May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. In recognition of mental health awareness, I have chosen to highlight some young adult novels published this year that focus on characters dealing with difficult and sensitive topics.
From relationship struggles to depression and suicide, characters in these stories challenged by internal and external conflicts, similar to real life experiences you may be familiar with. You may have felt sympathy for Cadence and her struggling memory in We Were Liars, begged Leonard to put down the gun in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, connected with Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, agonized with Melinda to Speak, set out Looking for Alaska, or unraveled the mystery of the 13 Reasons Why Hannah committed suicide. Teens may experience tough and complex issues, and it shows in the contemporary stories we read.
Recent Titles about Mental Illness
What’s next on your reading list? 2015 brings an array of new titles related to mental illness – stories to place on your summer booklist (while remembering to pack a box of tissues).
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Violet Markey and Theodore Finch have one thing in common: they both want to leave. Violet wants to leave her Indiana town after graduation with the memory of her buried sister. Finch wants to leave this world, imagining the ways he might kill himself. After meeting on the ledge of a bell tower at school, they resolve to discover more about their world. Embracing life instead of death, Finch learns he is more than the freak he’s known as. They both learn to start living instead of dying. Elle Fanning stars in the upcoming motion picture.
Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle, Clare B. Dunkle
Every day, seventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing, as heranxiety and anorexia slowly steal away pieces of herself. Author Elena Dunkle b
ravely shares her story of struggling with a frightening and devastating disease as a teenager in this memoir co-written with her mother, Clare B. Dunkle. In this honest and intense telling, Elena describes what it’s like to live with anorexia and provides insight to a reality true for many.
The Pause by John Larkin
Even as he seemingly has everything – loving family, friends, girlfriend – Declan makes a decision to end his life. Something in his past won’t go away and claws at his consciousness with brutal, buried scrapes, agonizing him for so long. In one moment, one pause before he jumps into an approaching train, Declan sees two versions of his life. One version where his body is destroyed and his loved ones are left behind, and another. One new life.
Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
How far would you go for love? Every day, Fig sacrifices something in order to take care of her mother who suffers from schizophrenia, an illness that runs in the family. With the strange daily sacrifice from surrendering metal to avoiding water, Fig begins to change, removing and isolating herself from classmates, friends, and reality and becoming self-destructive. From age six to nineteen, this raw and sometimes harrowing story portrays a young woman navigating her own mind while trying to heal her mother’s.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Author of the dystopian young adult series Unwind delivers a new, heartfelt discovery of mental illness and self-identity. Caden Bosch exists in two realities – on a ship headed for the deepest point of Earth, Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench, and in high school, known as a brilliant student who recently joined the school track team. His friends are starting to notice his strange behavior. He walks miles with conflicting thoughts in his head, unsure of his commitment to his ship’s captain or his other reality. Where does he belong?
Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
High school graduate Jeremey Samon is excited to leave for college, and meets Emmet Washington, a brilliant college student majoring in math and computer science, who is handsome, persistent, interested in dating Jeremey, and autistic. Jeremey is interested in keeping himself together. When Jeremy’s untreated illness reaches breaking point, Emmet helps by bringing him to The Roosevelt, an assisted living facility. At The Roosevelt, Jeremey and Emmet slowly learn to accept themselves and one another, healing through friendship, and discovering love.
Resources for You
Remember: no matter what problems you may have, there are people available to help you. This could be a friend, teacher, parent, counselor, or another trusted adult.
Anytime 24/7, you can contact a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Learn more about health related to teens, such as information about body, mind, sexual health, food & fitness, diseases & conditions, infections, school & jobs, drugs & alcohol, staying safe.
Learn more about suicide, how to prevent it, cope with a suicide loss, research, and ways to get involved in suicide prevention, such as Out of the Darkness Walks. If you are in crisis, resources are available online and in your community.