Important YA Books about Mental Health

My guilty pleasure is that I love to read… all the time. Growing up,  it was hard to find books written for a young crowd that dealt with hard-hitting issues. I found that most books in the Young Adult genre dealt with either romance or a dystopian world. Finding books where characters were going through the same things as I was taught me that I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling. After searching through many books, I’ve compiled a list of  the best young adult books that are important in dealing with mental health issues. 

  1. 1. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

    All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a heartbreaking book about mental illness and its powerful effects on the person suffering from it and the people around them. Finch and Violet meet on top of the bell tower at school. They both consider jumping off, but save one another from doing so.” -The Guardian I read this book in middle school and the message has stuck with me ever since. It’s also becoming a movie with Elle Fanning starring as one of the main characters. 

  2. 2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

    Wintergirls is the story of eighteen-year-old Lia Overbrook, an anorexic cutter who loathes her body, her family and her life. All these emotions are heightened when Lia's best friend Cassie, a bulimic, dies in a motel room after a long session of bingeing and purging.” -BookRags This is the first book that showed me what life with an eating disorder was like. It showed me the day to day struggles and how eating disorders affect people and those around them.

  3. 3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (also a movie)

    Speak, published in 1999, is a young adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson that tells the story of high school freshman Melinda Sordino. After accidentally busting an end of summer party due to an unnamed incident, Melinda is ostracized by her peers because she will not say why she called the police.” -Wikipedia Speak is a book that I reread over and over again because I love how real it is about mental health. The main character Melinda shows how mental health can impact all aspects of your life. It is also a movie starring Kristen Stewart. 

  4. 4. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky (also a movie)

    “Socially awkward teen Charlie is a wallflower, always watching life from the sidelines until two charismatic students become his mentors. Free-spirited Sam and her stepbrother Patrick help Charlie discover the joys of friendship, first love, music and more, while a teacher sparks Charlie's dreams of becoming a writer. However, as his new friends prepare to leave for college, Charlie's inner sadness threatens to shatter his newfound confidence.” -IMDB Perks of Being a Wallflower will forever and always be my favorite book and movie. The characters in this book are so fun and dynamic that it keeps me coming back. I highly recommend the movie as well; it’s almost as good as the book.

  5. 5. Looking for Alaska by John Green (also a TV series)

    “Miles (Pudge) Halter goes to a boarding school in search of "the great perhaps.” There he meets Alaska, a young girl with whom he falls in love. In trying to learn all about Alaska, Pudge learns more about himself and the great perhaps.” -IMDB This book broke my heart when I read it and carried me through laughs, shocks, and tears. Hulu recently made it into a TV series which I loved almost as much as the book. 

  6. 6. Asking for It by Louise O’Neill

    “It's the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O'Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there's a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can't remember what happened, she doesn't know how she got there. She doesn't know why she's in pain. But everyone else does.” -GoodReads I read this book last summer and was shocked. This book follows the story of a girl who has recently been sexually assaulted at a party and the aftermath. I was shocked learning how sexual assault can impact all aspects of someone’s life. 

  7. 7. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

    “Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off.” -GoodReads  This book is one of my favorites because I got to learn more about OCD and the book also has an amazing plot twist.

  8. 8. When We Collided by Emery Lord

    “Seventeen-year-old Jonah Daniels has lived in Verona Cove, California, his whole life, and only one thing has ever changed: his father used to be alive, and now he's not. Now Jonah must numbly take care of his family as they reel from their tragedy. Cue next change: Vivi Alexander, new girl in town.” -GoogleBooks This book is very interesting as it deals with how mental health can affect the growth of new relationships. It was very mind-changing for me to see how the little things can impact a whole relationship. 

  9. 9. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

    “Finding Audrey is a book about a 14-year-old girl who deals with social anxiety and wears black sunglasses everywhere because she can't have any eye contact with nobody. She doesn't actually leave her house until she meets Linus, a 16-year-old boy who is friends with Audrey's brother Frank” -AmysBooks This was the first book I ever read about mental illness and it gave me a whole new perspective on anxiety. It was really interesting to see inside of the main character’s head as she deals with her illness.

  10. 10. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasglow

    “Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.” -GoodReads I am obsessed with this book. The main character got me hooked from the first chapter and immediately made the plot a rollercoaster. This book was so different and refreshing to read as the character grows throughout the book. 

While young adult books still have a long way to go in terms of addressing mental health, they’ve gotten a pretty good start with these books. They open the conversation and lead the way to remove the stigma around mental health.