Mental Health in Young Adult Fiction

Mental health is an important issue, and it is equally important that is it discussed. All teens need to be able to relate to characters in YA fiction and what better way to de-stigmatise mental health than being open and honest about it. Here is a short list of wonderful young adult novels that feature characters, either main or supporting, with mental health conditions. Click on the covers for more information.

That Night – Amy Giles – HarperTeen – Published 23 October 2018

Everything changed that night. Families. The way people looked at and treated you. You. A year ago Jess lost her brother in a shooting that shattered her world. Now her mother hardly gets out of bed and Jess needs to find a job to pay the bills. Lucas took up boxing after his brother sacrificed himself to save Lucas. But the boxing sometimes can’t control his panic attacks that seem to be increasing in frequency or the consuming guilt. Lucas and Jess are now tied together by tragedy, but when they start working together they find that shared memories might make for a wonderful friendship and even romance.

A Heart In A Body In the World – Deb Caletti – Simon Pulse – Published 18 September 2018 

After everything that happened, everything that has been taken from her, Annabelle isn’t sure what to do. What can she do? So she runs. One night just takes off and starts running. She doesn’t have a plan, doesn’t expect her younger brother to create a route for her from Washington State to Washington DC. Doesn’t expect her mother to agree. Doesn’t expect her Grandpa Ed to travel with her in his RV as her support team. She also never expected to become an unwitting activist with a message to share. All Annabelle knows to do is to put one foot in front of the other – because after you’ve lost everything, what else can you do.

When Elephants Fly – Nancy Richardson Fischer – Harlequin Teen – Published September 4 2018

Lily is working off a tight plan to control the likelihood of her developing schizophrenia. The genetic odds are not in her favour but by living carefully she hopes to avoid following the same journey her mother took. But, when on assignment for her journalism internship, she witnesses an elephant reject her calf and Lily can’t help but see the parallels between their stories. Lily must decide if it is worth risking everything she has worked so hard to control to try and save the life of the elephant she is quickly coming to love.

The Happiness Quest – Richard Yaxley – Omnibus Books – Published 1 August 2018

Tillie’s sad. She’s not sure why, doesn’t really have a reason and anyone’s attempts to help – from yoga, sleeping tablets and mindfulness to ‘its time to move on and shake it off’ – aren’t really helping. Until Tillie and her mum find the Happiness Clinic where Tillie is encouraged to start a quest to find out what happiness is. As she asks her friends and family what happiness means to them, she is surprised by their responses and how, maybe, it’s starting to help her discover what happiness means to her.

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis – Harlequin Teen – Published 1 May 2018

Tiffany Sly is on a plane to meet her father for the first time. A father she only just learnt about. Still reeling from the death of her mother, a new father is the least of Tiffany’s troubles. Because there is another guy who claims to be her father – and who wants a court-ordered DNA test to prove it. Tiffany has just seven days to meet her ‘father’, find a place in his family, and decide if staying is what she wants.

The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 20 March 2018

When Leigh’s mother dies by suicide, Leigh’s world is thrown into chaos. One thing of which she is sure: her mother has turned into a beautiful, red bird. And that bird wants her to travel to Taiwan. Meeting her grandparents for the first time, exploring the places her mother once visited, and trying to uncover the long-buried truths of her family, Leigh slowly starts to face her mother’s death and the events leading up to it.

Exchange of Heart – Darren Groth – Penguin Australia – Published 31 July 2017

After the sudden death of his sister, Munro Maddux is desperate to do something to shake the numbness and remove the voice in his head. So he grabs at the opportunity to complete a student exchange program to Australia. Here, he hopes he can find the peace he is searching for. But a volunteering program at his new school has him working at Fair Go, an independent-living residency for young adults with disabilities. Instead of this sparking more trauma and flashbacks, like he expects, being around the residents finally quiets the voice in his head.

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland – G.P Putnam’s – Published 5 September 2017

Esther Solar’s family is cursed. Cursed to die of their greatest fear. It’s why her father hasn’t left the basement in six years, why her brother is constantly surrounded by multiple sources of light, and why she herself has decided to never find her greatest fear. Instead, Esther has created a list of her worst nightmares and has worked hard to avoid each and every one of them. But then an old classmate (and crush) reappears in her life, pickpockets her belongings, and discovers her list. Jonah decides that Esther must face her fears and that he will help.

Eliza and Her Monsters – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 30 May 2017

Eliza is the creator of the online webcomic Monstrous Sea. Online she is in control, popular, and clever. Outside of the online world she is unpopular, shy, and counts the minutes until she can return to her drawing. Then, she meets a new student to the school. A boy who seems as shy as she is. A boy who is a huge fan of Monstrous Sea. A boy with whom she can finally be honest face-to-face as well as online – just not about her identity as the creator of Monstrous Sea.

Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner – Andersen – Published 6 April 2017

The day Carver Briggs sent a simple text message irrevocably changed everything. Now his three best friends are dead after a fatal car crash – a crash that may or may not have been caused by Carver’s text message. With a pending criminal investigation and guilt heavy enough to level him, Carver begins to form a new connection with Eli’s girlfriend as they both cope with their grief and he accepts Blake’s grandmother’s request to spend one final day celebrating Blake’s life.

Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen – Anderson – Published 2 March 2017

Petula knows death is lurking around every corner. She is a pessimist and she knows her vigilance will keep her alive longer. She wasn’t always like this. She wishes she had been, because then her baby sister might still be alive. She carries the weight of this tragedy, trying to keep her family from fracturing further. She has been assigned to the school’s art therapy, where a miss-matched group of teens are meant to express their fears and troubles through juvenile art projects. But Jacob, a new addition to the group, shakes them up, gives them a boost of creativity, and might even bring them together.

 A Tragic Kind of Wonderful – Eric Lindstrom – Poppy – Published 7 February 2017

Mel Hannigan has everything under control. No one outside her family and doctors know about her having bipolar disorder, she balances her meds, keeps track of her cycling and segments her life so her friends will never find out. But when old friends question her over how their friendship ended, a new relationship sparks and her moods start cycling faster, Mel may have to confront her past.

By Your Side – Kasie West – HarperTeen – Published 31 January 2017

Autumn has plans to spend the long weekend with her friends at their cabin up the mountains. She might even work up the courage to tell Jeff she likes him. But as they are about to leave Autumn runs back into the library for something and ends up being locked in. But her friends will realise she’s not with them and be back soon, right? On the verge of a panic attack, Autumn discovers she isn’t the only one locked in the library. Dax, school loner, is also in the library. But maybe not by accident. In the days they are locked in the library together and after their release, Autumn will have to decide if Jeff is the guy for her or if the connection she has with Dax is worth fighting for.

The Memory Book – Lara Avery – Poppy – Published 5 July 2016

Sammie has been diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C, a long and complicated word that means Sammie will slowly lose her memories. In an attempt to hold onto herself she creates a memory book to record all the important things her future self will need to know to continue her life and move on to college.

How It Feels To FlyHow It Feels To Fly – Kathryn Holmes – HarperTeen – Published 14 June 2016

A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.

Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles.

Cure for the Common UniverseCure for the Common Universe – Christian McKay Heidicker – Simon & Schuster – Published 14 June 2016

Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab . . . ten minutes after he met a girl. 

In rehab, he can’t blast his way through galaxies to reach her. Instead, he has just four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he’ll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date. If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother’s absence, and maybe admit that it’s more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

100 Days of Cake100 Days of Cake – Shari Goldhagen – Atheneum – Published 17 May 2016

There are only three things that can get seventeen-year-old Molly Byrne out of bed these days: her job at FishTopia, the promise of endless episodes of Golden Girls, and some delicious lo mien. You see, for the past two years, Molly’s been struggling with something more than your usual teenage angst. Her shrink, Dr. Brooks isn’t helping much, and neither is her mom who is convinced that baking the perfect cake will cure Molly of her depression—as if cake can magically make her rejoin the swim team, get along with her promiscuous sister, or care about the SATs. 

Girl Against the UniverseGirl Against the Universe – Paula Stokes – HarperTeen – Published 17 May 2016

Maguire thinks she is cursed. Maguire’s grief over the family she has lost and the rituals she uses to keep the people around her safe dominate her life. The book starts with Maguire in her first therapy session and a large portion of the book focuses on her setting tasks to overcome the belief that she is cursed and the reason so many bad things happen around her. It’s after each therapy session that she meets the guy waiting to go next. He forges a connection with her even when Maguire constantly rebuffs him. But she can’t deny being drawn to Jordy, who is balancing his own set of troubles but always has time for Maguire. 

My Kind of CrazyMy Kind of Crazy – Robin Reul – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 5 April 2016

Both Peyton and Hank have troubled home lives. Hank’s brother and mother were killed in a car crash, leaving Hank with his alcoholic father and his father’s girlfriend, who works as a stripper. As the book is narrated by Hank, the reader is only privy to what Hank sees of Peyton’s life, but this includes a mother who never seems to be around, her mother’s abusive, live-in boyfriend, and her own tendency to light things on fire. Hank finds Peyton’s pyromaniac behaviours both intriguing and scary, and Peyton is drawn to Hank when she witnesses Hank accidentally setting her neighbour’s front yard on fire. Not one of Hank’s smartest moments, but one that will certainly alter his final year of high school. 

9781481415163Essential Maps for the Lost – Deb Caletti – Simon Pulse – Published 5 April 2016

Mads is up against a ticking clock. She has this one last summer before she must return home to her (slightly unstable) mother who needs her (and loves her), the (in-danger-of-crumbling) real-estate business she will share with her mother, and her endless future of house-showings and signed deals. She must pass her real-estate licensing course, forget about the college applications she never sent, and cope with the despair she feels over the looming deadline to her life. When Mads bumps into the body of Anna Youngwolf Floyd while swimming one morning, Mads’ path is irrevocably altered. Her obsession with Anna, who she was and why she came to be in the lake, brings her into the orbit of Anna’s son Billy. They connect through a series of unlikely yet not-coincidental meetings, but their story is not to be a smooth journey. 

TruestTruest – Jackie Lea Sommers – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 1 September 2015 

Silas Hart has seriously shaken up Westlin Beck’s small-town life. Brand new to town, Silas is different from the guys in Green Lake. He’s curious, poetic, philosophical, maddening– and really, really cute. But Silas has a sister– and she has a secret. And West has a boyfriend. And life in Green Lake is about to change forever.

night Owls

Night Owls – Jenn Bennett – Simon and Schuster – Published 13 August 2015

Meeting Jack on the Owl—San Francisco’s night bus—turns Beatrix’s world upside down. Jack is charming, wildly attractive…and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists.

But Jack is hiding a piece of himself. On midnight rides and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who this enigmatic boy really is. 

Made You Up Made You Up – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 19 May 2015

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.