I’ve written about mental illness before, but in light of World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share a few of my favourite YA reads that feature awesome characters who have mental illnesses. While there are a lot of fantastic books out there, I think some of the best narratives don’t focus on mental illness as a “problem” to be solved by the end of the book. In the list below, these narratives feature characters whose mental illnesses are only a facet of a much larger (and highly entertaining) narratives.
- The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, by Teresa Toten – Part love story, part hilarious super-hero themed adventure, this story is told from the perspective of Adam, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is cleverly written and filled with lots of funny and honest moments as Adam attempts to navigate a romantic relationship for the first time.
- Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart – At its heart, this is a story about friendship. Dunkin, who has bipolar disorder, has just moved to a new city. As the story unfolds, he meets Lily, a transgender girl. I loved that although part of Dunkin’s narrative deals with his struggle with bipolar disorder, the larger narrative focuses on surviving a new school and making friends.
- Highly Illogical Behaviour, by John Corey Whaley -Heartfelt and realistic, this narrative follows sixteen-year-old Solomon, who is agoraphobic and hasn’t left his parents’ house in three years. Although Lisa sets out to “fix” Solomon, as you might guess, things get more complicated. This is a fantastic book that features a character with a mental illness. The best part? It doesn’t end with a cure.
- Mosquitoland, by David Arnold – Mim Malone is determined to get back to her sick mother in Cleveland and she’ll do anything to reach her. On her road trip, Mim must face her own demons, including being medicated for her anxiety by her concerned father. While Mim’s mantra might be “Mim Malone is not okay,” her modern-day Odyssey is a page-turner.
- Finding Audrey, by Sophie Kinsella – If you like Kinsella’s chick lit books, this book has the same witty charm. When Audrey meets Linus, they form a connection that ends up helping both Audrey and her whole family. It’s a quick, funny read that is guaranteed to make you fall in love with Audrey too.