May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness and break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues. One powerful way to increase understanding is through literature, and young adult books have been particularly effective in conveying the complexities of mental health. This post explores some recent young adult books about mental health, from realistic portrayals of depression and anxiety to stories about living with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. These books offer important insights into mental health challenges while also providing hope, empathy, and a sense of connection for readers who may be struggling with their own mental health. Whether you're a young adult or an adult reader, these books are a must-read during Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond.
Pieces of Me by Kate McLaughlin
When eighteen-year-old Dylan wakes up, she’s in an apartment she doesn’t recognize. The other people there seem to know her, but she doesn't know them – not even the pretty, chiseled boy who tells her his name is Connor. A voice inside her head keeps saying that everything is okay, but Dylan can’t help but freak out. Especially when she borrows Connor’s phone to call home and realizes she’s been missing for three days.
Dylan has lost time before, but never like this.
Soon after, Dylan is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and must grapple not only with the many people currently crammed inside her head, but that a secret from her past so terrible she’s blocked it out has put them there. Her only distraction is a budding new relationship with Connor. But as she gets closer to finding out the truth, Dylan wonders: will it heal her or fracture her further?
The Quiet and the Loud by Helena Fox
George’s life is loud. On the water, though, with everything hushed above and below, she is steady, silent. Then her estranged dad says he needs to talk, and George’s past begins to wake up, looping around her ankles, trying to drag her under.
But there’s no time to sink. George’s best friend, Tess, is about to become, officially, a teen mom, her friend Laz is in despair about the climate crisis, her gramps would literally misplace his teeth if not for her, and her moms fill the house with fuss and chatter. Before long, heat and smoke join the noise as distant wildfires begin to burn.
George tries to stay steady. When her father tells her his news and the memories roar back to life, George turns to Calliope, the girl who has just cartwheeled into her world and shot it through with colors. And it’s here George would stay—quiet and safe—if she could. But then Tess has her baby, and the earth burns hotter, and the past just will not stay put.
The Immeasurable Depth of You by Maria Ingrande Mora
How do you face your fears when everything is terrifying?
Fifteen-year-old Brynn can’t stop thinking about death. Her intrusive thoughts and severe anxiety leave her feeling helpless—and hopeless. So after her mom interprets one of Brynn’s blog posts as a suicide note, she takes extreme measures, confiscating Brynn’s phone, blocking her Internet access, and banishing her to stay with her father who lives “off the grid” on a houseboat in the Florida mangroves. Isolated from her online friends—her only friends—Brynn resigns herself to a summer of mind-numbing boredom and loneliness… until Skylar appears.
Skylar is everything Brynn isn’t—sultry, athletic, and confident. Yet Brynn feels at home around this fearless girl who pushes her to try new things and makes her belly flutter with nerves that have nothing to do with anxiety. When Brynn discovers that Skylar is trapped in the bayou and can’t tell her why, she resolves to free her new crush from the dark waters, even if it means confronting all of her worst fears.
If I Can Give You That by Michael Gray Bulla
Seventeen-year-old Gael is used to keeping to himself. Though his best friend convinces him to attend a meeting of Plus, a support group for LGBTQIA+ teens, Gael doesn’t plan on sharing much. Where would he even start?
Between supporting his mother through her bouts of depression, dealing with his estranged father, and navigating senior year as a transgender boy at a conservative Tennessean high school, his life is a lot to unload on strangers.
But after meeting easygoing Declan, Gael is welcomed into a new circle of friends who make him want to open up. As Gael’s friendship with Declan develops into something more, he finds himself caught between his mother’s worsening mental health and his father’s attempts to reconnect.
After tragedy strikes, Gael must decide if he can risk letting the walls around his heart down and fully opening up to those who care for him.
We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride
Whimsy is back in the hospital for treatment of clinical depression. When she meets a boy named Faerry, she recognizes they both have magic in the marrow of their bones. And when Faerry and his family move to the same street, the two start to realize that their lifelines may have twined and untwined many times before.
They are both terrified of the forest at the end of Marsh Creek Lane.
The Forest whispers to Whimsy. The Forest might hold the answers to the part of Faerry he feels is missing. They discover the Forest holds monsters, fairy tales, and pain that they have both been running from for 11 years.
You, Me, and Our Heartstrings by Melissa See
Daisy and Noah have the same plan: use the holiday concert to land a Julliard audition. But when they're chosen to play a duet for the concert, they worry that their differences will sink their chances.
Noah, a cello prodigy from a long line of musicians, wants to stick to tradition. Daisy, a fiercely independent disabled violinist, is used to fighting for what she wants and likes to take risks. But the two surprise each other when they play. They fall perfectly in tune.
After their performance goes viral, the rest of the country falls for them just as surely as they're falling for each other. But viral fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. No one seems to care about their talent or their music at all. People have rewritten their love story into one where Daisy is an inspiration for overcoming her cerebral palsy and Noah is a saint for seeing past it.
Daisy is tired of her disability being the only thing people see about her, and all of the attention sends Noah’s anxiety disorder into high speed. They can see their dream coming closer than it’s ever been before. But is the cost suddenly too high?