With the dramatic rise in diagnoses of mental health challenges comes the pressing need to talk about mental health in a bigger way. Helping teens better understand their mental life, as well as better cultivating the language to openly communicate about it, are YA books about mental illness. From heart-wrenching and honest to lighthearted and funny, these 12 books accurately portray mental illness and help break the stigma that envelops our world today.
1. "Turtles All the Way Down" by John Green
Here's a brief synopsis, according to johngreenbooks.com:
"Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there's a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett's son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts."
While eccentric, like many of Green's books, in Turtles All the Way Down, John Green successfully delves into the teenage brain, creating a masterpiece of a story about a girl and her struggles with anxiety and OCD.
2. "Eliza And Her Monsters" by Francesca Zappia
Francesca tells the story of Eliza, the creator of one of the most popular webcomics on the net. Only, she writes it anonymously. She likes to slip by unnoticed in her real life. Her identities threaten to collide when Wallace starts at her school, since he's a huge fan, and as she nears the end of her story, she feels the pressure that creativity can yield. Read my full, honest review in the photo above.
3. "Made You Up" by Francesca Zappia
There aren't a lot of YA authors out there who have taken on schizophrenia as a subject in a book, mainly because schizophrenia remains a very misunderstood mental illness. But Zappia did an astounding job thoroughly researching and writing the moving, poignant tale of an adolescent living with the disorder while trying to find their identity in the process. In Made You Up, Alex is an unreliable narrator who wages war against her grueling battle with schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college.
Read my full, honest review in the photo above.
4. "Under Rose-Tainted Skies" by Louise Gornall
Here's a brief synopsis, according to Google Books:
"Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother. For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbor. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a 'normal' girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths."
In Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall really delves into the internal messages that frequently go through the brain of someone who suffers from agoraphobia, anxiety, and OCD.
. "Wintergirls" by Laurie Halse Anderson
Here's a brief synopsis and overview, according to Scholastic:
"Lia and Cassie are best friends, 'wintergirls' frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss — her life — and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend's memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. Award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all: hope."
Wintergirls is an unflinchingly honest, unglamorized look into anorexia. It also deals with depression, self-harm, and extreme perfectionism, which is common for sufferers of eating disorders.
6. "Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell
Here's the synopsis, according to rainbowrowell.com:
"Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, everybody is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, it's something more. Fandom is life. It's what got her and her sister, Wren, through losing their mom. It's what kept them close. And now that she's starting college, introverted Cath isn't sure what's supposed to get her through. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words...And she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?"
Every shy, book-loving, anxious girl will relate to Cath and realize that their anxious thoughts do not define them and that it is possible to defeat your inner demons.
7. "Six of Crows" by Leigh Bardugo
The Six of Crows duology is an exciting fantasy about an impossible heist carried out by a cast of super-diverse thieves and crooks. It's about so much more than mental illness. This is a fantasy novel that just happens to star characters who struggle with mental health issues, particularly PTSD. It creates conflict in the plot but is never treated as something that will magically disappear by the end of the series.
8. "A Court of Mist and Fury" by Sarah J. Maas
While PTSD is not the main focus of the text, Feyre is left suffering from PTSD following sexual and verbal abuse from her former lover, and Sarah J. Maas deals with the subject in a very raw, honest, respectful way. This is the second book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and I HIGHLY recommend reading it. It's my all time favorite series.
9. "More Happy Than Not" by Adam Silvera
When you read an Adam Silvera novel, you better be prepared to ugly cry. Seriously. Keep a box of tissues beside you. That's because one of the things Adam does so well captures the little moments of his characters' mental health and show how they affect their every day lives. He tackles grief and identity, loss and social anxiety, and even OCD in a masterful, powerful way.
In More Happy Than Not, Aaron may make you cry from the very first page. Set in the near-future where memory relief procedures are possible, it's a story of self-discovery and love and loss.
10. "History Is All You Left Me" by Adam Silvera
What about grief, love, and loss? This book will wreck you. Brace yourself, because the first page will probably do the trick. Seeing the main character as he grows and learns to find hope again after loss, reading along with him as he confronts his past, present, and future, it will definitely help any reader move on from a tough situation.
11. "They Both Die At The End" by Adam Silvera
And then for those of you who, like me sometimes, are kept from living our lives to the fullest because of anxiety or insecurity, They Both Die At The End is a love letter to breaking free and living unapologetically.
12. "When We Collided" by Emery Lord
Emery Lord nails it with her depiction of bipolar disorder in When We Collided. Everyone can totally relate to colliding with the right person at exactly the right time, and how it can change our lives forever. This is an unflinching, beautiful story about dealing with new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control.