Oftentimes when you think of the ‘young adult’ section in any given bookstore, you picture written to death love triangles of teenagers who probably have some sort of mystical power, with parents that are clueless about everything. While these types of stories can be fun to read, they can often be difficult to relate to. That is why I decided to write about five books that I personally have read, that can provide perspective on how you see the world or even how you perceive yourself. These five books all portray mental illness in a realistic way, and have helped me to develop my sense of perspective. In the recommendations below, I will write the descriptions in the same way I would if I were to recommend a book to a friend; free of spoilers, but descriptive enough to show you how wonderful the book is.
1. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
In this book we have the main character, Craig. He seems like an average kid, just with his little quirks. He studies hard, hangs out with his friends, and does all the stuff you’d expect a kid his age to do. Only thing is, Craig started putting so much pressure on himself to succeed in life that he stops sleeping, he can barely eat at all and he almost kills himself. The greater portion of this book is spent trying to understand his mental illness, either in the setting of the mental hospital or inside Craig’s own mind as he thinks back on his life as he faces down his anxiety and depression, which can often go hand in hand.
2. Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass
In this book we follow the lives of two girls Sloane and Maggie; however, at night, when one girl goes to sleep, the other girl wakes up and lives her life. Both girls know everything about each other except one thing. Which one is real…? In this book I found myself getting lost in the pages and stories as it all unfolded, desperately trying to find out who was the real girl of this story. Was it Sloane, the straight-A student who comes from a loving, caring home? Or Maggie, the independent and fabulous rising star living in New York City. You won’t know until you reach the final page in this intense search for identity within the minds of these two girls; or is it one girl?
3. Grief Girl by Erin Vincent (A True Story)
In Grief Girl we find ourselves following the life of author Erin Vincent as her life was turned upside down on October 23, 1983; the day her parents were in a fatal car accident, killing first her mother, and then her father, leaving Erin and her sister to raise their baby brother, and each other, on their own. In this story Erin deals with the loss of her parents, and her childhood, as grief seems to take over her life, until the day she begins to claw her way out. This book is a must-read for anybody looking to connect with someone in the wake of the loss of somebody close to them, especially if they are having trouble relating to those around them.
4. Purge by Sarah Littman
Janie Ryman is a teenage girl with bulimia. In this book we follow her life in recovery as a member of the Barfers in Golden Slopes, the group of mental health patients recovering from bulimia, who find themselves in almost daily conflict with the Starvers, the group of anorexic mental health patients in the same facility. Janie doesn’t know why she purges; in fact, she hates throwing up. As we follow her through these days in the mental health facility she must stay in, she makes friends, discoveries about herself and has to relive painful memories from her past as she tries to get better so she can go home.
5. The Program by Suzanne Young
The Program follows the life of young adult Sloane in a world where suicide is an international epidemic. Sloane has friends, a boyfriend, and everything going for her, despite the ever present surveillance at home and school, along with the growing weight of depression settling over them. James, Sloane’s boyfriend, promises to keep them both safe and out of The Program, the only proven course of treatment for the epidemic, also known for returning those who receive it as blank slates, free of depression but also devoid of all their memories. Can Sloane and James really stay safe together? Find out in the first book of the three part saga.
Do you have any other book recommendations that realistically portray mental illness? Comment below and be sure to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!
Featured image sources: thefleamarcat.com, raggedyreader.
Shelby, also known as Shelly, is a photojournalism major at St. John's University and dreams of becoming a traveling journalist after college. In her free time, Shelly enjoys working on costumes for the Chappell Players, reading, taking photos and making future travel plans to places all around the world.