My Favorite Books About Mental Illness

7:10 PM


Something I've wanted to discuss for a while...


If you've been following me for any period of time you know that mental illness is a topic that's closet to my heart, and one I take pretty personally. There aren't enough YA books (or books in general) out there that deal with mental illness in a raw, real, hopeful way, though, which is something I want to change! But instead of complaining about it, today I want to take a moment to recognize and flail over some of the books I've read that do handle mental illness in a way I loved. 

(Do note that (a some people won't agree that the books I love dealt with it in a respectful way. That's okay, because we all see things differently. (b I tried to pick books about a variety of different mental illnesses and not just anxiety or depression, too.) 

On the off-chance you were looking for recommendations from me...here you have it. 


No talk about books about mental illness would be complete without Neal Shusterman's Challenger Deep. This is one of my favorite authors. This is one of my favorite stories. It's drawn from up-close personal experience and it's full of emotion and heart. It's realistic. It doesn't pull punches. It gets in your head and makes you think. The writing is flawless. It's never explicitly stated that the main character deals with schizophrenia specifically, but whatever the mental illness is, it's achingly real. Seriously. Read it.


I don't know why I waited so long to read this one. WHY DID I WAIT THIS LONG TO READ THIS ONE. It's a horrifyingly up-close-and-personal look at what it's like to live with depression and, more importantly, what it's like to recover and have hope. If you're looking to understand what it's like to feel this way, you need to read this one. It gave me all the feels and wow, the writing is just amazing. 


Always one of my favorite books and one of the first contemporaries I ever liked. While the main character doesn't really struggle with a particular mental illness, her father deals with PTSD, and it's very much about living with someone who struggles with that and trying to understand them. If you didn't have enough feels in your life before and you want a contemporary that isn't John Green-level pretentious...go to this one. (Also if you want to ship a ship madly because my babiessss)


Oh my gosh, you guys. This is one of the first books I've found that (a talks about OCD and (b presents OCD in a way that really makes sense and gets inside your head. This one is fascinatingly creepy. Seriously. SO CREEPY. *shudders* You can't look away, and you're presented with the total frustration of living with OCD and not knowing how to deal. I loved it for the mental illness, and the writing, and the creepy horror-ish storyline, and the equally creepy illustrations, and the humid atmosphere. Loved ittttt. 


My own social anxiety has never been as bad as the main character's, admittedly, and I'm much more of an extrovert, but I found myself relating with her far more than I liked. This book is light and fluffy and distressing all at once. The sass is real. Audrey is more than likable. She struggles through things and genuinely tries to become better, and she gets there. Her boyfriend/love interest SUPPORTS HER AND ALSO PUSHES HER TO OVERCOME HER MENTAL ILLNESS. It's about living with social anxiety and, more importantly, learning how to not let mental illness beat you and going a little out of your comfort zone in the process. (Also did I mention it made me laugh?) It's adorable and you need it in your life. 


Yes yes I KNOW I talk about Matt Fraction's Hawkeye comics way too often. And they are technically comics, not books. But whatever. I swear Fraction's Hawkeye deals with depression, and it's dealt with incredibly well. The color scheme, the dialogue, the character development...this isn't a superhero comic. This is a comic about a hero who doesn't know how to be a hero and, more importantly, an ordinary guy trying to be a hero. It's a painfully accurate description of depression/mental illness, the struggle to overcome it, what it's like to buckle under it and push people away, fighting it and becoming more, etc. (It also has the benefit of unflinchingly dealing with Clint's deafness so disability points, too.) Seriously, this one is important and even if you don't normally like superheroes or comics it deserves a read. *nodnod*


I've read lots more books that deal with mental illness, of course, and you can find them all here. We're getting more and more books that deal with these topics and deal with them honestly, and that's important, but I very much believe we have to keep writing them. We have to keep being honest and open and vulnerable about what it's like to struggle. We have to present them with a hopeful undertone. These books are helping to do that, in my opinion. 

What are your favorite books about dealing with mental illness? Hit me up with allll the recommendations. 

