Young adult literature (YA, as it is commonly known), is not just for teens anymore, as this category continues to push the boundaries of interesting and informative material. More than just science fiction or fantasy, YA broaches serious issues. Inspired by several of my colleagues who have discussed touch topics in children’s literature, I decided this month’s selections in YA should feature mental health issues.
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis is a searing novel, chilling in its intensity. A historic piece, this novel follows Grace Mae, who is imprisoned in a mental asylum after being sexually abused by a family member. This piece is dark and not for the faint of heart, but readers will be fascinated by the questions that the author asks about morality and human psychosis.
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens presents a similar topic, although it is focused on a modern setting and protagonist. Alexia is a teen who has been sexually abused and finds no relief from her inner demons. Only when Alexia becomes friends with Bodee Lennox – the Kool Aid kid – does she begin to find her own voice.
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia is easily one of the most fascinating books of 2015. It focuses on Alex, a young girl who suffers from schizophrenia, who makes the decision to start attending a public high school after being home schooled for several years. Hilarity and pathos combine in this book, as Alex begins to question even more her confused reality. Alex is an unreliable narrator, but readers will commiserate with her struggle to find acceptance in her community.
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Suicide and teen depression may be an unlikely combination for romance, but Jasmine Warga’s book My Heart and Other Black Holes offers a tender portrayal of two teens who form an unlikely friendship when they decide to commit suicide together. Beyond the question of whether they will go through with their plan, readers will be drawn to the complex emotions that Warga renders.
Hold Still by Nina La Cour
Hold Still by Nina La Cour is an excellent companion to My Heart and Other Black Holes. Caitlin is devastated when her best friend Ingrid commits suicide without any apparent explanation. Desperate to find answers, Caitlin reads through Ingrid’s diary. What she finds does not make the loss of Ingrid’s death any easier but it helps Caitlin begin to move past some of her own grief and anger.
While all of these books deal with uncommon subject matter, the issues that they present are not, which is what makes them so engaging. These are just a few of the available titles in YA literature that explore mental health issues with grace and compassion.
Looking to get personalized reading recommendations from DC Public Library staff? Fill out this form and a curated list will get sent directly to your inbox!
Author: Erin F.