YA Novels Focusing on Mental Health

This is the next post in my series focusing on mental health in support of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Today, I am sharing some YA Novels that have a focus on mental health in one form or another. I have noticed that more and more YA is focusing on this topic in recent years and that is a big step forward and one that I hope will continue.

Last Lesson by James Goodhand

Last year, Ollie Morcombe was a star pupil, popular and a gifted musician.

Then, after the accident, everything changed. Now he’s an outcast, a prime target of the school bullies who have made his life a living hell.

Today – the last day of the school year – he’s brought those bullies a gift. A homemade pipe bomb.

What has driven a model student to plan an unspeakable revenge? And with the clock ticking down to home time, what can anybody do to stop him?

Grief Angels by David Owen

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15-year-old Owen Marlow is experiencing a great, disorienting loss after his father suddenly passed away and his mother moved them to a new town. None of his old friends knew how to confront his grief, so he’s given up on trying to make new ones. There is one guy at school who might prove to be different if he gives him a chance but lately, Owen has been overwhelmed by his sadness. He’s started to have strange, powerful hallucinations of skeletal birds circling above him. Owen tells himself that these visions are just his brain’s way of trying to cope – until one night, the birds descend and take him to an otherworldly forest. There, he is asked to go on a dangerous journey that promises to bring him the understanding he so desperately seeks – if he can survive it.

Grief Angels is an urgent and heartfelt look at the power of nostalgia and the many different forms of grief. It’s about young men learning how to share their stories, and teens discovering who they are, and who they might one day become.

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jwando

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An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.

When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?

The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton

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Neena’s always been a good girl – great grades, parent-approved friends and absolutely no boyfriends. But ever since her brother Akash left her, she’s been slowly falling apart – and uncovering a new version of herself who is freer, but altogether more dangerous.

As her wild behaviour spirals more and more out of control, Neena’s grip on her sanity begins to weaken too. And when her parents announce not one but two life-changing bombshells, she finally reaches breaking point.

But as Neena is about to discover, when your life falls apart, only love can piece you back together.

All The Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman

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16-year-old Mehreen Miah’s anxiety and depression, or ‘Chaos’, as she calls it, has taken over her life, to the point where she can’t bear it any more. So she joins MementoMori, a website that matches people with partners and allocates them a date and method of death, ‘the pact’. Mehreen is paired with Cara Saunders and Olivia Castleton, two strangers dealing with their own serious issues.

As they secretly meet over the coming days, Mehreen develops a strong bond with Cara and Olivia, the only people who seem to understand what she’s going through. But ironically, the thing that brought them together to commit suicide has also created a mutually supportive friendship that makes them realise that, with the right help, life is worth living. It’s not long before all three want out of the pact. But in a terrifying twist of fate, the website won’t let them stop, and an increasingly sinister game begins, with MementoMori playing the girls off against each other.

A pact is a pact, after all.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

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Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

The Year I Didn’t Eat by Samuel Pollen

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Max is 14, and anorexic. His eating disorder has pretty much taken over his whole life.

His brother, Robin, gives him a geocache for Christmas. Max hides it in the forest near his house. Before long, he gets a note from ‘E’. But who is E? Is it Evie, the new girl at school, playing a trick on him?

In the midst of a family crisis, Max’s eating disorder quickly deteriorates. Anorexia pulls him further and further away from his family and friends, until he feels totally alone. Can anyone help him find a way out?

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

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Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

The Astonishing Colour Of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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When Leigh’s mother dies by suicide she leaves only a scribbled note – I want you to remember.

Leigh doesn’t understand its meaning and wishes she could turn to her best friend, Axel – if only she hadn’t kissed him and changed everything between them.

Guided by a mysterious red bird, Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time. There, Leigh retreats into art and memories, where colours collide, the rules of reality are broken and the ghosts of the past refuse to rest …

But Leigh is determined to unlock her family’s secrets.

To remember.

Fall Out by C.G. Moore

I am Cal Adams – what does that mean?

Sixteen years old.
Black hair.

Blue eyes.
Short.
Gay.

For Cal, coming out is explosive, but that is nothing compared to the fallout from his family, friends and foes. When events in Cal’s life reach critical, he is shaken to his core. Can he rely on his loved ones to help avoid meltdown?

4 thoughts on “YA Novels Focusing on Mental Health

  1. What a great post! Important and timely. I’ve only read Turtles All the Way Down, but I enjoyed it. Hopefully mental health is a trend that continues in publishing, especially YA. ❤

    Like

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