Important books that got us through our very first break-ups

Let’s face it: Break-ups are the worst. And they especially suck around Valentine’s Day, when cute couples seem to magically appear everywhere, and every song on the radio seems to be about love.

I still remember going to my friend’s house right after my first bad break-up, and even after crying on her couch for hours I still didn’t feel any better. It wasn’t long before Valentine’s Day, and I had to go return his present, in addition to seeing him just two weeks later dating another girl. It took me months before I was really totally over it, and that’s for a relationship (it was very intense, at least by high school standards) that lasted only a month and a half.

So, what finally helped me move on? Books. These are the books that comforted me even more than my friends could—they showed me I could move past the pain and, eventually, find my strength again. So if you’re dealing with your first break-up, choose one of these novels, curl up, read, and—I promise—you will start to feel better.

Forever. . .by Judy Bloom

No list of books about first loves and first loves lost could start with anything other than a Judy Bloom book. Michael is Katherine’s first love and first time, but as the novel progresses, she starts to question if her first love is actually her true love. Especially if you’re thinking through what your relationship meant both sexually and romantically, this is the perfect book to help you process the break-up and realize that life will move on.

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

All Sarah Dessen books are great, but this book is especially perfect to help you through a break-up. Luke is the perfect boyfriend for Emaline, and they’ve been together all through high school, but now Emaline is wondering if it’s time for something more. This novel is full of romance and yearning, but ultimately, it shows that the most important person in your life will always be yourself. It’s just the dose of post-break-up empowerment you need.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Sometimes after a break-up the most important thing is to remember how to laugh — and trust me, this book series will have you laughing out loud on each page. The series is essentially a young adult version of Bridget Jones’ Diary, with a sassy woman narrating who certainly enjoys men, but doesn’t let them get her down. She’s the perfect antidote to breakup sadness.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This was one of my favorite books from childhood that always makes me feel better whatever the circumstances, but especially comforted me during my first break-up. This Cinderella-story-gone-wrong stars Ella after she accepts the Prince’s proposal and moves into the castle for wedding preparations, only to realize that her prince is kind of a jerk. As the break-up approaches and occurs, Ella tackles every challenge (emotional and physical) that comes her way, and comes out even better for it. If nothing else, the story will make you grateful that at least your break-up didn’t end with you locked in a dungeon. Seriously.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Back in high school, my group of friends each identified with one of the four best friends from this series, and I promise you’ll find a character that speaks to you as well. Each of the characters goes through their own ups and downs in romance, but at the end of the day, this book is perfect to remind you that it’s your friends who will always be there for you. (The movie is awesome, but the book is even better.)

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Daniel Handler is the author who wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events (for which he used a pseudonym), so really a break-up makes sense as the next, much more realistic unfortunate event for him to tackle. When Min and Ed break up, Min gives him a box full of all the items from their relationship (admit it — you have one too). In the box, she includes the heartbreaking letter that is the book, a letter which recounts each items’ significance to their relationship and eventual break-up.

This is the book to turn to if you need a good cry, or just that final push to finally throw away (or hey, why not burn) that relationship box you’ve been looking through every night.

What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman

These hilarious and real short stories will make you realize just how much worse it could have been. In fact, it might be enough to make you swear off relationships all together (at least for the time being). This book is the perfect pick to help remind you that you’re not going through this experience alone, that all women have had to put up with horrible dates and break-ups, and that you might as well treasure the experience for the story you can tell about it.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham 

Finally, when you’re ready to really dive into what made this relationship end and what you can learn about yourself for next time, turn to Lena Dunham. She’s the most honest voice out there when it comes to modern dating and especially her chapter “Girls & Jerks” may help you realize some early indicators of problems in the relationship that you never realized before. Maybe not everything was perfect, even back when you thought it was—and Dunham reminds you, that’s OK. She is also totally hilarious, and she’ll transition you from mourning the relationship to enjoying being single. Not to mention, she’ll refocus your attention where it really belongs: on yourself, not on some ex who, after some book therapy, won’t feel so brutally significant anymore. Promise.

Illustration by Alison Nowak. Images via Amazon

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