As you may or may not be aware, this week (16-22 May) is mental health awareness week and I want to take the time to go over a few recs I have for YA books which handle mental health issues really well. It’s so so important to get the info out there and a) help people be more aware of these issues in general and b) learn that they don’t define a person. YA literature is already so good at standing up and raising awareness for many mental health issues and I can’t wait to see it grow and expand in the coming years.
Since the theme for this year’s awareness week is mental health and relationships, I’m going to be focusing my recs on that!
Solitaire and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Ever top of my recs list, Solitaire and Radio Silence are two wonderful coming-of-age stories which I adore with all my heart. In Solitaire, the main character, Tori, suffers from depression and her brother is recovering from an eating disorder, whilst in Radio Silence the anxiety that education and university can cause is emphasised as one of the main aspects of the novel. How meaningful relationships can help put you back together and strengthen your soul are both such key ideas to Oseman’s writing, I really love it! Friendship and familial bonds rock. So do Alice’s books, read them!
Soulmates by Holly Bourne
This novel isn’t really ‘about’ mental health at all but it does weave aspects of anxiety and depression in in a really interesting way. What at first seem to be completely unrelated, individual struggles with their mental health for the main characters, Poppy and Noah, eventually turn out to all be linked into their fate as soulmates. The way mental health was portrayed was very careful and accurate (as Bourne’s forays always are!) but the explanation for why it occurred was just so… unique! Science, man. It’s all about the science and the chemistry. They’re so connected that without each other it kind of all just… falls to shit. Soulmates isn’t a fast favourite as much as Bourne’s other novels are for me but it’s definitely up there as something intriguing I’d love to read more about. If you love Lauren James’ The Next Together I’d recommend this!
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
At this point I’m pretty sure that anybody who wants to read Am I Normal Yet? has already read it but I absolutely cannot recommend it enough. Evie struggles with OCD and we see her struggle throughout the book until it escalates beyond the point of return. Although Evie doesn’t let her friends and fellow spinsters support her with her issues, by the end she learns that she really ought to because friends make just about anything better. This whole series is great; from it’s unflinching depiction of Evie’s mental health to the great feminist and friendship themes throughout. I can’t wait for the third and final instalment this August!
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I read this book so many years ago now but it still sticks with me. The format, the story; it’s all so emotionally raw that I sob like a baby every time I read it. Hannah is a girl who has killed herself but, before doing so, she recorded thirteen tapes explaining the reasons why, and the people who contributed to, her suicide. What we get here is not a representation of how good, strong relationships can help keep a healthy mind but quite the opposite – the detrimental effects of feeling alone aided Hannah’s death even though she had people like Clay who would’ve helped her, if only she’d reached out. Thirteen Reasons Why is complex but will keep you up half the night in attempts to finish it.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Another classic when it comes to YA and mental health, All the Bright Places continually blows me away with its emotive storyline. Violet and Finch are two teens with their own individual issue who ride their ups and downs together, trying to find their balance. It’s not all plain sailing (understatement of the century) but the support they provide each other shows how much a good circle of caring people can help ease the internal struggle. If you want something that will stroke your heart and then crush it within a millisecond, 10/10 would recommend. Ultimate soul destroyer.
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
In Every Last Word Sam struggles with OCD but her friends, the most popular girls at school, know nothing about it. She escapes their friendship group when a new girl called Caroline leads her to Poet’s Corner and it’s fun to see how the new friendships she forms help ease some of her struggles. Having people that understand what being ‘different’ feels like can truly make all the difference in how you view yourself, after all. It’s a pretty short book that I read in 3-4 hours and, whilst it isn’t the most ground-breaking or unique story, it’s still very much so worth a read.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Chicken House very kindly sent me an ARC copy of this July release which I finished this morning. I’ve only heard the very greatest things about it and with such a pretty title I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. Norah suffers from agoraphobia and OCD and it is a constant, heavy battle, but Luke helps ease some of her pains just by being there for her. It gets pretty lonely, after all, when just leaving the house would cause a debilitating anxiety attack. It’s not too dissimilar to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon but I loved every single part. It’s cute and funny and the relationships between Norah and Luke and Norah and her mum are adorable! I’d highly recommend you pick this up when it comes out.
Talking about mental health issues is so important, but can YA be doing more?