Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Top 8 Books on Mental Health

Last year I wrote a piece for the Guardian on why mental health issues should be more prevalent in YA fiction. Out of the few books I've read that do highlight mental health issues, the ones below are by far the best and so I thought I'd share them with you.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven features Finch and Violet - two people who unexpectedly meet on the ledge of the bell tower at their school. Finch is bipolar and suicidal, and Violet is full of anxiety and grief due to the recent death of her sister. It also includes depression and bulimia. And while it is sad in places, I think it was more alive and hopeful than anything else.

And then there's Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I think I have four or five copies of this, and all of them but one are signed. I know, it's great, they just fall into my possession. Anyway, main character Cath suffers from anxiety. Now, despite having anxiety myself, I didn't actually realise when I read it. It was so subtle. If you're looking for a book that does mental illness subtly instead of making it a big deal, then this one might be for you.

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg and Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella are again about anxiety, but on different levels to Fangirl which is why I've included them. In Girl Online, Penny has crippling anxiety that always strikes when she's least expecting it. One of the things that has stuck with me since reading this is that, despite her issues, Penny jetted off to New York and even though she had a couple of panic attacks, she dealt with them and was fine. I think that's important for people to see - it gives hope.

Finding Audrey was slightly more technical, and by that I mean Audrey sought treatment and did all kinds of things to make herself better. This is the only book I've read about anxiety specifically where actual, real treatment is involved - in this case it was mainly CBT and exposure therapy.

Other brilliant books I recommend but which aren't pictured include Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern, which is about Cerebral Palsey and OCD; Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne which includes Generalised Anxiety Disorder and OCD; Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, a non-fiction book on how he overcomes his anxiety and depression on a daily basis, and Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard, a wonderful book about friendship and a girl in recovery after attempting suicide.

Which books on mental health do you recommend? I'd love to know!

14 comments:

  1. Such a great list and a very important issue that more books should touch on

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  2. I loved All the Bright Places and Finding Audrey! As for recs... I really loved The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Underwater by Marisa Reichardt, Mosquitoland by David Arnold and Made You Up by Francesca Zappia!

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    1. I started reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here but put it down for some reason. Need to read it at some point! Thanks for the recs, funnily enough I got Underwater yesterday :)

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  3. Am I Normal Yet? was brilliant! And as Bee said, Underwater by Marisa Reichardt is excellent as well!

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    1. It mysteriously arrived in the post yesterday so I guess I'll have to read it soon, haha!

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  4. Love this! There is so many books on this list that I kind wait to read!!!! Thank you for sharing xx

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    1. Aw, glad you liked it and I hope you like the books as much as I did!

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  5. oh! I've read Fangirl and didn't even realize that it was about mental illness. It's truly very subtle. Super weary of All The Bright Places though, so many people I know have said that it glorifies suicide and I'm really not interested in books that romanticize mental illness :/

    - Jen from The Bookavid

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    1. I know, me neither! And yeah, I've seen people say that about ATBP. I didn't think it was glorified personally but I can kind of see why people say it might? Niven's new book coming out in October looks great, though!

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  6. Brilliant post with some awesome recommendations.
    I'd love to know where your logo came from? Did you design it? :)x

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  7. So true about Fangirl! It's only upon further reflection that I noticed that Cath's anxiety bordered on mental illness. I also liked AtBP for going into Finch's psyche. I know that didn't sit too well with some readers because it wasn't cautionary enough about suicide but I think that way Niven stayed true to his character. Beautiful Broken Things is another with mixed reviews but I liked it a lot for what it was.

    Perhaps the lack of understanding regarding mental health contributes to the mixed reviews a lot of these books have been getting. It's not an absolute term that someone's mentally ill or healthy — it's a spectrum, which is why I think these characters are easily misunderstood for being erratic & misunderstood.

    That being said, I'm glad more YA books are shedding light on mental health and with that are raising awareness.

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  8. I don't read much Contemporary YA, and when I do it is always issue related. I think I have been convinced to read All the Bright Places. One of my favourite mental health related YA stories was The Fix by Natasha Sinel. It wasn't overly dramatized like some of the others I have read. I mistakenly requested it on Edelweiss thinking it was The Fixer, but I was glad I still read it.

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