More than sappy love stories or superficial plots, Young Adult novels have an uncanny ability to touch on difficult topics and relate to youths on a deeper level. For those who are battling with mental health or for the ones who have loved ones and close friends who are facing personal struggles, here are six young adult reads that will not only serve to help readers understand, but are also changing the conversation about mental health, one page at a time.
Once a brilliant high school student, Caden is slowly losing his grip on reality – unable to focus on anything and believing that a kid at school wants to kill him. In his gradual descent into schizophrenia, Caden thinks he is on a ship bound for Challenger Deep, the deepest place on Earth. While receiving treatment at Seaview Memorial Hospital, he begins to come out from his illness. But tragedy strikes when his roommate attempts suicide, causing Caden to
Why it’s important: An unflinchingly honest portrayal of those dealing with schizophrenia, Challenger Deep draws from Neal Shusterman’s experience with the illness through his son’s personal battle. Illustrations penned by his son are peppered throughout the book, allowing readers to gain a deeper understanding of schizophrenia.
16-year-old Aysel is obsessed with planning her own death. After all, she has nothing to live for: her father’s guilty of murder, her mother can’t even look at her without wincing, and she’s alienated by her schoolmates because of her dad. Unsure if she can go through with suicide alone, she turns to Suicide Partners where she meets Roman, a teenage boy haunted by his own family tragedy. As they begin to fill each other’s broken lives, Aysel starts to reconsider their suicide pact – but can she save Roman when he’s so determined to die?
Why it’s important: The very definition of never judging a book by its cover, this novel demonstrates how someone could still be depressed despite a smiling facade. And perhaps the most important message Jasmine Warga strives to drive home? That there’s always a way to escape the arduous tunnel of sadness.
With an abusive stepfather and an obsessive-compulsive mother, Grace wants nothing more than to get out of her house. When she falls in love with the charismatic Gavin, she believes she has found a new home with him. That is until he turns controlling and possessive, demanding that she give up her friends and threatening suicide if they ever break up. Caught between a rock and a very hard place, Grace will have to figure out a way to escape a ‘prison’ she never thought she’d get stuck in.
Why it’s important: It’s easy to judge someone for staying in an abusive relationship, but as this book deftly illustrates, red flags are never easy to notice when they’re wrapped under the guise of toxic manipulation.
Having suffered from epilepsy her entire life, Emilie prefers being alone – she’s home-schooled, spends her spare time reading and her therapy dog is her best friend. Forced by her mum to attend classes at the local high school, she gradually starts to get out of her comfort zone and learns to make friends. But Emilie has a problem: she hasn’t told anyone in school about
Why it’s important: Although primarily dealing with the effects of epilepsy, this coming-of-age tale also delves into how physical health issues can affect your mental state. At the end of it all, it shows readers that having an ‘invisible’ disability shouldn’t hinder them from doing what they want to.
Struggling with agoraphobia – a anxiety disorder that causes her to shun the outside world – Norah hasn’t stepped out of her house since experiencing a severe anxiety attack in school four years ago. She gets by just fine within the safe confines of her home, but her solitude is upended when she notices the new boy-next-door, Luke. Instead of defining Norah by her medical condition, he sees her as brave, smart and funny. But as they grow closer, Norah realises Luke deserves someone better – and it shouldn’t be her.
Why it’s important: For someone dealing with mental health issues, even the seemingly easiest of tasks can seem like a mountain for them to conquer. Written in a refreshing first-person narrative, Louise Gornall paints a realistic image of a teenager struggling to face her own demons.
Charlotte may only be 17, but she’s gone through more than what most people have in their lifetime – her father drowned himself, her abusive mother kicked her out of her home and her best friend’s lying in hospital brain-dead. She then finds an unhealthy way to deal: she cuts, with each new scar washing away the pain until she feels nothing. Despite spending time in treatment, she soon finds herself spiraling down the rabbit hole once again.
Why it’s important: With self-harm one of mental health’s prevalent issues, this evocative story serves as a wake-up call for today’s generation. It details how young lives can become so derailed that they turn to “writing their pain on their bodies”, and the effort needed for those suffering to pick themselves back up.
Featured image: Anthony Tran on Unsplash
This article was adapted from the October 2017 issue of Teenage
We’re always on the lookout for good reads, so share your favourite books with us in the comment section!