Mental Health Representation in YA

On my recent masked trip to Barnes and Nobles, I picked up a book called “This is My Brain in Love” by I.W. Gregorio. The novel is described as a dual narrative of two POC teenagers as they deal with romance, saving a family restaurant, and finding ways to cope with their mental health issues. This summary alone drew me in straight away since I am always on the prowl for more POC and mental health representation in YA and this book seemed like the jackpot. The minute I started reading through the story, I didn’t want to put it down. 

A coffee mug, leaves, and a book Photo by Melk Hagelslag from Pixabay The story follows Jocelyn, “Jos,” Wu who grapples with not wanting to move due to her family’s declining income, not being allowed to date who she wants (aka Will) because of her parents’ prejudices, and a general form of depression. Will grapples with proving his capabilities to those around him, daily acts of racist microaggressions against him, and a diagnosis of anxiety. 

Woman sitting alone Priscilla Du Preez, via Unsplash Without giving any spoilers, Jos’ depression is portrayed well in addition to her refrain from wanting to admit it or get help and everyone else’s refrain from wanting to push her to. This is a great contrast to Will’s active attempts to cope with his anxiety through therapy, specifically CBT. Both experiences are extremely valid and representative. It’s important to show a variety of issues and coping mechanisms with mental health because no two people will want or go through the same things. The book does not preach for an end all, be all way to solve mental health problems and in fact, the author herself shares about her own complicated personal experiences in the author’s note at the end of the book (along with great resources like Mental Health America and The National  Suicide Prevention Lifeline). 

Person waiting by window, sad Photo by Andrik Langfield from Unsplash So, I am happy to say that the book did not disappoint. I absolutely loved how realistic both  characters were without giving into any stereotypes and actually worked to break them down. There is such a stigma attached to “mental health,” even more so in many POC communities, and this book delved straight into that with the parents naturally being hesitant to see and acknowledge these struggles in their kids. Nothing is wrapped up in a bow by the end nor should it have been, but it does provide a gentle hope. It is so great to see these perspectives accurately depicted, especially in YA. I hope to see many more following in the footsteps of “This is My Brain in Love,” because they are most definitely needed. Books like this help teens know that they are not alone, that they have options, and that they can get through it.