Books dealing with mental illness hold a special place in my heart. I have a love/hate relationship with most of them, but no matter what I still gravitate to read more of them. So, I have compiled a list of all the books I have read, and liked, that have dealt with mental illness in some way shape or form. The list goes in no particular order, starting now.
- Looking For Alaska by John Green
The main character in this particular book doesn’t have anything wrong with him besides loving the idea of a girl more than the actual girl herself. It is the girl in question who has mental problems. It is an interesting look at how others view people with depression (which is what I personally think she has).
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same
- Where She Went by Gayle Forman
This is the sequel to If I Stay. It is told in Adam’s perspective after his girlfriend, Mia, has a terrible accident leaving her an orphan. He is in a very dark place with pills and alcohol and some major depression. Throughout this tale, lyrics and music play a big role as Adam goes on a big rollercoaster of emotion.
It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.
Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.
- Doctor Sleep by Stephan King
In the sequel of The Shining, little Danny is all grown up. With PTSD and an alcohol addiction to boot. Throughout this novel, Danny has to deal with that as he helps out a young girl with a little bit of shining of her own against her own supernatural enemy. It’s a fantastic read, one I enjoyed every minute of.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
This book was so important to me when I first read it years ago. A young girl commits suicide, but before that she makes tapes explaining why. And the book goes between those tapes and the Clay, the boy listening to them. It’s been a long time since I have read this book, but I plan to do a reread of it very soon.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
This is another one that I read years ago, and am in the need of rereading. Basically, a young girl gets sexually assaulted, and then she has to deal with the aftermath. It’s very emotional, and everyone should read it at least once.
Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles
One war. One boarding school. Two young boys. I remember this being a hard read, but a good one. I think most high schools make their students read this, but if yours didn’t, go do it.
An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war.
Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.
A bestseller for more than thirty years, A Separate Peace is John Knowles crowning achievement and an undisputed American classic.
- Vicious by V.E. Schwab
A sociopath and a psychopath cross paths. This was an interesting read for me. It took a while to get into, but by the end I was completely captivated.
A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.’
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath has major social anxiety, and has to deal with an absent mother and a father who is bipolar. This is a nice read. It isn’t so much a powerful, emotional one, but a relaxing, fun one.
A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I really loved this book when I first read it. It wasn’t the easiest to read, but all the same, I read it fast. Dealing with sexual assault, depression, and attempted suicide, the main character in this novel goes through a lot. And you will go through it with her.
Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.
- Tweak by Nic Sheff
This book is slightly different than the others on the list. It is a real story about the author. He was a drunk, an addict, there was talk of him being bipolar, and it is a story that everyone should read. There is also the book, Beautiful Boy, by Nic’s father. I have not read that one yet, but I will soon.
Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It’s a harrowing portrait — but not one without hope.
- The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
In this story both Goth Girl and Fan Boy have some serious issues. This was a hard read, only because it was so realistic. And realistic things aren’t the easiest thing to digest.
Fanboy has never had it good, but lately his sophomore year is turning out to be its own special hell. The bullies have made him their favorite target, his best (and only) friend seems headed for the dark side (sports and popularity), and his pregnant mother and the step-fascist are eagerly awaiting the birth of the alien life form known as Fanboy’s new little brother or sister.
Fanboy, though, has a secret: a graphic novel he’s been working on without telling anyone, a graphic novel that he is convinced will lead to publication, fame, and—most important of all—a way out of the crappy little town he lives in and all the people that make it hell for him.
When Fanboy meets Kyra, a.k.a. Goth Girl, he finds an outrageous, cynical girl who shares his love of comics as well as his hatred for jocks and bullies. Fanboy can’t resist someone who actually seems to understand him, and soon he finds himself willing to heed her advice—to ignore or crush anyone who stands in his way.
- Perfect by Natasha Friend
This last book is also slightly different as well. I haven’t read it, but I have been told it is good. It might be weird for this to be on a recommendation list even if I plan to read it as soon as I can. I still added this for one reason: I don’t have a book on eating disorders on this list. And that is bad. I can’t think of one book I have finished on eating disorders, but I plan to fix that soon. Hopefully, starting with this book.
Depicting with humor and insight the pressure to be outwardly perfect, this novel for ages 10-13 shows how one girl develops compassion for her own and others’ imperfections.
For 13-year-old Isabelle Lee, whose father has recently died, everything’s normal on the outside. Isabelle describes the scene at school with bemused accuracy–the self-important (but really not bad) English teacher, the boy that is constantly fixated on Ashley Barnum, the prettiest girl in class, and the dynamics of the lunchroom, where tables are turf in a all-eyes-open awareness of everybody’s relative social position.
But everything is not normal, really. Since the dealth of her father, Isabelle’s family has only functioned on the surface. Her mother, who used to take care of herself, now wears only lumpy, ill-fitting clothes, cries all night, and has taken every picture of her dead husband and put them under her bed. Isabelle tries to make light of this, but the underlying tension is expressed in overeating and then binging. As the novel opens, Isabelle’s little sister, April, has told their mother about Isabelle’s problem. Isabelle is enrolled in group therapy. Who should show up there, too, but Ashley Barnum, the prettiest, most together girl in class.
So this is the list I have. I hope if anybody reading picks them up, they like them as I have. In the future, once I have read more, there will definitely be a part two to this.