Let’s talk about mental health! Mental health is so, so important. Representation of mental health and how to deal with it is also so, so important. We’re slowly getting out of the era where different medias are not using stereotypical mental health characteristics anymore, instead they are getting more and more real and relatable, which can be so helpful. Like, I did not know I had OCD until I read a book and related so hard to the main character who had OCD. I had been so caught up in the stereotypical characteristics that movies and shows portrayed for years (like OCD just means you want everything to be clean or that you’re just a really anal retentive person) that I didn’t think my obsessive thoughts and actions could possibly be OCD. Less than a year after reading that book, I was diagnosed with OCD. Real representation of mental illnesses in movies, tv, and books are so important to help us through our own struggles and to make us not feel so alone. And today we’re going to explore my top 5 YA books that represent mental illness super, super well. Let’s go!
1. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
I’ve talked about this book like 5 times on the blog, so I won’t be too lengthy here. But Turtles All the Way Down made me realize I had OCD. Ava, the main character’s OCD centers around germs and being clean. While my OCD centers around something else entirely, I was able to relate to her narration of her obsessive thoughts, how when the obsessive thinking starts, it can feel like drowning on dry land and getting yourself out of the obsessive thinking pattern can feel like swimming again the current. Some times are easier than others. Ava also struggles to explain her OCD to her friends and new people in her life, and I relate hard to that. OCD is a hard thing to explain. Turtles All the Way Down just does such a good job at what it’s like to live with OCD. If you deal with OCD or have a friend or family member who does, please read this book. It will help you with your OCD or help you understand what your friend goes through.
2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I’ve also talked about this book several times on the blog, sorry not sorry. Also, Rainbow Rowell is a writer queen, we stan. When I first read Fangirl, I was like 99% positive Rainbow Rowell had a secret camera in my college dorm room and was writing my life. Just like Cath, I spent all my free time in my dorm writing fan fiction and reading fan fiction. I forgot to eat most days and did little to no social interaction due to my anxiety. Though, no magical boy like Levi came along and helped me through it, i had a few friends through that. But, gosh Rainbow Rowell nails what anxiety can do to your social interaction, especially if you have anxiety and you’re an introvert.
3. 10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac
I just read this book like 3 weeks ago. I got this book at my very first Ya’llFest in 2016 and it obviously took me forever to pick up, but I was so glad that I finally did. Maeve has my brand of anxiety, worrying about really horrible things that have about less than 1% of ever happening. Now, I’m lucky and cope a little bit better than Maeve, who spends her time creating obituaries in her head of her loved ones when her anxiety is at an all time high. I don’t do that, but the worrying about loved ones, worrying about the future, aka worrying about things that are all out of your control, I could relate to so hard. And that’s what anxiety is, worrying about things out of your control or doubting yourself because the anxiety voice in your head tells you not to bother trying or that everything you say and do is weird and wrong. Maeve’s character and her journey of owning her anxiety and not letting it own her is amazing and lovely, 10/10 would recommend.
4. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Trigger warning: this book does mention suicide. This book follows Eliza who has created a whole expansive universe in her extremely popular web comic. But Eliza is more comfortable talking to people over the internet than in person. Eliza deals with social anxiety and when she looses control over her web comic and her internet friends, Eliza deals with a heavy bout of depression. Eliza, with the help of a therapist and her friends and family, is able to have more good days than bad and she is able to get back to the things she loves to do like drawing and writing for her web comic. I think this book does an amazing job at describing social anxiety and depression and what life is like with that on a day to day basis.
5. I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin
This book is done in such a unique format. The whole narrative of the book is told through e-mails and texts that these two best friends, Ava and Gen as they are apart for the first time in their friendship due to going to different colleges. Gen is a queer character and is so amazing. She’s constantly teaching Ava about the LGBTQIA+ community and it’s incredible and I’m here for it. Ava, has extreme anxiety. She worries about her friendship with Gen almost constantly. She worries that something horrible has happened to Gen if she doesn’t get a reply to her text or e-mail in a timely manner. This book really shows how overwhelming anxiety can be and the effect it can have on relationships. Ava is able to find a good therapist and learn techniques to calm her anxiety, though it doesn’t always work. Anxiety is a daily struggle, and this book does a great job capturing that.
Those are my top 5 YA books about mental health! Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments below!