Growing up is hard for everyone, but for someone with a mental illness, it can seem impossible. One thing that can help make it a little easier are YA novels that deal with mental health issues.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 20% of kids ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental disorder. That means one in five young adults are currently or will eventually have to learn to cope with anything from depression to anxiety, mood disorders, eating disorders, etc. There are plenty of medical resources available to teens struggling with mental illness and many young adult novels that kids can turn to.
Mental illness can be debilitating in more than just one way. It's an isolating experience that often leaves young people feeling scared, confused, and alone. YA books that feature characters going through the same thing as them, however, can help them understand that their battle isn't their's alone to fight. Young people all over the world are going through the same thing as they are. These stories, though fictional, provide readers with a realistic representation of mental illness that can truly change the way readers understand their own illness.
Here are 11 of those YA novels that feature mental health issues, because every teenager's story deserves a place on the shelf.
1. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
John Corey Whaley's Highly Illogical Behavior tells the story of 16-year-old Solomon, a young man suffering from agoraphobia, a mental illness that has kept in in his house for the last three years. That is, until he meets Lisa, a driven young woman who desperately wants to get into a good psychology program for college and sees Solomon as her ticket to an amazing admissions essay. An emotional, thought-provoking novel about anxiety disorders, friendship, and growing up, Highly Illogical Behavior is a beautiful story about learning to accept who you are, illnesses and all.
2. A World Without You by Beth Revis
In A World Without You , a young teenager, Bo, is convinced he has super powers and can travel through time. When his parents concern gets to be too much, they send Bo to a special school to get help, only Bo is convinced it's a place for teens with super powers. While there, he meets and falls in love with Sophia, a beautiful, quiet girl with a heartbreaking past of her own. When Sophia commits suicide, Bo believes he left her somewhere in the past during his time travels, and is determined to save her. A gut-wrenching story about first loves and losses, A World Without You is a unique and realistic portrayal of depression and mental illness and the effects it has on not only the ones suffering from it themselves, but on their loved ones, too.
3. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Audrey is 14 when she begins to suffer from a severe anxiety order, and although she's been making slow progress with her doctor, it isn't until she meets Linus, a friend of her brothers, that Audrey really begins to feel better. And although Linus's friendship with Audrey helps send her on her road to recovery, author Sophia Kinsella doesn't imply that love can cure mental illness. Instead, Finding Audrey gives readers a realistic portrayal of what it is like to get better, showing that it is a long process, and one that can be helped along with love and support from those around you. A touching and, at times, funny novel, Finding Audrey is a heartwarming read for anyone who knows what it's like to suffer from anxiety.
4. Girl In Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
Breathtaking and beautifully written, Kathleen Glasgow's debut novel, Girl in Pieces , is a dark yet tender portrait of a broken young woman learning how to put the pieces of herself back together. After years of loss, tragedy, abuse, and hard living, the only comfort that Charlie finds is in cutting herself. But Charlie can't muster up the emotional energy to care anymore, because she believes the world has nothing left for her. A deeply honest and emotional story about surviving mental illness, Girl in Pieces is a powerful read that makes you feel each and every word.
5. The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Keuhn
When 17-year-old Arman stole $2,000 from his drug-addicted stepfather, he doesn't do what most teens would with it — instead, he checks himself into a self-help retreat in Big Sur, determined to learn to deal with his severe anxiety. There, he meets Beau, the retreat leader who Arman can't quite put his finger on, but one who is none the less helping him feel just a little bit more important each day. But when Beau dies and Arman is the only witness, he must decipher what it was exactly that he saw. An exciting and thrilling read that takes readers into the darkest corners of the mind, The Smaller Evil is a smart book you won't want to put down.
6. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
A charming, compassionate, and laugh-out-loud novel, David Arnold's Mosquitoland proves books about mental health have to be sad. Told through the perspective of Mim, a 16-year-old whose mental health was already in question before her father and stepmother picked up and moved them to Mississippi. When she find out her mother is sick back in Ohio, Mim, whose father and doctor believe her to be mentally ill and in need of psychiatric medication, runs away from home to go be with her mom, leaving her life and her prescription behind her. On her journey, Mim meets a colorful cast of characters. Mosquitoland's heavy topics — including depression, suicide, abuse, sexual assault, and mental illness — don't prevent it from being a funny, heartwarming story any teen can appreciate.
7. Schizo by Nic Sheff
Ever since his brother disappeared, Miles has been obsessed with finding him, but a schizophrenic breakdown threatens to destroy him before he gets the answers he's desperately searching for. Told through Miles's own unreliable perspective, Schizo is a fast-paced read that puts readers inside the mind of someone suffering from mental illness, and realistically portrays what it is like to suffer from schizophrenia as a young adult. This is an intriguing and ultimately inspiring story of what it's like to have your mental health hit rock bottom, and how hard it is to claw your way back to the top.
<img alt="" src="https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif" class="article-body-image"/> All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of their school's bell tower, they find something they didn't expect: the beginning of love. Obsessed with death and suffering from severe depression and suicidal tendencies, Finch finds that for the first time in forever, he can actually be himself around Violet, something he hasn't been able to do in years. Violet has issues of her own after her sister's heartbreaking death, and although she couldn't wait to graduate and leave her home town, Finch has made everything more bearable for her. But while Violet begins to feel better, Finch, no matter how hard he or Violet tries, is starting to sink. A poignant novel about depression and teen suicide, All the Bright Places is an affecting read about love, loss, and recovery.
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie, a high school freshman, isn't just trying to figure out how to deal with first dates, new friends, and family drama like many students his age. No, for Charlie, growing up has been even harder, as he's struggled to deal with mental illness, anxiety, issues of sexual assault, suicide of a loved one, domestic violence, and more. But Charlie is not alone, and his new group of friends, an inspiring and realistic cast of outcast teenagers, show him that his problems aren't his alone. An riveting coming-of-age story that brings several mental health issues to the reader's attention, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a must-read for every teen trying to understand their own mental illness.
10. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
While many teenagers suffer from a mental illness of their own, even more of them have to learn how to deal with the mental illness of a loved one, including their parents. Laurie Halse Anderson's The Impossible Knife of Memory tells a story of a young girl trying to just that. Haley and her veteran father have been on the move for years, but just when Haley thinks they're going to settle down and make a good life for themselves, her dad's mental illnesses, which include PTSD, bipolar disorder, and manic depression, threatens to unravel it all. An absorbing novel about a young girl's struggle to survive not only growing up, but growing up with her ill father, The Impossible Knife of Memory is a truly remarkable read relevant to many readers today.
11. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten
When Adam joins a Young Adult OCD Support Group to help him cope with his mental illness, he finds something more than just counseling and support — he finds Robyn, a beautiful teenager girl he falls hopelessly in love with and will do anything to save. But the more Adam tries to help Robyn, the less clear it becomes who really needs the saving. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B doesn't just realistically portray what it's like to like with OCD, but what it's like to learn how to survive it.