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Mental Health in YA

By the end of this month, I will have shifted gears from novel writing to working on my dissertation, a transition that is both daunting and exciting. As a way of gearing myself up for this, I thought I'd put together a list of recent favorite YA reads that are focused on mental health issues. Because I have a particular interest in bibliotherapy, this makes up a great deal of the YA I read. So much so, that the last time I went to my local indie bookstore, the YA buyer shoved Corey Haydu's OCD LOVE STORY in my hands because she knew I'd dig it.

I love the nuance in these books. These aren't didactic issue books where the characters are defined by their diagnosis. These are complex stories about complex people, who are relatable and empathetic and real. These books remind me how powerful literature can be. Books can offer a sense of relatedness and understanding. They can offer hope, insight, and awareness. They can reduce stigma and provide a means to start the conversations we should all be having about emotional health and mental health treatment.

ECHO by Kate Morgenroth (PTSD)

LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTER by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (addiction, depression, trauma)

CRAZY by Amy Reed (bipolar disorder)

DR. BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS by Evan Roskos (depression, anxiety, abuse)

WILD AWAKE by Hilary Smith (bipolar disorder; grief)

A TRICK OF THE LIGHT by Lois Metzger (anorexia nervosa)

REALITY BOY by A.S. King (anger, impulse control, abuse)



What about you? Do you have any mental health focused YA to recommend?
Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie is the William C. Morris award-winning author of Charm & Strange, Complicit, Delicate Monsters, and The Smaller Evil.

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18 comments:

  1. #1 - The Perks of Being a Wallflower ... dealing with repressed memories and depression. Thank you, as always, for more ideas, something to think about, and more books to dig up!

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    1. I also forgot -- we see some primo PTSD in the Vampire Academy series, the third book in the series most of all. Richelle Mead handles it quite well, I think.

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    2. Thanks, Zach, those are great suggestions. I haven't read the Vampire Academy books, but I've heard wonderful things. I'll have to check them out.

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  2. I would say one of the best books I have read on Mental Illness is Crazy by Han Nolan. it is told in 4-5 voices/personalities of a teen with multiple personality disorder. Really good. I am attaching a link to my review of it.

    http://booksnob-booksnob.blogspot.com/2011/08/crazy-by-han-nolan.html

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    1. Thanks, Laura! Oh, that sounds fascinating. I'll have to check it out (and your review). I appreciate the rec!

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  3. A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler is an amazing novel about a girl who's mother is schizophrenic, and who begins questioning whether she is turning into her mother. Lots of dark feelings, lots of desperation, and incredibly well written :)

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    1. That sounds fabulous. Thank you so much for the suggestion!

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  4. Hi Steph,

    It's anne436 fm Twitter. Do you know Julie Halpern's GET WELL SOON and the follow-up, HAVE A NICE DAY? Depressed teen girl is hospitalized in first book and her reentry is in the second. Feiwel and Friends publishes them. She's a MG librarian in Illinois.

    Dissertation time? Yikes. And congrats. I stopped at the MFA, hating to write.

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    1. Hi Anne! Oh, thank you. I've seen those books and have never known what they were about. I will definitely check them out. Thank you. And congrats on the MFA. Man, that writing thing is unavoidable when you're in school.

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  5. I wish I did have some to recommend - Mental Health issues in YA is a topic that matters to me as well but I often have trouble finding books that address this subject in accurate ways. I'll have to check out OCD Love Story and Wild Awake

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    1. Thank you, Christa. I hope you enjoy those two. I'm also going to try and put together a bigger mental health in YA reading list at some point in the near future.

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  6. It's a Kind of Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, right? I love that book. We talked about it once, I think.

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    1. Yes! I adore that book. I like the film, too.

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  7. Such an awesome list! Well, I've just gone to Goodreads and marked all of them to-read. ;) Thanks for the recommendations!

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    1. You are very welcome! I hope you enjoy the books! :)

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  8. Let's see...I thoroughly enjoyed the perks of being a wallflower, which dealt with depression and abuse. I also enjoyed Speak, which deals with abuse and the depression that often goes with it. I've heard great things about wild awake as well!!! Great post!

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    1. Thank you! Speak is wonderful, thank you for mentioning it!

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  9. One of my favorite YA books dealing with mental illness is Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott. The character in the book deals with depression and is a cutter. There is a romance, and the main character is not magically cured of her mental illness; it is still a part of her, she is better able to cope, and her romantic interest loves her and cares for her because of who she is. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

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Item Reviewed: Mental Health in YA Rating: 5 Reviewed By: stephanie kuehn