Book List: Mental Health in Young Adult Fiction

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.

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. 

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