The last time I did a Top 5 Saturday was last year, thanks to my on-and-off hiatus. But hopefully, no more long or unplanned hiatus in the future. Anyway, this meme is hosted by Amanda over at Devouring Books, and she comes up with amazing topics that we can use every Saturday. This week’s topic is “Mental Illness” and I decided to share Five YA books with Mental Illness Representations that are Not Easy to Forget.
YA Contemporary isn’t really a favorite genre of mine, but I can say that I’ve read a lot of YA books dealing with Mental Illness. And I like, if not loved, most of them. But in this list, you’ll only see books that either holds a special place in my heart or they have twists that are not easy to forget. I’m excited to talk about them so let’s get on with the list…
But please proceed with caution. I won’t give away the EXACT spoilers but I will certainly hint them, and there will be minor ones.
Unforgettable Mental Illness Reps in YA Contemporary
1.) All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Let’s start with the most extreme in this list. All the Bright Places is about Finch and Violet. Finch is fascinated by death (I won’t say his exact condition) and Violet is dealing with the death of her sister. Violet and Finch go to the same school and kinda know each other — Violet is actually one of the populars. But they officially meet at the beginning of the book in a an unusual situation. Then their friendship begun.
WHY IS IT UNFORGETTABLE?
All the Bright places killed me. I know I’ve been saying that every time I feature this book but it’s the truth and I always feel the need to mention it. And it didn’t kill me in a good way, but in the most depressing way. This book is a story of dealing with mental illness, living with it and how to get through it — if there’s even a way. But this is also a story of friendship and yes, romance. But romance aside, Finch and Violet’s friendship is so good. The reader really can see the development of their relationship and that’s why the ending is so heart-ripping. I finished reading this at past 3 am and I couldn’t stop crying till the sun is out. My own mental illness is at its worst that time and someone should’ve told me not to read it. But even though I said this book killed me in the worst way, I still gave it a perfect 5-star rating because it’s undeniabley a very well-written book and one of the best YA books that exist.
I highly recommend this book but please be sure that you’re in the right head space before you dive in to Finch and Violet’s story. This is such an unforgettable and important book because it deals with something that’s terrifying but realistic. Sorry it will be a spoiler if I say more but if you want to know, you can DM me anywhere on my social media accounts.
2.) It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
This one’s definitely not a perfect book. For example, I felt underwhelmed after reading it because I think the ending is lacking in some way. But I think that’s also the charm of this book which has something to do with the Mental Health aspect. This book is about Craig Gilner who realizes that he’s suicidal and checked himself in a psychiatric hospital.
WHY IS IT UNFORGETTABLE?
Craig shows a very realistic portrayal of depression. Craig, unlike most YA protagonists, doesn’t have some childhood trauma that resulted him depression. It begs the question: Is he just making it up? Like there’s no reason to be depressed. Sure, his anxiety is on its highest level and it’s expected considering his current situation in life. But is that enough reason to kill himself? Craig knows this and struggles with it. It’s very realistic because it shows something that I used to once deal with, and I think most depressed people do. It’s like, everything’s fine — my family is great, my social life is great, my writing is great (at least in my opinion), and suddenly, I would feel like there’s a huge dark cloud hanging above me making me feel doom and gloom and I want everything to just end. I think you get the gist of it.
3.) Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
This pink gem has so much to offer, it is branded as a feminist love letter to Geek culture and IT IS. I personally think the book did a great job at handling all the reps it included. This is about three friends (Charlie, Taylor and Jamie) who go to SupaCon which is basically a Comic Con. Charlie is a bisexual Chinese-Australian vlogger and Taylor is fat, autistic and has anxiety and has a secret crush on Jamie who is a latinx. Obviously, Taylor is why this book is included in this list.
WHY IS IT UNFORGETTABLE
First, let me share this long quote by Taylor regarding anxiety.
“Let’s say someone is terrified of heights, and in order to get out of the house every day she has to walk across a tightrope from fifty stories up. Everyone would say, Oh, she’s so brave. She faces heights every day. That’s what we do. We walk a tightrope every day. Getting out the door is a tightrope. Going grocery shopping is a tightrope. Socializing is a tightrope. Things that most people consider to be normal, daily parts of life are the very things we fear and struggle with the most, and yet here we are, moving forward anyway. That’s not weak. We are the brave ones.”— Jen Wilde (Queens of Geek)
I have four words: VERY WELL SAID, TAYLOR. I really think people should stop treating anxiety as you know, just panic attacks. For people who have anxiety, everyday is a struggle and everyday is facing a fear. That’s all I’m going to say about this.
4.) Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Eliza is a creator of a very famous webtoon called “Monstrous Sea.” Online, she is also very famous as “Lady Constellation” but in real life, she’s an introvert and has a severe social anxiety. No one would ever think that she’s the creator of the said webtoon, but then she met Wallace, one of the biggest fans of Monstrous Sea and Eliza’s status quo begun to change.
WHY IS IT UNFORGETTABLE?
Eliza create monsters for her webtoon, but in reality she also faces her own monsters and she often loses. Just look at this quote…
“I’m so tired. I’m tired of anxiety that twists my stomach so hard I can’t move the rest of my body. Tired of constant vigilance. Tired of wanting to do something about myself, but always taking easy way out.”–Francesca Zappia (Eliza and her Monsters)
Just reading this makes my stomach clenches. Eliza is really relatable. OK, I guess after Queens of Geek and THIS, you kinda guessed now that I also deal with anxiety. That’s why this book is unforgettable for me because first, I fell in love with Eliza, second, I love the way the story took her out of her comfort zone and do the things she also wants to do but couldn’t because she’s too scared. The book deals with Eliza’s condition in a loving, understanding way. She wasn’t forced just for the sake of the plot. The romance wasn’t also used to heal Eliza, it didn’t even try. What I really love about this book is it made Eliza her own hero, supported by the love of the people close to her.
5.) Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
I know, there are other great YA contemporary authors who write great books dealing with mental illness and here I am, featuring another of Zappia’s books. But this list isn’t complete without Made it Up. It’s about Alex who is schizophrenic and everyday, she fights a battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. When she was a kid (7, I think) she released a tank of lobsters from the grocery store and helped by a boy she called “Blue Eyes”. But she was told that the boy is just part of her delusions, that she made him up. Well, we know what will happen in the future of Alex’ universe.
WHY IS IT UNFORGETTABLE?
I love Alex and her daily struggle and how she eventually dealt with everything. I also like the parts where “Blue Eyes” is concerned but that’s not exactly why this book is in this list. It’s because of THE TWIST. The twist in this book is something I didn’t see coming. Not at all and after it was revealed, I was asking myself why I didn’t? I should’ve somehow guessed or at least suspicious about it. But wow, I never thought. The twist will blow your mind. I’m sure about it.
I apologize for making this such a long post. The length was unplanned but I really enjoyed sharing about the books I featured.
How about you? Any books about Mental health you can’t forget? Are you familiar with these books? Have you read them? Or planning to? Let’s chat.