Books that talk about mental health might actually help readers in many ways. They sometimes help people understand what it feels like to be suffering and start a conversation around the same. Though, some readers might find it disturbing.
Here are 5 Y.A. books that talk about mental health:
1) The M Word
Trigger Warning- Anxiety, Depression, Bullying, Self-harm, Suicide
The M Word by Brian Conaghan features a teen girl named Maggie Yates, who’s struggling with depression and is trying to cope after her best friend Moya’s death. Maggie doesn’t share too many things with her therapist and often questions her methods. Maggie’s mum is dealing with her own mental health issues and their financial situation is worsening day by day.
The characters in the book are all so real and relatable that while reading you feel like you personally know all of them. Watching Maggie battle through her grief and bounce back and return from a situation like hers, readers feel like they're suffering and then coping with her. The side characters like Maggie’s bandmates and her therapist Anna and Maggie’s mum’s boyfriend also add a lot to the story. The writing style of the author makes everything feel really personal and it is full of slangs. And even though the story is very rough and raw, there’re hopeful and uplifting messages throughout the book that literally make readers feel like they’re healing along with Maggie. This book represents mental illnesses just the way they are - chaotic. Since this is not a very comfortable read, you’ll probably not consider rereading it, but it really makes you think.
2) Turtles All The Way Down
Trigger Warning - OCD, Anxiety, Death
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green follows a 16-year-old girl named Aza navigating her everyday existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts and a billionaire boy called Davis who’s dad’s gone missing.
Now, here’s the thing about this book, unlike all other novels by John Green, the romance here is secondary and the front seat has been occupied by Aza’s struggles with OCD and the way John Green describes them will literally speak out to you since he writes from his own experience with it. John Green presents to his readers a real brutal version of OCD, and in a way that the readers experience what it is like to have it. It actually talks psychology and sends out the message that people aren’t all about their mental illnesses. Along with that it also talks about friendships, parental relationships, parental loss and the struggles of dealing with it. But just because romance is secondary, doesn’t mean that it is not there, it is very much there and it’ll break your heart.
3) Imagine Us Happy
Trigger Warning: Depression, Self Harm, Toxic Relationships
Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu features two protagonists Kevin and Stella struggling with mental illnesses and toxic family relationships. Stella is used to living with depression and her goals for junior year are pretty much about surviving her classes and staying out of her parents’ fights. Kevin is a senior who understands Stella and what she’s going through but he has his own deep scars.
The characters are very human and they make bad decisions like most of us but the story sends out the message that no matter how many bad decisions or mistakes you make, it’s not okay to keep suffering, and toxic romantic relationships are not okay as well. This book takes you on an emotional roller coaster and deals with a lot of toxicity and abuse but there’re lighter parts as well to balance things out. But one important thing that this book talks about is that mental illnesses can be really messy and relapses can happen even when you feel that you’re healing.
4) The Edge of Anything
Trigger Warning: Depression, OCD, Traumatic Loss
The Edge of Anything by Nora Shalaway Carpenter revolves around two high school seniors - Sage and Len. Sage is a high school volleyball star who develops a physical obstacle that leads to her medical disqualification. Len is into photography and has a fragile mental state. Sage and Len have almost nothing in common except for an understanding of trauma.
The story is entirely friendship centric and no romantic angle is to be found for either of the protagonists but it portrays family dynamics where the parents who actually try to be supportive, find themselves helpless when their daughters actually need them. One thing that’s unique about this book is that it touches upon the topics of athletic injuries and conditions and girls in sports. It is a beautiful but heartbreaking story about two people who’re suffering and have different sets of struggles but they come together to explore the mysteries of what they share and help each other cope, even though their problems go far beyond what any teenager should have to handle on their own.
5) The Year After You
Trigger Warning: Grief, PTSD, Homophobia, Suicide
The Year After You by Nina de Pass revolves around Cara, a teenager who happens to be a part of a tragic accident that triggers deep depression. Her mother decides to send her to a Swiss Boarding School, in the hopes of giving Cara a fresh start, a clean slate. But is that even possible? Can you really erase everything from your slate?
This book deals with mental illness, grief, and guilt. All characters are very well-formed but Cara, the narrator is pretty unreliable, she vows to keep people at her new school at a distance but her classmates make it impossible. The story is full of family dynamics, friendships and lies and also touches upon the topics of cheating, sexuality and acceptance. This is one beautiful book that will break your heart and lift your soul and if you’re fans of Jennifer Niven, Nicola Yoon, Angie Thomas, you’re going to love it.