Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, and it’s especially important for young adults who are navigating the challenges of adolescence and early adulthood.
Reading books that address mental health and illnesses can provide valuable insights, foster empathy, and offer a sense of community for those who may be struggling.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the best young adult books that tackle mental health topics with sensitivity and depth.
These books not only entertain but also educate and promote open conversations about the most untalked aspects of our mind.
Young Adult Books about Mental Health and Illness
“All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven
This novel explores themes of mental illness, love, and loss. It tells the story of Violet and Finch, two teenagers who meet on the ledge of a bell tower at school, each contemplating suicide.
Their journey together is a poignant exploration of mental health, grief, and the transformative power of love.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini
A humorous yet poignant look at depression and mental hospitals, this book narrates the story of Craig, a high-achieving teenager who struggles with the pressures of adolescence and eventually checks himself into a mental hospital.
The story provides a realistic and relatable portrayal of mental illness, offering hope and understanding.
“Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
This powerful novel deals with the aftermath of trauma. It follows the story of Melinda, a high school freshman who becomes nearly mute and withdraws from society after a traumatic summer incident.
As she struggles to find her voice, the book addresses themes of speaking out and the healing power of art and self-expression.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
Focusing on adolescence, trauma, and mental health, this coming-of-age novel is written in a series of letters by Charlie, an introverted and observant teenager.
It delves into the complexities of friendship, love, and coping with the past, while also exploring issues like sexuality and drug use.
“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell
This novel explores anxiety and fan culture through the story of Cath, a college freshman who is also a popular fan fiction writer.
As she navigates the challenges of college life and social anxiety, the book provides insight into the world of fan fiction and the impact of social media on young adults.
“Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green
A deep dive into the protagonist’s struggle with OCD, this novel follows Aza Holmes, a teenager grappling with the spiraling thoughts brought on by her mental illness.
Through her story, the book addresses themes of identity, friendship, and the challenge of living with a mental health disorder.
“Wintergirls” by Laurie Halse Anderson
Dealing with eating disorders and body image, this novel tells the story of Lia and Cassie, two best friends battling anorexia.
After Cassie’s death, Lia’s guilt and grief drive her deeper into her illness. The book provides a harrowing look at the realities of eating disorders and the impact on those who struggle with them.
“Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
Revolving around suicide and its impact, this novel is structured around a series of tapes left by Hannah Baker, a high school student who took her own life.
Through these tapes, she explains the thirteen reasons why she chose to end her life, unveiling a complex web of relationships and events that contributed to her decision.
“The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness
This novel discusses anxiety and the pressure of being a teenager through the lens of Mikey, a high school senior struggling to understand his place in a world where everyone else seems to be the hero of some dramatic story.
It’s a unique take on the coming-of-age story, focusing on those who are not the chosen ones but have to deal with their own challenges and mental health issues.
“Eliza and Her Monsters” by Francesca Zappia
This book covers anxiety and the life of an introverted artist, Eliza, who is the anonymous creator of a wildly popular webcomic.
Her struggle with social anxiety becomes more pronounced when her identity is revealed, and the story beautifully intertwines themes of online identity, creativity, and the challenges of anxiety and introversion.
“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green and David Levithan
This novel explores depression and LGBTQ+ themes through two characters, both named Will Grayson, whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.
It’s a poignant and often humorous look at the challenges of teenage life, including mental health issues, sexual identity, and the complexities of love and friendship.
“Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen
A memoir of the author’s time in a psychiatric hospital, this book offers a deeply personal and raw insight into the world of mental health treatment in the 1960s.
Kaysen’s story explores themes of identity, sanity, and the thin line between ‘normal’ and ‘crazy.’
“Impulse” by Ellen Hopkins
Written in verse, “Impulse” tells the story of three teens, Vanessa, Tony, and Conner, who find themselves in a psychiatric hospital after suicide attempts.
The novel is a deep exploration of the reasons behind their impulses, their struggles, and the journey towards healing.
“Challenger Deep” by Neal Shusterman
This novel deals with schizophrenia in a unique and insightful way, as it portrays the story of Caden Bosch, a brilliant high school student navigating the challenging waters of mental illness.
Shusterman draws on his own son’s experience with schizophrenia, making the novel a deeply personal and enlightening read.
“I Was Here” by Gayle Forman
This book explores the aftermath of a friend’s suicide. The protagonist, Cody, delves into the life her best friend Meg left behind, uncovering secrets and coming to terms with loss and guilt.
It’s a gripping and emotional story about understanding and coping with the effects of suicide.
“A Tragic Kind of Wonderful” by Eric Lindstrom
A story about bipolar disorder and friendship, this novel follows the life of Mel Hannigan, a teen girl who carefully manages her bipolar disorder in secret.
As her facade begins to crumble, Mel has to confront her illness and the challenges it brings, while navigating the complexities of her relationships and her identity.
“My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga
This novel focuses on depression and the desire to end one’s life. It tells the story of Aysel, a teenager fascinated by physics and plagued by depression, who connects with Roman, a boy who shares her wish to die.
