As library workers, especially those of us who work with teens, our role can shift to “social worker” in an instant. Our teen patrons visit the library everyday and they begin to trust and confide in us. Because most of us don’t have the training to work with at-risk youth, we can feel a little helpless but we don’t have to because we have the power of a good book.
About a year ago, a member of my book discussion group seemed to be questioning his sexuality and he never talked about it. I gave him Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith to read because I thought the ending was perfect for his situation. He loved the book and now he’s very open with his sexuality and he accepts who he is. Did my recommendation help him? I don’t really know but I like to think it gave him some perspective. When I see a teen who I think or know is struggling with a personal problem, I’ll strike up a book conversation on their next library visit asking them what they like to read. If they are a reader, I’ll find a book from their favorite genre that deals with the subject they are struggling with.
In my library, I see homeless teens, teens with alcoholic parents, teens living with a dying parent, and teens dealing with gender identity and body image. I used to feel powerless but after I recommended Grasshopper Jungle, I realized that I could be an effective adult in the lives of teens. Below are a list of good books that blend popular genres with social issues. Gone are the days of feeling helpless. Say goodbye to sifting through numerous Google results. You now possess the power of reader’s advisory in a flash. You are the newest member of the Social Justice League!
Continue reading Diversify YA Life: Social Justice League-Reader’s Advisory for Teens Dealing with Social Issues
The television show Red Band Society premiered in the fall of 2014. It was not renewed for a second season; however, I found the premise intriguing: a group of teens who live in the hospital, each trying to outlive their disease and attempt a semblance of normal teenage life. They sneak out of the hospital, cover for each other, date and break up and have struggles with their families just like any other teens.
Emma is one of the teen patients in the hospital. She struggles with anorexia, and near the end of the season she’s released from the hospital, only to relapse and end up back in her room a short while later. Emma is quiet and smart and has a lot of time on her hands, so if she asked me for something to read, these are the books I would recommend to her:
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)
This story of Lia and Cassie’s descent into anorexia and Lia’s struggle to survive would resonate with Emma and her own battle against anorexia. It isn’t a happy story, but it’s an important one. Emma is ready to fight against her disease, and Wintergirls might encourage her to keep fighting.
My Best Friend Maybe by Caela Carter
Colette and Sadie used to be best friends until Sadie suddenly stopped speaking to Colette. Now Sadie wants Colette to join her and her family on an international vacation. Emma would identify with Colette’s need to appear perfect to everyone in her life, and also with her confusion when past secrets become known.
45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson
Ann’s mother is obsessed with her weight, and Ann has followed in her footsteps. She is trying to lose weight before her aunt’s wedding, until she realizes the effect her obsession is having on her family. Emma would identify with Ann, especially as Ann notices her obsession effecting her younger siblings. Emma’s younger sister is definitely effected by Emma’s long-term hospital stay and struggle with anorexia, so this is a book I’d give Emma to read. Continue reading What Would They Read?: Emma from Red Band Society
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 bravely 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.
Continue reading Your Summer Reads Focus on Mental Health Awareness