More Straightforward YA Books About Mental Illness

Since books are such a great way to help those affected with mental illness to feel like they are not alone, here are some more examples of young adult novels that deal with issues of mental health especially well. To view our previous post on this topic, click here.


Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Reading level: ages 14 and up
Issues discussed: depression, eating disorders, self-harm

Laurie Halse Anderson is known for writing powerfully moving books for young adults, and Wintergirls is one of them. Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, the book follows Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery. A fan says, “It’s such a raw, unglamorized, and honest look into anorexia… When I was at my worst point in my eating disorder, this book really saved my life.”

All the Bright Places

Author: Jennifer Niven
Reading level: ages 14 and up
Issues discussed: depression, grief, suicidal thoughts

Theodore is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might die. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet lives for the future when she can escape her hometown and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. See what happens when they form an unlikely friendship and learn how to help each other. A fan says, “It is a story that deals with depression, bereavement, and relationships. It was so beautiful. Honestly, the ending completely brought me to tears, but it is definitely something I would read again.”


Author: Rainbow Rowell
Reading level: ages 13 and up
Issues discussed: anxiety disorders, parental divorce/separation

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 kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Now they’re older, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. At college, she’s on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. 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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? A fan says, “Every shy, geeky, anxious (but still awesome) girl will recognize herself in Cath. Read this book!”

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky
Reading level: ages 14 and up
Issues discussed: abuse, anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, psychiatric hospitalization, sexual orientation, social anxiety, substance abuse, suicide

Read the cult-favorite coming of age story that takes a sometimes heartbreaking, often hysterical, and always honest look at high school in all its glory. This novel follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. A fan says, “It was the first book that put into words things I knew I was feeling, but couldn’t describe to other people…At times the main character is just as confused about what’s going on as you might feel, and it’s incredibly comforting to know that other people struggle like this as well.” 

All reading levels provided by Scholastic.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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