Their pact to end their lives together leads them on an unexpected journey as they start to form a bond that might change their fate.
“When We Collided” by Emery Lord
This book explores bipolar disorder and grief through the characters of Vivi and Jonah. Vivi, vivacious and struggling with bipolar disorder, meets Jonah, who is dealing with the loss of his father.
Their relationship becomes a whirlwind of emotions, illustrating the highs and lows of mental illness and the healing power of connection.
“Made You Up” by Francesca Zappia
The novel follows a high school senior, Alex, who is dealing with schizophrenia. Alex struggles to separate her hallucinations from reality, especially as she starts at a new school.
The story is a compelling and empathetic portrayal of living with a mental illness and the search for truth and normalcy.
“Looking for Alaska” by John Green
This book deals with themes of loss and coping. It revolves around Miles, who enrolls in boarding school and falls for Alaska, a fascinating but emotionally troubled student.
The novel navigates through the labyrinth of adolescence, love, and the impact of tragic loss, prompting deep reflections on life and death.
“History Is All You Left Me” by Adam Silvera
The novel addresses OCD and the complexity of relationships and loss. Griffin, grieving the death of his first love, Theo, must confront his history with him and the reality of Theo’s new relationship.
The story intricately weaves themes of love, mental health, and the journey through grief.
“Paperweight” by Meg Haston
Centers around Stevie, a girl dealing with the loss of her brother and battling an eating disorder.
As she spends time in a treatment center, Stevie must confront her guilt, her disorder, and ultimately decide if she wants to live. The novel provides a raw and honest look at the realities of eating disorders.
“By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead” by Julie Anne Peters
This novel is about Daelyn, a girl who has been bullied relentlessly and is now contemplating suicide.
Through an online forum for “completers,” Daelyn prepares for her final days but encounters a boy who challenges her isolated existence. The story is a poignant exploration of the impacts of bullying and the struggle with suicidal thoughts.
“Go Ask Alice” by Anonymous
A diary-style book that delves into addiction and mental health, it chronicles the life of a teenage girl who falls into the trap of drug addiction.
The diary entries provide a raw and authentic glimpse into the mind of a young person experiencing the tumultuous journey of substance abuse and its effects on mental health.
“Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” by Matthew Quick
This novel tells the story of Leonard Peacock, a boy who plans to commit a murder-suicide on his 18th birthday.
As Leonard says goodbye to the few people he cares about, the narrative unfolds to reveal the reasons behind his drastic plan.
The book offers a deep and emotional exploration of loneliness, abuse, and the desperate need for connection and understanding.
“Girl Against the Universe” by Paula Stokes
This novel is about Maguire, a girl dealing with PTSD and survivor’s guilt after surviving a series of tragedies that killed her family and left others injured.
Believing she is a jinx, Maguire isolates herself but begins to change her outlook with the help of therapy and a budding relationship with a tennis player named Jordy.
The story is a heartening portrayal of overcoming trauma and finding strength in oneself and in new connections.
“The Shock of the Fall” by Nathan Filer
A story about grief, mental illness, and family, this novel is narrated by Matthew Homes, a young man grappling with schizophrenia and the death of his brother.
The narrative, fragmented and compelling, takes the reader through Matthew’s life as he confronts his illness and the impact of his brother’s death.
It’s a poignant and realistic portrayal of mental illness and the enduring effects of loss.
“Darius the Great Is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram
This book deals with depression and cultural identity, following Darius Kellner, a teenager who feels out of place in his own life.
The story gains depth as Darius visits Iran, his mother’s homeland, and forms a strong bond with his grandparents and a local boy, Sohrab. It explores themes of friendship, family, and the journey to find one’s place in the world.
“Mosquitoland” by David Arnold
“Mosquitoland” is a quirky tale of Mim Malone’s journey across America to find her mother.
The novel touches on mental health themes as Mim, facing the complexities of her parents’ divorce and new family dynamics, deals with the implications of her own mental health.
Her road trip is both a physical and emotional journey towards understanding and acceptance.
“Words on Bathroom Walls” by Julia Walton
This novel presents a teen’s experience with schizophrenia. Adam is a high school student who starts a clinical drug trial to manage his schizophrenia symptoms.
He begins at a new school, hoping to keep his condition a secret, and meets Maya, who changes his perspective on life and love. The book provides an insightful and compassionate look at living with a mental illness.
“The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B” by Teresa Toten
The story deals with OCD and young love, centering on Adam Spencer Ross, who falls for Robyn Plummer in his OCD support group.
As Adam tries to save himself and Robyn from their compulsions, the novel delves into the realities of OCD, the complexities of young love, and the power of support and understanding in coping with mental illness.
“The Memory of Light” by Francisco X. Stork
Exploring depression and recovery, this novel begins after Vicky Cruz’s suicide attempt. Waking up in the hospital, she meets other young patients with their own struggles.
As they form a supportive community, Vicky starts to understand her depression and the path to recovery.
The book offers a realistic and hopeful perspective on mental illness, emphasizing the importance of support, resilience, and the will to survive.