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It's December: the end of the year and the time of 1000 recommendation lists. We thought we'd get in on the action with some sweet themed recs! We're not crying. Are you crying? Nope, no idea what you're talking about.

Theme for December 23: I'm not crying, it's just dusty in here


Oh my God, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War I Finally Won. It’s a sequel to The War that Saved My Life, which is also a tearjerker, but if possible The War I Finally Won is even more emotional. They’re about a girl from an abusive background who gets evacuated to the country during the London Blitz, and she’s finally able to blossom—but what I truly love is that Bradley doesn’t paper over the child’s anger and fear. Healing is a slow process, and these books show that so beautifully.


Oh, wow, so The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley technically has a happy ending but it's just on the cusp, and is so bittersweet I am still not sure how to feel about it. I can't say much about the ending, but I can say that like Pulley's first book, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, The Bedlam Stacks is a slow, slow, unspooling burn of a book. It made me so emotional all the way through. Its depiction of a growing connection, and eventually romance, between the two main male characters is almost unbearably good. Its creation of troubled relationships, from a "friendship" between unequal parties to a difficult sibling relationship, is painfully aware. It's decision not to shy away from the physical reality of disability (although I'm conflicted about how the disability is magically tempered for a practical plot reason) was great to see. Waiting for the book's final pay off was so difficult that I had to skip ahead this one time to see how everything would turn out. Anyway, yes, this is a tear-jerker for sure.


This one was so hard to choose for because I am a sucker for this sort of thing! But I think the really stand out one for me was The Ancient Magus' Bride, because watching Chise slowly realise that she does have worth and value regardless of her usefulness, and having someone point out to her that hating herself is disrespectful to the people who love her and think highly of her—yeah, it was raining on my face.


This is a difficult one for me because it's rare for any media—books, movies, TV, anything—to bring me to literal tears. I'm actually more likely to cry the second time through, when I know what tragic or beautiful thing is coming, which is why my pick is also the video game I've played the most times: Final Fantasy X. To say why it makes me cry is a super duper mega spoiler for the ending, so I won't get into it here, but anyone who knows the game probably knows what I'm talking about. There are many other reasons I love this game, of course. Top of the list is an engaging team of characters that I love from top to bottom, and the deep and complex world with a secret history that the player gets to slowly discover. There are many beautiful and moving stories here, not just the end.


It's harder for books to make me cry—something about the lack of visuals allows me to keep an emotional distance that TV/movies don't allow, and I am VERY quick to cry at strong emotional moments between characters. Which meant that when I saw Coco this year I was a hot mess. Coco was one of those films where the story beats are well-worn and familiar but the way that the story spools out is so incredibly charming and heartwarming that it doesn't matter that you know exactly what's going to happen. I've had a lot of favorite Pixar films over the years, and The Incredibles is still up there, but Coco is so beautiful that it's easily at the top now.


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