Hey Bookies! We’re back with another post and today we’re going to be talking about some of our favourite portrayals of mental illness in books that we’ve read. In honour of Canada’s Bell’s Let’s Talk Day on January 31st, we thought this would be a good time to post some of these books that deal with sensitive situations and more heavy content (although they are not all like that). We hope you guys can find some of these characters relatable and give some of these books a try!
Recommendations by Bia:
Book One: This Song Will Save Your Life – Leila Sales
This book is a young adult contemporary novel that follows the hardest point of a person’s life: adolescence. The main character deals with bullying, depression and has suicidal tendencies. While the subject matter of the book is quite heavy, the story is written with such fluidity and flow (kind of like a song) which makes the content easier to read without taking away any of its importance. I would recommend this to teenage readers who are going through depression brought on by the need to “fit in” and the overall devastating feeling of not belonging. If that is something that relates to you, then I think you will like this book.
Book Two: The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Yellow Wallpaper is one of those books that takes things to an extremely real but uncomfortable place. It takes place in the twentieth century where a woman receives the rest cure after giving birth. Essentially, this means she isn’t allowed to leave her bed until the doctor deems she is fit to carry on with her regular life. After a while, we learn that there isn’t any known reason as to why she needs to stay in this condition when she seems perfectly healthy. Locked in this room with barred windows and a ghastly swirling- designed yellow wallpaper, the woman begins to see images in the intricate lines of the wall. Over time, she becomes entranced with the “woman in the wallpaper” and it takes her to the brink of insanity (although some may say she went past the brink). I recommend this to young adults who enjoy a psychological illness that is almost haunting and atmospherical.
Book Three: The Rescue – Nicholas Sparks
Ah… Nicholas Sparks. The man who fills our hearts and then breaks them. It’s a trend, let me tell you. The Rescue is, of course, a love story, however, it handles mental illness in a different way. The main character’s child, Kyle is a four-year-old boy who has a learning disability as well as a speech impediment. We learn a little bit about what Kyle goes through as a child living with this condition but what is really beautiful is how the mother, Denise learns to raise her son. The love she has for him is wonderful to read and I think this is a book that will touch everyone’s heart. I recommend this to parents who are learning to raise a young child with an illness or disability or to anyone who has a family like Kyle.
Book Four: Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
This is a book when you read you will never forget, and not because the writing is revolutionary or because the characters are outstanding (although both are true), but because Woolf decided to write this entire book without punctuation. That’s right, not a single comma, period or break. Not only that, but she also switches perspectives between main characters and DOESN’T TELL YOU… I swear my OCD could not handle this book. However, she does a great job writing a character going through PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) since this takes place shortly after the war. I would recommend this book to anyone with a sharp mind who is able to differentiate between the characters and to anyone who doesn’t want to throw the book across the room due to the lack of punctuation thing.
Book Five: Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
This is a fantasy duology and probably doesn’t scream mental illness but it is so much more than just an epic fantasy tale. Each of the main characters deals with their own demons and Kaz Brekker is particular tries to carry on with major PTSD. His circumstances force him to keep his hands gloved and have as little human interaction as possible. Another main character is Wylan who suffers from illiteracy, and not because he isn’t smart because he is a genius. I highly recommend this series to anyone, whether you are looking for a “mental illness awareness” type of book or not. Its a definite 5/5 stars for me.
Recommendations by Cass:
Book One: Every Last Word – Tamara Ireland Stone
“I didn’t go there looking for you, I went looking for me. But now, here you are, and somehow, in finding you, I think I’ve found myself.”
Mental Health Issues Discussed: Purely Obsessional OCD, anxiety and depression.
+: This novel does not dress down or dress up, OCD. This was a book that changed my perspective, this book made me really fall in love with poetry and the power it has to restore a sense of power and acceptance. This book reflects true emotions, and it will most likely become your favourite book. Following the life of a teen who in everyone’s eyes is popular, happy, normal – breaks down what truly comes with having a mental health disorder.
– : Triggers: Anxiety, depression, explicit poetry.
Book Two: I’ll Meet You There – Heather Demetrios
“It gave me hope: if you could make a beautiful piece of art from discarded newspapers and old matchbooks, then it meant that everything had potential. And maybe people were like collages—no matter how broken or useless we felt, we were an essential part of the whole. We mattered.”
Mental Health Issues Discussed: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression and alcoholism.
+: This novel is a powerful story of love, loss and acceptance. Following two teens in a misfit town, a town of typical expectations. When Skylar and Josh meet, their individual isolation seems to disappear and a friendship soon becomes more. With the power of art, Skylar speaks her mind in a town her mother despises.
– : Triggers: emotional and physical abuse, alcoholism, depression and PTSD.
Book Three: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Mental Health Issues Discussed: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety and depression.
+: This novel shows the growth and changes Charlie our protagonist, goes through after a very traumatizing moment in his life. Following his journey through high school, being the wallflower of the group, falling in love, and loving yourself.
– : Triggers: Sexual assault, sexual abuse, drug abuse, physical abuse and homophobic shaming.
Book Four: We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
“They know that tragedy is not glamorous. They know it doesn’t play out in life as it does on a stage or between the pages of a book. It is neither a punishment meted out nor a lesson conferred. Its horrors are not attributable to one single person. Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing.”
Mental Health Issues Discussed: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and depression.
+: A story that is woven in itself full of secrets, tales, magic, destruction, lies and family. We Were Liars occurs in the lapse of one summer, a summer that changes the lives of both the characters and the readers. I would rather leave this story to interruption, as many have felt better to just dive into this story without a solid explanation.
– : Triggers: Hallucinations, PTSD, and self-harm imagery.
Book Five: Looking for Alaska – John Green
“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die.
Mental Health Issues Discussed: Depression and Suicide.
+: A John Green classic, this coming of age story involves a boy on a summer journey to find himself. Through camp and an unlikely friendship between two odd teens, Pudge and Alaska form a romantic friendship. Between days of finding himself and nights shared with the girl of his dreams, Pudge grows and searches for more than just school and summer vacation. With Alaska’s wild imagination and Pudge’s sweet disposition, this story will truly make you fall in love with being a teenager again.
– : Triggers: Depression, suicide, and possibly social anxiety.
Unsurprisingly, a book we both recommend is:
Book Six: Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl definitely doesn’t scream mental health issues but taking a closer look into the story shows that this book is not just about a young girl going through university who loves to write fanfiction; but also about a completely socially anxious girl with separation issues from her father who frequents the hospital due to his condition. I love this story and it is great to see how Cath gets through all of these challenges and how she learns to live with her issues especially since I think all readers can see themselves in Cath. I would recommend this to any fangirl/fanboy or to anyone starting/currently in university/college.
“I don’t trust anybody. Not anybody. And the more that I care about someone, the more sure I am they’re going to get tired of me and take off.”
Mental Health Issues Discussed: Social anxiety.
+: Fangirl follows Cath and her college experience as an introvert with social anxiety. There is no immediate clearness of Cath’s inability to react to college life, but it is shown in the behaviour she has towards the many college students she interacts with. With humour, teenage angst, Harry Potter-esque fanfiction, and a quirky love interest – this will soon be your next favourite contemporary!
And that is all for this week! Thank you so much for the visit and don’t forget to join in on Bell’s Let’s Talk Day on January 31st! And if you live outside of Canada and can’t join in, remind family and friends that mental illnesses aren’t something to be ashamed of and it’s okay. The best thing they can do is talk to someone about it because you’re not alone. Happy reading bookies, and until next week.
B & C ❤