24 comments

  1. I think we need all the mental illness books. Mental illness is a topic I am becoming more and more passionate about lately because of personal struggles so seeing mental illness portrayed correctly in novels is really, really refreshing.

    Also, I completely agree with you on the whole "Clint having some kind of depression" in those comics. I noticed that too when reading it, moreso the second time around, and I really love that because it isn't in your face, it's just there, portrayed normally and realistically.

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    1. *hugs Clint* I really need more books like the Hawkeye comics, because they deal with it so bluntly and realistically and it's great.

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  2. I stil have to read The Impossible Knife of Memory to be honest. But some books I LOVE that address mental illness are All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. (as a person who has suffered through what both Finch and Violet do in that story in regards to Mental Health it REALLY has a special place in my heart). Another amazing book is Glass Girl by Laura Anderson Kurk. Fabulous, that.

    But I totally feel that Mental Illness is something that needs to be addressed more and (especially) accurately. And sometimes that might mean that things don't turn out happy in the end. Thats just the reality of it...and thats kinda what I'm hoping to achieve with my one novel that deals with depression, suicide, self harm and then Depression personified (its basically a monster in this characters head that she can ALWAYS see and controls her) to better understand depression itself but yeah. For me since I have and do struggle with mental health issues myself its important to have people understand (especially to help support those who need it) mental health issues a little better and not see it as something evil or made up even...

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    1. Yes yes yes! It does help people understand, and it helps people *with* mental illness feel understood and hopeful. It's so important.

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  3. Also another amazing book is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness...

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  4. Oh wow, some of these books really intrigue me. And my summer TBR was already full enough. I'll certainly read some of these. I love books that ask bigger questions and deal with uncomfortable topics.

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  5. I've been meaning to read The Bell Jar for awhile now, and The Nest and Challenger Deep look pretty interesting. I like how you are passionate about pushing the realities of mental illness out into the world through books. Thank you for the recommendations!

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    1. It's such an important thing to me, and I'm glad I have the opportunity to get people to read books that help them understand it.

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  6. Cool post! I haven't read any of these, but I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for them. :)

    I read a book recently called Remember To Forget by Ashley Royer, and I thought it handled depression pretty well. The MC struggled a lot with his recovery process--emphasis on process--and even though it was such an emotional roller coaster, it was written in such a way that I could really understand how he felt and why he reacted the way he did.


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

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    1. I'd definitely recommend all of them. Obviously. :P

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  7. Challenger Deep and The Bell Jar were both amazing reads :)

    I'd agree with needing more YA books that deal with mental illness realistically, and I'm always on the look out for new ones.

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    1. I haven't found a ton, which is sad, and I'm always on the look for more as well!

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  8. I want to start reading more books like these ones, books that deal with real problems.

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    1. There aren't enough of them out there, which is why I think it's crucial to really hold up the ones that do and make sure that more are being written.

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  9. THANK YOU! *runs to add to TBR list*
    It can be hard to weed out the really good books from the okay books.

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    1. Yes, and so many mental illness books just...aren't that great. Sigh.

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  10. I haven't read these yet, but I really want to. Thank you! I do have trouble finding books that portray mental illness realistically and hopefully.

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    1. All of these do, in my opinion, and are worth a read!

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  11. I've been looking for good contemporaries to try out (I'm a fantasy/sci-fi reader usually), so I'm putting The Impossible Knife of Memory on my to-try list. Thanks for these recommendations. ^_^

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  12. Challenger Deep was so good. I totally abandoned an afternoon of homework at school because it just trapped me in. I loved how good it was... And how easy to understand, if that makes sense? Like, I just got what he was talking about and it was worth it.

    The Bell Jar was actually the first book I read this summer and I enjoyed it, too! It reminded me of Catcher in the Rye, actually, but I actually preferred TBJ because of how it dealt with female sexuality and reflected some elements of Sylvia Plath's life! It was so, so good. :)

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  13. Once again you have made me very excited about all of the books on this list, and I have added them to my reading list. I'll get to reading them even if it kills me. XD
    To be honest, I don't think I've read that many books that dealt with mental illness. This is a problem.

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hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.