Mental health: it’s a topic that’s difficult to discuss correctly in novels, especially in the YA genre, but one that we see authors tackle again and again. Unfortunately, since it is something that has to be done carefully and respectfully, it’s not always done right. Us Kids Know deals with depression and suicide among other MIs; while I didn’t personally feel like the representation was great, I’m here today to tell you about some fabulous books that include mental illness and that do it perfectly.
TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN BY JOHN GREEN - ANXIETY & OCD
The main character in TATWD, Aza, deals with both anxiety and OCD. While this book was extremely difficult for me to get through because so many of Aza’s thoughts hit a little too close to home, I feel like the difficulty I had reading it was what indicated John Green did it right. It was easy to tell that these were things he himself had dealt with, which made for a hard-hitting and impactful story that was overall so well done.
CHALLENGER DEEP BY NEAL SHUSTERMAN - SCHIZOPHRENIA
This book remains one of the best MI books I’ve read to this date, even though I read it years ago. Neal Shusterman is a master of his craft, and the way in which he details the main character’s experience with schizophrenia completely altered the way I viewed this disease (which I didn’t know very much about going in). He worked with his son (who has schizophrenia) on this story, and in my opinion it just doesn’t get much better than this book.
THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END BY ADAM SILVERA - SOCIAL ANXIETY
So I can’t remember if it’s mentioned explicitly in the book, but I’m almost positive that Mateo, one of the main characters in this book, deals with social anxiety. I felt like how Silvera portrayed him was very much accurate and I absolutely loved how Mateo constantly strove to overcome his anxiety all throughout the story.
ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES BY JENNIFER NIVEN - BIPOLAR DISORDER
This book was SO impactful and beautifully done. One of the main characters, Finch, deals with bipolar disorder and often thinks about suicide, but the way Jennifer Niven portrayed him made you feel like you were experiencing everything with Finch all throughout the book. This book plays with your emotions and is full of feels, and the mental illness aspect of it only added to the brilliance of this story.
EVERY LAST WORD BY TAMARA IRELAND STONE - OCD
I really, really love how this book included OCD. It was included to make you realize that everyone, even those you think whose lives are perfect, are dealing with something in their lives. I found myself falling in love with Samantha and absolutely adored how her story played out. In my opinion, this is without a doubt Tamara Ireland Stone’s best work, and I can’t recommend it enough.
I definitely recommend checking out all 5 of these books, as they’re all really fantastic reads that do a wonderful job of incorporating mental illness.