mostly because of the casting, but I personally enjoyed it. Never saw the original musical (you know, on stage) because I never knew about it and can’t find it online. But I did buy and read the book before watching the movie and listened to all the songs! Love it! I do agree that they could’ve cast someone else as Evan, but besides that, it was an amazing movie.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dear Evan Hansen, it’s about a teenage guy with depression and severe anxiety. His therapist has him do a project where he’s supposed to write a letter to himself to describe how he’s feeling and how that day is supposed to be a good day. During computer class, he prints off the letter and someone else misunderstands it (as it talks about his major crush which just so happens to be the sister of this other guy). He takes the letter and storms out. The next thing Evan knows is that the guy who stole his letter committed suicide and the parents didn’t know why, didn’t understand him well enough, and find out that he had a friend: Evan. Or at least, they think so because of that stolen letter.

While Evan tries to explain the misunderstanding, his anxiety kicks in and goes along with the idea that he was friends with their son even though he never was. So he creates more letters to make it look like he was friends with him to put the parents and the sister at ease, that their son wasn’t as bad as they thought.

The story is truly inspiring, especially if you’re like me and read stories when that darkness creeps in again.

Also, even if you’re unsure of the movie, the music is absolutely mind blowing.


OFF is a video game but a very bizarre and depressing one

Books and movies rarely make me cry. But there was one book on Wattpad that I read in 2020 about TW suicide and I remember absolutely bawling my eyes out. Said subject matter wasn’t yet a trigger for me. I also really enjoyed ‘They both die at the end.’ I knew how it was going to end, OFC, but it was still heartbreaking. Besides, the reactions to the death were the most heartbreaking.
OFC, both of these books have their own problems and could be better, but I cherish their ability to touch my emotions enough to make me cry.


Love Story

1 Like

Dear Evan Hansen (the book,) The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Little Prince, and Oryx and Crake.

1 Like

Burned, by Ellen Hopkins. In 9th grade, I went through this phase of reading her books despite them being so dark and depressing. And I am STILL hurt over this book. I can never forget it. The ending was absolutely horrible and I regret ever reading it.

1 Like

I forgot about this one…

Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park

It’s about a teenage girl whose brother recently died. It follows her day to day struggle to deal with the loss. There isn’t actually much of a story aside from that. It does an all too accurate job of portraying the kind of clouds that only fade with time.

1 Like

The most depressing story I’ve ever experienced wasn’t read. It’s Cashern Sins. Casshern Sins (TV Series 2008– ) - Plot Summary - IMDb

I went all the way through that series and the ending just left me feeling like I was alone…and my husband was right there next to me.

Right behind that is the musical Les Miserables.

The whole of the film was miserable, but the afterlife scene isn’t desolate. So, while I came out of watching this, spent, and haven’t been able to watch it since, it didn’t feel “all in vain”. This started as a novel so I might go back and read it.

Similar depression that has a decent ending is often Charles Dickens. But I read them as a child, so I don’t have a strong memory of the misery.

Flowers for Algernon is sad, scary even, especially for someone who is fairly brilliant who watched their own mother mentally deteriorate. But emotionally, I never felt it when I read it.

But books that end miserably? They’re often so badly done that I disassociate from the emotions it’s trying to evoke. It’s more “Huh, that was a shitty ending.” And then I go on with my life.

1 Like

I’ve definitely read a variety of extremely depressing stories, so it’s kind of hard to pick. The Scarlet Ibis, a short story by James Hurst was definitely one of the worst things I’ve read due to personal experiences I’ve had. Normally I like depressing stories, but I legitimately couldn’t handle this one. I don’t think I’d read it again, despite it being well written.

Forget Me Not by Carolee Dean is depressing in a way I love, however. It’s written in verse, plus some scenes that are written in a play script format which was a really unique style to read. Despite it covering some very heavy topics, I’ve gone back to reread this book plenty of times, and it’s always depressing but in a tragically beautiful way.

1 Like

I just now remembered that my favorite genre is post-nuclear war apocalypse where there are no happy endings and everyone usually dies at the end. But somehow I settled on the two YA stories where only one person dies per book. Somehow, this makes sense to me.

1 Like

Okay here we go:

  • Sold by Patricia McCormick: While the book ended empoweringly, the trauma the MC went through was just sad. And she was only 13.
  • The Duff: I haven’t read the entire book, but it’s pretty depressing as far as I’ve read.
  • We Can Be Mended: It’s just depressing over the fact that it does not respect the dynamic of the couple from the actual series.
  • Atonement is pretty depressing for most of the story.
  • 1984 felt kind of soul crushing toward the end.
  • The movie Manchester By The Sea is devastating (edit: also A Ghost Story depressed me more than any other movie, also with Casey Affleck lol).

Isn’t the most depressing novel I read, but its definitely up there: A Child Called It.

Always heard about this 'Gut-wrenching, Heart-shattering ’ novel. So a few years back, I decided to read it for myself, and… Oh yea. Those words don’t even begin to illustrate the horrors that unfold in those pages, which also happens to be based on a true story. After my first read-through, I picked it up again a year or so later. Now, I don’t consider myself a particularly sensitive or emotional person, heck, close friends and others have described me in far less favorable terms…but the second time I decided to read it, I just…couldn’t finish it. I vividly remember riding the train, reading a specific scene where the child abuse was especially brutal, and tears were burning my eyes before I even noticed. Thinking back on it now, that scene (among many others) probably triggered some long, repressed trauma in me. I might just go back and finish that second read through. I firmly believe I’ll handle it better lol.


If you want something that builds up the sadness:
Of Mice & Men
For Whom the Bell Tolls
A Farewell to Arms
Death of a Salesman
Johnny Got His Gun

If you want something that’s gonna hit you in the chest:
All Quiet on the Western Front
Generals Die in Bed
The Forging of a Rebel
(An autobiography containing some poignant moments within)


It isn’t a book but a movie, however, for me, “Don’t Look Up” takes the cake