Books about surviving the worst (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

“The worst” is a relative term, and it means different things to different people. There are so many ways that things can go wrong!

But I’ve compiled a list of books about people surviving situations that you could certainly make a case for being “the worst.” Some of these are YA and some are more adult. All of them feature survivors.


 I’m Just a Person, by Tig Notaro. Comedian Tig Notaro found her life taking a less-than-funny turn when she suffered a romantic breakup, the death of her mother, and two different life-threatening diseases within the space of a few months. And lived to tell about it.

A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard. Abducted at the age of eleven, Dugard was forced to live with her captor for years. She eventually bore him two children. This is the story of how she survived and made a life even within the harsh confines imposed by her captor.

Anne Frank Remembered, by Miep Gies with Alison Leslie Gold. Anne Frank did not survive, but her father did. This is Miep Gies’s memoir of resisting the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, hiding the members of at least four different families, and reuniting with Otto Frank after the war.


Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman. Abby falls for a guy who is not what he seems. The demons she faces include, but are not limited to, an internet predator.

Thaw, by Monica M. Roe. A young man fights off a deadly ailment, but faces the fact that he may never recover completely. On top of that, he’s beginning to confront the ways in which he has wronged those around him.

This is the Story of You, by Beth Kephart. When a hurricane hits the New Jersey shore, the main character is separated from family and friends. Overnight, most of what she knows is swept away. Yet the surviving community comes together in surprising and healing ways.

Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Dystopian fiction. When an asteroid jars the moon out of its usual orbit, the resulting chain of natural disasters sends the main character and her family into survival mode, where they learn to rely on one another in new ways.

Prisoner B-3087, by Alan Gratz, Ruth Gruener, Jack Gruener. Although technically fiction, it is based closely on the true story of a boy who survived ten different concentration camps during World War II.

Escaping the Tiger, by Laura Manivong. Also based on a true story, this narrative follows a boy and his family as they flee a Communist regime, only to land in a refugee camp in Thailand that brings challenges and troubles of its own.

The Crazy Iris: and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath, ed. by Kenzaburo Oe. Also closely based on true stories, this compilation of short fiction explores life after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


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