5 Young Adult Books About Mental Health

Mental health awareness has grown significantly in the past decade, especially through representation in the media. A big segment of media that people may not realize can bring a large amount of awareness to mental health is books. More and more authors, particularly in Young Adult literature, are including characters with mental health conditions. Sometimes it is the main subject of the novel, sometimes it is a smaller detail that still has a large impact to the story. This list of YA books dealing in some part with mental health is a great start to personally bring awareness to this very important cause!

A List of Cages by Robin Rowe

Trigger Warnings: child abuse

This book is about Adam, a senior in high school, who is asked to track down a freshman boy who keeps dodging his appointments with the school psychologist. Adam realizes that this boy is Julian, who used to be Adam’s foster brother. The book follows the two as they rekindle their friendship. When Adam realizes Julian is keeping secrets about where he goes and his home, Adam tries to help his friend.

A List of Cages is already a very diverse read, because both main characters have learning disabilities, but the book also addresses depression, emotional and physical abuse. Where this book is not considered an #OwnVoices book, Robin Rowe worked in child psychology and used her experiences to build her characters. If you are looking for a book shares a story about the importance of friendship and family, while also highlighting the struggles abuse, this is the book for you.


History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Trigger Warnings: death, sexual situations

History is All You Left Me is about a boy named Griffin whose first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, has recently died. The story follows Griffin as he deals with the grief of Theo’s passing while also forming an odd friendship with Theo’s current boyfriend at the time of his death, Jackson. Griffin and Jackson find comfort in each other because they have someone going through the same emotions they feel.

This book revolves around grief, but Griffin also has OCD. This is not the main focus of the book, but still plays a big part in Griffin’s life. His OCD shows that where it does affect that person, it does not define them as a person. Adam Silvera is an #OwnVoices author (a Twitter campaign that highlights authors who write about minority groups they belong in or issues they have first-hand experience with) for LGBTQ+ and OCD. The writer said in interviews about History is All You Left Me that some of the things Griffin goes through with his OCD come directly from Adam’s own experience. I personally read this book earlier this year and I would highly recommend it.


Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Trigger Warnings: self-harm


This book has a main character, Norah, who has rarely left her house in years, because of her mental health conditions.  Then she meets Luke, who does not see Norah as someone defined by her mental health but just as a girl he wants to be close with. Thinking Luke deserves someone “normal”, Norah must decide to let him go or start trying to see herself the way Luke does.

Under Rose Tainted Skies is an #OwnVoices novel as Norah and Louise both have OCD, anxiety, and agoraphobia. In this book, Norah works through her own problems with the support of Luke, unlike some books who use the romantic interest as a type of cure for the main character’s mental health conditions. Reading this book could be helpful for anyone with these troubles or anyone who would like to learn more about them.


A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Mel, with bipolar disorder. Mel has kept her disorder a secret from everyone except her family. This becomes an issue for her when she starts creating new friendships and relationships. She has created this safe world for herself, never letting people get too close, but fears her friends will abandon her if they finally know the truth.


What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard

Trigger Warning: eating disorders

What I Lost is a novel about sixteen-year-old Elizabeth who is currently in a treatment home for girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to get through her treatment and go right back to restricting her food intake. Then she starts receiving mysterious packages.

This book is about recovery and how difficult it can be. Elizabeth desires to be a size 0 and her mother is also dealing with her own body image. What I Lost explored Elizabeth’s recovery as well as her relationship with her mother. The author includes a lot of medical and accurate information about EDs and does not romanticize them at all. If you would like to become more informed on eating disorders and their effects or can relate to Elizabeth, then try picking up What I Lost.

If you like reading, you might really enjoy these books and learn something about mental health while doing something you enjoy. If you are not the biggest fan of reading, but still want to learn about the experiences and struggles of people that have different types of mental health conditions, then maybe give one of these a try. You might find a genre you love or just gain some new understanding of people around you, or even yourself.  Despite how you decide to bring awareness to mental health, it is very important, especially in today’s society. Whether it’s through groups on campus, independent research, personal dialogue, or just picking up a book, any way you are bringing awareness to mental health is helpful.