Young Adult (YA) novels are one way teenagers learn about life, relationships, sexuality/gender issues and mental health; here are five books not to miss:
Author Amy Reed regularly draws on her own experience with mental health challenges in her books. As reviewed by L.D. Lewis, Crazy tells the story of “an emotionally embattled artist, Izzy, whose teenage angst is discovered to be the early and intense throes of bipolar disorder.” The story is told through Izzy’s email correspondence with Connor, a young man she met over summer. “Both the portrayals of Connor and Izzy are important additions to the depiction of mental illness in YA,” said Lewis.
#2. (Don’t) Call Me Crazy
There’s no single definition of mental health or what it means to have challenges in this arena. Touted as a “conversation starter” this book, edited by Kelly Jensen, contains 22 writers, athletes, and artists contributing essays, comics, lists, and illustrations that explore their personal experiences with mental health challenges, what can help us understand others’ brains better and how we can talk about this issue.
#3. Fans of the Impossible Life
This is Kate Scelsa’s debut novel. In it she tackles misfit teenagers, depression and sexuality. The three characters, Sebby, Mira and Jeremy are interesting and authentic and the story is told in alternative perspectives between the three friends, with a humorous and true dialogue. Their stories illustrate just how difficult it can be to just get out of bed in the morning and it reminds us about the importance of true friends.
#4. Little & Lion
This award-winning book (2018 Stonewall Book Award) by author Brandy Colbert, follows Suzette as she returns home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England and to her stepbrother who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and who needs her emotional support. The author confronts misconceptions about mental health, bisexuality and the “complicated nature of loyalty.”
#5. Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over
This important non-fiction by Amy Bleuel is a collection of real-life stories from suicide-awareness organization Project Semicolon. In 2013, Project Semicolon began to spread a message of hope: “no one struggling with a mental illness is alone; you, too, can survive and live a life filled with joy and love. In support of the project and its message, thousands of people all over the world have gotten semicolon tattoos and shared photos of them, often alongside stories of hardship, growth, and rebirth.”
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