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6 YA Books That Get Mental Health Right

Young adult fiction is known for tackling issues that young people can relate to and recently a great number of YA authors have begun tackling mental health, as the conversation surrounding mental health grows and becomes less taboo. Here’s a list of 5 YA novels that brilliantly tackle mental health issues. 

 

1. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

 

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King of YA, John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down focusses on Aza, a sixteen-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Aza and her best friend Daisy investigate the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett. Green, who himself suffers from OCD and anxiety, has spoken about how personal the book is to him. The Guardian has said that Turtles All the Way Down ‘will resonate with, and comfort, anxious young minds everywhere. It might just be a new modern classic.’

 

2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven 

 

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Violet and Finch meet at the top of a bell tower. Violet is struggling with her sister’s death, while Theodore Finch intends to die. Who saves who?  The New York Times drew comparisons between Niven’s debut and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, sayingViolet and Finch are the archetypal offering in contemporary young adult fiction: a pair of damaged, heart-tugging teenagers who are at once outcasts and isolated, trapped by the dissonant alchemy of their combined fates.’ 

 

3. Mosquitoland by David Arnold 

 

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Mim’s family falls apart and she leaves Ohio for Mississippi to live with her father and stepmother. However, almost immediately she hears her mother is sick back in Cleveland, so she boards a Greyhound bus back home. According to Booklist ‘Arnold boldly tackles mental illness and despair, and sexual assault and sexual identity, without ever once losing the bigheartedness of the story. . . In the words of one of Mim’s Greyhound seatmates, Mosquitoland has pizazz—lots and lots of it.’

 

4. Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

 

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This novel centers around three friends: Sebby who is gay and deeply unhappy in his foster care situation; Jeremy, an artistic introvert who is recovering from a traumatic incident the year before; and Mira, who suffers from depression which makes the simplest task overwhelming. The Guardian noted that ‘depression is written about in a way that is understandable but not sugar-coated.’ 

 

5. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson 

 

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Wintergirls follows Lia Overbrook, who suffers from anorexia and self harm. After receiving the news that her estranged best friend has died from bulimia, Lia’s struggle to keep herself alive intensifies. The Guardian calls it ‘an exhausting novel to read: brilliant, intoxicating, full of drama, love and, like all the best books of this kind, hope.’

 

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

 

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Craig has studied hard to gain admission to Executive Pre-Professional High School, however he finds himself out of his depth once there. His stress eventually results in an eating disorder, affected sleep habits, and suicidal thoughts. He ends up in a psychiatric hospital where he meets fellow patient Noelle. The two become friends and help each other in their recovery. The book was made into a film in 2010 starring Keir Gilchrist and Emma Roberts. 

 

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