5 Books That Opened My Mind About Mental-Health Issues
For the longest time, I refused to pick up any YA book with mental health issues in it, even as they got more and more popular. I was afraid that because I personally haven’t gone through such an illness that I wouldn’t be able to put myself in the characters’ shoes and understand what they were going through. I was worried that I would be left feeling disconnected from the story and the characters and that this would make me come across as a cold heartless jerk in the eyes of anyone reading my reviews.
Part of that was also most likely due to the fact that I grew up in a culture and community in which mental health illness was never discussed or if it was, it was used as a term to scare children. I remember one of my neighbors constantly using the threat of the “mental-hospital” (a.k.a the psychiatric ward) when I would misbehave. In my community, depression or other mental-health related issues weren’t seen as “real illnesses” because their impacts weren’t visible. Growing up, I obviously ate those teachings up.
As with a lot of other things in my life, however, I learned much about the world out there, the different views when it comes to various issues that we face as a community through YA books. I don’t know what exactly it was that prompted me to start picking up books that address mental health illnesses, but this past year, I have read multitudes of them and I actually find myself actively seeking books with the themes. So for today’s post, I decided to feature 5 books that resonated deeply with me and to make things interesting, I decided to mix up the genres to showcase how even characters in a fantasy or a dystopia can be victims of mental-health illnesses.
1. YA Contemporary
I’ll Meet You There was one of the first books I read that tackled PTSD. And boy was it an intense book for me. It’s the kind of book that punched me right in the feels. In my review, I discussed how Josh, a Marine, who has come back home with a missing leg and a shattered soul, basically destroyed me. Heather did such a beautiful job at portraying the reality of so many military men in today’s world with Josh’s complications, and hurdles he experienced in his daily life. He grows a lot throughout the book and while by the end he isn’t 100% his old self (because who really can after such a difficult experience), he was in a good place. It was heart-breaking book, but also incredibly important, in my opinion.
2. – YA Thriller
This is one of my more recent reads. While The Masked Truth is a thriller, Kelley Armstrong focuses a lot on the mental health conditions of the two characters. Riley, experienced a murder in front of her eyes, and is suffering through PTSD and intense survivor’s guilt, when she is taken as a hostage with her therapy group. The other main character, Max, is also suffering from schizophrenia. While both characters’ conditions were well-developed and written realistically, I was more intrigued by Max’ schizophrenia because I had never read it in a book before. He struggled a lot with it, but his willingness to work his best to live with it was very brave.
3. – YA Dystopia
Suzanne Young’s The Program series is absolutely fascinating. It’s a world in which suicide and depression have become an epidemic. It’s a book that made me uncomfortable so many times, but it also made me reflect. And the government’s cure for this epidemic? Wiping off memories that could trigger the depression. The world in The Program is dark and gloomy and hopeless, and it’s a reality that a lot of young teens who have depression live with.
4. – YA Fantasy
The Vanishing Throne is the sequel to The Falconer, a YA fantasy series about faes. The first book in this series was amazing, but I loved The Vanishing Throne so much more for tackling PTSD. A lot of times in YA fantasy books you see the heroines going through mentally-exhausting situations as well as experiencing torture at the hands of villains. Yet, we hardly ever see the repercussions of these events on the heroines, which is why I appreciated The Vanishing Throne. Aileana is ruthlessly tortured physically and mentally throughout this sequel and it’s very hard to stomach, but Elizabeth May did the situation a lot of justice. When she escapes the hands of her torturer, she had to deal with the aftermath of everything and I was glad that the author decided to go with this path.
5. – YA Contemporary
Melina Marchetta is an absolute queen whatever topic she handles, but she is particularly good at digging deep into human emotions. What’s interesting about Saving Francesca is that it portrays how depression can affect a whole family. In Saving Francesca, Frankie’s and her family’s life are turned upside down when her lively and vivacious mother falls into a depression. It was raw and messy and emotional. If there’s one pick you should pick up from this list, it should be Saving Francesca.
Other noteworthy mentions:
Underwater by Marisa Reichardt
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Every Breath by Ellie Marney
Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Play On by Michelle Smith
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Thank you to Nick for sharing this list. I definitely have added quite a few new books to my TBR. Have any of you guys read these? Any more books you’d like to add to the list of ‘Books That Opened My Mind About Mental Health’?