For Those Blue Days
We all have bad days. We all get down sometimes. For some of us however, those days might seem to outnumber the good ones, or those down periods might be particularly low. So many folks experience depression in ways that are unique to them. It’s not just adults who go through depression diagnoses and have to cope in a world that seems uninviting; children and teens, too, can feel low and sad and blank inside, even if they might not have the word "depression" to describe how they’re feeling. With this list I aim to show how different young people experience—and survive—living with depression.
The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork
This young adult title is first on my list because it is different from most other books about depression in one big way: It starts with a suicide attempt, offering it just the briefest of attention on a single page, before moving on to the protagonist, Vicky Cruz, waking up in a hospital. This book is about healing. It does not glamorize the darkest parts of depression, having a mental-health crisis be the climax of the story—no, it is all about recovery. Readers will ache along with Vicky as she confronts herself and will feel victorious as she discovers all of the reasons why life is worth living.
What Happens Now by Jennifer Castle
This is a first-person novel narrated by a young teen, Ari, who spends two summers at a local lake: the first, admiring her crush, Camden, from afar, and the second, actually interacting with him and growing closer as their lives entwine. Between these two summers, the first of which is briefly mentioned in the beginning of the book, Ari is diagnosed with depression and gets treatment, including the use of antidepressants. This second summer, then, is about Ari managing her mental health and dealing with the ups and downs that come from first love and boy-centric mysteries.
Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
The narrator, a 16-year-old boy named James, experiences from both anxiety and depression. He feels trapped in his life: living at home with his parents (nicknamed “The Brute” and “The Banshee”) and without his older sister, Jorie, who was kicked out of their home by his parents. To cope with the difficult things in his life, James talks to Dr. Bird, an imaginary pigeon, and quotes Walt Whitman, his favorite poet. This book discusses the realities of attempting to pay for therapy when your family doesn’t see its value, and how depression can affect you both mentally and physically. This novel has its humor, though, endearing you to both the plot and to James.
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
On the younger end of this spectrum, Aubrey, 11 years old, has just been abandoned by her mother after the tragic deaths of her sister and dad in a car accident. This children’s chapter book weaves letters Aubrey writes to her late sister's old imaginary friend and other adults in her life in with the plot. Aubrey is depressed and miserable after her mother leaves, but is taken in by her grandmother in Vermont. There, she starts to work through her feelings and comes to understand why her mother felt like leaving her was what she had to do. When her mother eventually surfaces, wanting to be part of Aubrey’s life again, what will Aubrey do?
Damage by A.M. Jenkins
The only book written in second person on this list (using “you” instead of “he/she/ze/they” or “I”), this novel, categorized at DCPL as a juvenile chapter book, follows Austin Reid, star of his high school’s football team. He’s attractive, successful and beloved at school. Depression creeps up on him in spite of that—football seems less fun over time, and Austin’s life is soon devoid of the passion it once had. Damage explores how opening up to those who also struggle can make healing easier.
Emily’s Blue Period written by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown
In this picture book a girl named Emily expresses her sad and mixed-up feelings through art after her parents’ divorce. Her dad no longer lives at home, and her life is in flux. Drawing on inspiration from Picasso’s famous blue period, where he used lots of blue pigments in his work, Emily paints and draws, feeling just as blue. This book explores divorce and sad feelings in a tender and understanding way.