John Dies at the End

Chevy Chase Library

John Dies at the End

Spoiler alert: The main character might bite the dust

Not every book has a happy ending so don't get too attached to the main character in these, they might not make it.

Major spoilers ahead, so if you don't want to know the fate of the main character, stop reading now.

Atonement by Ian McEwan 
Atonement is a story centering on the Tallis children and the Tallis family groundskeeper, Robbie Turner. Briony Tallis desperately wants to be a writer and to be known as something other than Cecelia's kid sister. When Briony sees Robbie and Cecelia accidentally break a vase, her imagination gets the best of her and she begins to think the worst of Robbie. Later when Briony witnesses the brutal assault of her cousin Lola, she becomes certain that it was Robbie that committed the terrible crime, She convinces her family as such, and Robbie  gets arrested for a crime he didn't commit. The book would lead you to believe that Robbie is released from jail to fight in the war and that for the most part everything (kind of) works out but as it turns out Robbie as well as Cecelia both die at the end of the war. Briony is retelling the story as an adult as an atonement for her actions as a child. Robbie's life wasn't exactly skittles and puppies after Briony lied, and got him arrested, but and penultimate page delivers the gut punch that his fabricated, troubled life was actually better than the real story of his untimely death.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green 
Hazel is a terminal cancer patient whose mom believes she is depressed. All things considered, why wouldn't she be? Her mom wants her to enroll in a support group for teens diagnosed with cancer all the same. In her support group, Hazel meets a handsome young man name Augustus Waters and the two fall quickly in love. The two exchange book selections and discuss the book that Hazel has selected, Imperial Affliction. Desperate to meet the reclusive writer and discuss the abrupt ending of the book, Hazel and Augustus, after some push-back from their parents, set out to Amsterdam to meet with the Van Houten, the alcoholic author of the book. After a disappointing meeting, the pair returns home but Augustus quickly becomes very ill and is not able to recover. After his death, Hazel finds out that Augustus had sent off some writing to Van Houten, as a eulogy about Hazel, which Van Houten sends back to Hazel and she reads at the ending of the novel.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Told through the perspective of nine year old Bruno, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas centers around Bruno's family who has recently moved to Auschwitz. Bruno's father, who works for Hitler, moves the family into a house near a concentration camp. Bruno soon meets a boy named Shmuel who is about his age and lives on the other side of the fence where Bruno has been forbidden to go. The two become friends although Bruno doesn't fully understand who Shmuel really is and what is happening. Eventually, Bruno's mother convinces his father to move the family back to Berlin, and the father decides to stay behind to continue to work. Sad to be moving away from his friend, Bruno goes to say goodbye and Shmuel convinces him to put on a pair of "strip pajamas" so he can come to the other side of the fence with him and help him look for his father, who has been missing for a the past few days. Bruno joins Shmuel on the other side of the fence and the two get rounded up by soldiers and led to a dark room, presumably a gas shower. Neither of the boys are ever seen again.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Many children are conceived by accident, but Anna knows she was brought into this world for a specific purpose. Unfortunately, that specific purpose is to be harvested for parts by her older sister, Kate, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Anna was specially conceived and selected to be a perfect genetic match for Kate. When Kate becomes gravely ill, and needs a kidney from Anna to survive, Anna gets a lawyer and sues her parents for medical emancipation. During the trial, Anna admits that it was Kate that asked her not to donate the kidney because she is tired of being sick and ready to let go. Anna wins the lawsuit, and is granted medical emancipation but is severely injured in a car accident with her lawyer. Anna has sustained irreversible brain damage and her kidney is donated to Kate.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Most modern day medical advances owe their existence to a woman that many, if not most, don't know by name. Henrietta Lacks was a southern, black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Although Lacks died in 1951, part of her lives on until this day, not just her grandchildren but her cells. Henrietta Lacks provided the first regenerating human cells allowing scientists to create vaccines for polio, study viruses in ways that they were never able to previously and mass produce human cells for research. All while medical professionals were raking in money with the "HeLa" cells, Lacks family struggled to get by. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks moves back and forth between Henrietta's life in the 40's before and during her death and the present as journalist, Rebecca Skloot attempts to get close to the Lacks family, particularly her daughter, Deborah. The Lacks family had grown very distrustful of outsiders considering the nature in which their mothers cells were robbed and distributed for profit without their permission but Skloot was able to gain the trust of the family and properly tell their story. The books ends with the daughter Deborah dying of a heart attack, but she felt at peace because she would finally be able to reunite with her mother in heaven.