If I Stay by Gayle Forman — Tough subject featured: death. While If I Stay was not the emotional or poignant read for me that I had hoped it would be, I know that it was for many, and witnessing how drastically protagonist Mia's life is altered by one freak accident is very tragic, as is her subsequent decision on whether to stay or go with her family. (My review.)
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green — Tough subject featured: Children dying from cancer. I haven't read many books dealing with cancer, because I don't tend to read many issue-driven contemporaries, and it's my personal opinion that there's enough death due to this disease in real life that I don't want to read a fictionalized account of people suffering from it as well. Nevertheless, Green's novel was touching and about so much more than cancer. (My review.)
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult — Tough subjects featured: cancer, crumbling interpersonal/family relationships. I'm sure that all of Picoult's books deal with tough subjects (she seems to be that sort of author), but this one in particular was touching and very sad. Not only does protagonist Anna have to deal with her older sister's struggle with leukemia and how that affects their family, but she also deals with the ethical issue of being treated as Kate's personal bone-marrow donor.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold — Tough subjects featured: kidnapping, rape, murder, learning to cope with grief. It's been years since I've read this one, but reading about Susie's kidnapping, rape, and subsequent murder from her perspective in the afterlife was heartbreaking, as was watching her witness her family become obsessed with finding out the truth about her disappearance.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys — Tough subject featured: death, deportation, concentration camps, war. The story of Lina, her family, and the thousands of innocent Lithuanians deported from their homeland by the Soviet Union is a difficult read, as is most World War II fiction. Knowing that people really did endure situations similar to Lina is what makes this difficult story an absolutely powerful read. (My review.)
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers — Tough subjects featured: depression, domestic violence, death, zombie apocalypse. Summers is another author whose books seem to deal with a lot of tough issues facing teens. This is Not a Test has a post-apocalyptic bend to it, while her others seem to be more strictly contemporaries. I am currently reading Cracked Up to Be, and another interesting aspect of Summers' books appears to be suffering but still unlikable protagonists. (My review.)
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker — Tough subject featured: natural disasters. I was not a huge fan of this book, primarily due to the subject matter. In Julia's world (which is basically our own), the Earth's rotation begins to slow down and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it. Julia's coming of age story is set against this completely chilling (and potentially probable) premise. I only wish I had better been able to connect with Julia throughout her trials and tribulations. (My review.)
In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters — Tough subjects featured: death, disease, war. I could attempt to explain how this novel does broach on some difficult issues, but, really, the main reason I decided to include this is because of its emphasis on the horrific death of protagonist Mary Shelley's childhood friend and love, Stephen. I read about Stephen's death scene a few days after my own grandma passed away, and it made this book's view of death that much harder for me to read. (My review.)
Native Son by Richard Wright — Tough subjects featured: racism, rape, murder. While I definitely believe Wright's novel is an incredibly powerful read, it also is incredibly difficult to read about protagonist Biggar's plight, from the fear apparent in being a minority in a racially segregated world, to the ultimate manifestation of his desire to gain power for himself. (My review.)
Please let me know what are some of your top books that deal with tough subjects.