Friday, 25 August 2017

16 YA Must-Reads on Mental Health

When I stopped seeing my therapist, she asked if I would give her a list of YA book recommendations which look at mental health issues in a hopeful way. She said that someone else she was seeing liked books too, but he only had a few self-help books which he would read again and again and again. And it made me realise that even for avid bookworms, it can be weirdly difficult to find new books when you're not in the industry in any way. Already, books which had helped me and which I knew had helped others were flitting into my mind, and I started work on the list. (I'm also looking to work with my local NHS mental health service to make a mental health book club in my community, specifically for young people... lots of planning to do, but hopefully it goes ahead!)

When I'd finished my list, I knew I'd share it here, too. I've done a similar post before but that was ages ago, and I'm pleased to see that lots more YA about mental health has been released since then. Here's an updated version. Hope it helps some of you, and feel free to pass it on to your local surgeries or mental health services - books can't replace medicine and/or treatment, but like running is good for the body, reading is good for the mind.

The following recommendations are hopeful, which is something I think is extremely important in literature about such rough experiences.

When We Collided by Emery Lord



Mental health themes: Bipolar | Depression | Grief

"It showed that bad times aren't forever but for a short while in a huge and wonderful life, and I think that's something we all need to be reminded of now and again." - My review

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard



Mental health themes: Domestic violence | Self-harm | Attempted suicide

"It ... showed that there is always a solution. Suicide doesn't have to be the answer." - My review

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Anxiety | Selective mutism

"I ... really appreciated the amazing depiction, inclusion and exploration of therapy, medication, and different ways anxiety can manifest that might not be obvious to everyone. Barnard handles everything beautifully and respectfully, as always." - My review

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: OCD | Anxiety

"It has the best depiction of mental illness I have ever seen. Bourne truly is one of the best YA writers." - My review

Panther by David Owen


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Depression | Supporting someone with mental illness

"Panther is a bold and emotionally powerful novel that deals candidly with the effects of depression on those who suffer from it, and those ... alongside them." - Goodreads

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Anxiety | Panic attacks

"I think to have someone shining so much light on anxiety when they know exactly what it's like, and having the book aimed at younger people, is so valuable. [Sugg's] not guessing what it's like to be filled with anxiety all day every day, she knows it inside out, and I have no doubt in my mind that this will help ... people." - My review

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Anxiety | Depression | Attempted suicide

"This is the story of what Matt Haig has dealt with in life, from severe anxiety to depression, and how he overcomes it on a daily basis. Hope in a book is the only way I can describe it." - My review

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: OCD | Recovery

"I don't have any experience with OCD so I can't comment on whether or not the representation of this illness was good, but the things I could relate to - agoraphobia, therapy, recovery - were done very well. It leaves us on a positive note, too, which I think is incredibly important in books about mental health - especially those aimed at children - as we already have enough to worry about, without a book telling us the future is going to be rubbish, too!" - My review

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Anxiety | Panic attacks | Agoraphobia

"I think it was great that we got to 'be with' Audrey in her therapy sessions, because lots of people suffering with anxiety who read the book and aren't being treated for their illness could benefit a little from that, as there was some valuable stuff in there." - My review

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Anxiety | Confidence issues

"You know those books where all of the characters are the same? Characters with no flaws, and all with the same voice? Finally, I have found a book that is as far from that as you can get. Each person in Fangirl had a million flaws, and I loved it. Cath, with her shy, quiet, fan-fiction filled lifestyle, Reagan with her, erm, strong language, and Levi with his 'I don't read' attitude. Yeah, that's his biggest flaw, but I'll let it slide." - My review

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: OCD | Depression | Bulimia | Drug addiction

"[OCD is] the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn't repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It's caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty." - Goodreads

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall


Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Anxiety | Agoraphobia

"Agoraphobia is such a huge problem, especially during adolescence when everyone you know is getting their first job and their first car, going to parties and going travelling - and you can't stand outside of your own house for more than 20 seconds without having a panic attack. It needs representation. Even more importantly, it needs accurate representation - and, seeing as Gornall is Agoraphobic herself, you won't be surprised to hear that she got it spot-on." - My review

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: A range, including anxiety, depression, addiction, self-harm, and personality disorders

"We all have a mind, so we all need to take care of our mental health as much as we need to take care of our physical health. And the first step is being able to talk about our mental health. Juno Dawson leads the way with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people's mental health - whether fleeting or long-term - and how to manage them, with real-life stories from young people around the world." - Goodreads

Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern

Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: OCD | Anxiety | Confidence issues

"Amy has Cerebral Palsy, and the only way she is able to talk is by using her Pathway - a device that speaks whatever she types. Over the years this has discouraged people her own age from wanting to make friends with her, and so her mother pays a group of specially-picked students from her classes to help her get around school, and to introduce her to other people who would hopefully become her friends. She ends up getting all of this and more. While helping her new friend Matthew to accept and overcome his OCD, she is also gradually falling in love with him. And maybe that feeling is reciprocated." - My review

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Anxiety | Agoraphobia

"Sixteen year old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn't left his house in three years, which is fine by him. At home, he is the master of his own kingdom--even if his kingdom doesn't extend outside of the house.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to go to a top tier psychiatry program. She'll do anything to get in.

When Lisa finds out about Solomon's solitary existence, she comes up with a plan sure to net her a scholarship: befriend Solomon. Treat his condition. And write a paper on her findings. To earn Solomon's trust, Lisa begins letting him into her life, introducing him to her boyfriend Clark, and telling him her secrets. Soon, Solomon begins to open up and expand his universe." - Goodreads

Countless by Karen Gregory

Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository

Mental health themes: Eating disorder

"When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn't believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don't add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She's even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time... " - Goodreads

Do you have any hopeful reads to add to the list?

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