The First and Last Novels That Made Me Cry

So, I was recently recommended John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, which is a YA novel about a sixteen year old girl with terminal cancer (its main schtick is that the girl herself is somewhat aware of cancer-novel tropes, which the novel sometimes subverts and sometimes gleefully obeys). Anyway, I was basically promised that the novel would make me cry. I was ready to cry. I was primed to cry. And although I loved the novel, I did not cry.

I was disappointed. I have cried while reading novels before, but it is not common, and I am always startled and happy when it does happen. So much of novelistic pleasure is, for me, somewhat abstract cerebral, that it feels really strange to be reminded that some part of my mind actually believes that this crazy written-down shit is happening to real people in some real place.

Anyways, I wish that I had, once upon a time, made a list of novels that made me cry. But, alas, I made no such list, and now I cannot remember whether Grapes of Wrath or The Jungle caused any moisture. What I can remember, though, is the first and last books that made me cry.

The first was, I think, near the end of Mercedes Lackey’s By The Sword, where the mercenary captain Kerowyn is coming to the rescue of the beleagured nation of Valdemar, but shit looks totally helpless, and everyone looks like they’re going to die, but people are waiting to die heroically…well, I teared up (I was about eleven). And I remember thinking, “Wow, this is the first time that a book has ever made me cry.” Man, I’ve reread that book so many times, and I still love it.

The last time I cried while reading a novel was about three months ago, on Christmas Day. It was somewhere during the closing chapters of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower: a YA novel about a slightly disturbed high school freshman who makes friends with some totally awesome high school seniors who are like the coolest thing ever, jeez, my eyes are stinging just thinking about it.

Oh, I also just remembered that the first time I cried during a video game was during Phantasy Star IV (for the Sega Genesis), when Alys died. Man, that was so sad. It was such a good death, too. It wasn’t a girlfriend getting refrigerated; it was a powerful female mentor sacrificing her life (Obi-Wan style) to save her naive male mentee.

And the first time I cried during a movie was in Braveheart, when that motherfucking Robert the Bruce betrayed Mel Gibson and lost him the Battle of Falkirk.

Both of these prior two crying incidents were around when I was eleven. I know this because right after I cried while reading By The Sword, I remember stopping and thinking, “Hmm, I wonder what other stuff I’ve cried during. Oh yeah, there was that time during Braveheart….”

I think the lesson here is that the best media-related crying comes either: A) when you’re a kid; or B) while consuming media meant for kids. What times have you cried while consuming cultural product?

Comments (



  1. Becca

    My heart is cold and dead, I have never cried at a book that I remember.

    Musicals have brought me near tears though! Somehow swellings of cheesy and/or tragic music reach my tear ducts where words — the things I actually love best and work with — don’t.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Wow, Becca, I am shocked. If there was anyone I’d have thought would cry during a book, it’d be you. Maybe you’ve just read so many sappy YA novels that your heart has developed a callus.

      The first musical I cried during was Les Miserables, during _A Little Fall Of Rain_

  2. stephen

    rahul, I was reading perks of being a wallflower when i was home for christmas.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yeah! You’re the one who recommended it to me.

  3. yourtimeisup

    the first movie i cried at was titanic. just like everyone else. it was that old couple holding each other as the water rose around their bed that did it for me.

    (i also cried while reading the second book in the twilight series. hey, cut me some slack, i was getting over a break-up.)

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      I’ve definitely cried during Titanic. Although for me, I cried when Cal ran back into the Titanic to save Rose. Yes, I am sick, I know…it’s just…Cal was so misunderstood: he had his own sort of nobility.

  4. christine

    what do you make of the film interpretation of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower?

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Never saw it. Was it good?

      1. Christine Hoffmann

        in my opinion, yes. a tricky project, to be sure… it may still be playing in an indie or art house theater near you. saw it here in tuscon about a month ago.