YA Stories to Inspire Teens to Be Grateful

Have you heard? Gratitude is good for you — literally. It’s good for your heart and your relationships. It’s a balm against anxiety and depression, and even changes your brain for the better.

That said, feeling grateful isn’t always easy, especially when life throws you a curveball — and especially when you are in the throes of young adulthood. But seeing stories of hardship through the lens of gratitude can help transform your outlook on life and can make you a more positive person overall, says science. So, let’s get reading.

  • We Are Inevitable

    by Gayle Forman

    One of the ironic things about feeling profound gratitude is that it often comes after a significant loss. In We Are Inevitable, Ira and his son, Aaron, have respectively lost a child and brother to overdose and a wife and mother to grief. They are on the verge of losing the family business as well. But they’re grateful for the generosity of their little community in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. “It’s a roadmap, optimistic, maybe idealistic, about how the world might be if people find ways to create together, to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Forman told Frolic. “Which we all need.”

  • If I Stay

    by Gayle Forman

    Another book by Gayle Forman — new in paperback — If I Stay takes readers on an emotional roller coaster. After a terrible accident takes her parents and brother from her, a young girl must choose whether she wants to live or die. Seventeen-year-old Mia finds meaning — and gratitude — as she contemplates the life she would leave behind.

  • If You Come Softly

    by Jacqueline Woodson

    Modern YA readers likely know Jacqueline Woodson from her acclaimed memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, for which she won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. But Woodson has penned moving, thought-provoking works for young people for decades. This 23-year-old book — reprinted with a new preface in 2018 — is a Romeo and Juliet-inspired story about race. “The lyrical prose and sharp insights on race and class will still resonate with readers now as much as they did in 1998,” says Shondaland.

    The lessons of first love often come from heartbreak — and If You Come Softly is no different. But readers will be glad to be reminded of what young love looks and feels like in the moment. “Time comes to us softly, slowly,” writes Woodson. “It sits beside us for a while. Then, long before we are ready, it moves on.”

  • Watch Over Me

    by Nina LaCour

    When you’ve grown up in foster care, it might seem unlikely for you to feel grateful for your past. And yet, the past brings you to the present. In Watch Over Me, 18-year-old Mila ages out of foster care, and starts working with foster youth on a remote farm in Northern California. There, she confronts the literal ghosts from her past.

  • Frankly in Love

    by David Yoon

    When Frank Li — a second-generation Korean American high school senior — finds himself up against the generational and cultural tensions that threaten his budding relationship with Brit Means (who is not Korean), he gets creative. As Frank comes to terms with himself and his beliefs, he finds himself grateful for — instead of railing against — the culture in which he was raised.

  • Lovely War

    by Julie Berry

    Love and loss are cornerstones of YA and Julie Berry’s beautiful piece of historical fiction, Lovely War. There are two storylines — one, set on the eve of World War II, involving the Greek gods Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Ares; another, set during World War I, involving four bold, brave souls. Both sweeping, romantic tales teach readers to be grateful for the love that sustains and binds us despite the war raging beyond.

  • It’s All Love

    by Jenna Ortega

    One way to maintain gratitude is to affirm yourself and the good in your life as much as you can. In her debut title, actress Jenna Ortega does that. It’s All Love compiles motivational quotes and personal stories that tackle love, loss, and being Latina in Hollywood.

  • Brave, Kind, and Grateful

    by Jessica Hische

    Gratitude is not just a feeling; it’s an act. That’s why gratitude journals are a thing. From the New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Jessica Hische (Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave, Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind) comes a gorgeous gratitude journal for people of all ages. This visually stunning journal acts as a holding place for recording the daily moments you’re grateful for. Hische writes, “The practice of gratitude journaling has brought so much joy to my life and allows me to focus on what matters most, especially during tougher times.”
    (On sale: 11/23/21)

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