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Top YA Mental Health Novels (and 3 That Are Overrated)

Contemporary

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson-- Trauma, possible PTSD

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson-- Eating disorders


Laurie Halse Anderson offers powerful prose that tactfully covers tough issues. She was an inspiration for my novel, Starvation, and manages to create compelling stories full of tension, heartbreak, and hope.


It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini -- Suicide


Perhaps more impressive than this being one of my favorite mental health books is that Ned wrote and published this as a teenager. Captivating characters, realistic and inspiring mental health representation, and great writing make this a wonderful book.


Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (my blog review)-- OCD


See my review for more of my thoughts but overall lyrical writing and great mental health representation.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, one of my favorite novels and book-to-movie adaptations-- Depression and Grief


The writing and themes are powerful. Meanwhile, the characters are well-rounded and loveable. This is one of the only books I have re-read, and the only one I've read more than twice.


Memoir

Obsessed: A Memoir of My Life with OCD by Allison Britz (my blog review)-- OCD


See my review for more thoughts but this book reads like YA fiction. The writing comes alive and really shows feelings of OCD and anxiety, especially those outside the prototypical cleaning/organizing type.


Magical Realism

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland (my blog review)-- Phobias, anxiety


I normally don't like magical realism, but for some reason I really liked this book. Quirky and tense and immersive with a cool representation of fear and phobias.


Overrated:

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green-- OCD

Looking for Alaska by John Green-- Suicide


I'm not sure how John Green has managed to write some of my favorite and some of my not-favorite books. The problems I had with these two were different. TATWD did not have a character I particularly cared about so the plot wasn't intriguing and I didn't resonate with the imagery around her OCD. Looking for Alaska was worse in that it was problematic. The protagonist feels a tie to mystery girl Alaska, just because he likes her, and feels she owes him answers. Typical early-career-Green there is lots of teen boy angst and unrequited love and entitlement because of said (unrequited) feelings.


13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher-- Suicide


If you haven't heard the controversy around this book (and the subsequent Netflix adaptation) this is a problematic story. In many ways suicide is glorified as the girl gains notoriety and people feel sorry for her after her death. It also blames characters for this suicide. While its important to be nice and understanding and acknowledge our roles in other people's lives, its counterproductive to blame every person who has wronged someone suffering from a mental illness.


More than that, this is the only book I've read twice because I *forgot* I read it. Maybe my subconscious was trying to help me out. Maybe it was forgettable before it became infamous.

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