Mental Illness in YA

We can all reach the consensus that representation in fiction is important. So let’s talk about mental health in young adult books, particularly in contemporary fiction.

Mental health is subjective- not everyone experiences depression or anxiety, to name a couple, the exact same way. Therefore one cannot brush away an author’s unique- and sometimes personal- representation of the illnesses. More often than not did the author put in an unfathomable amount of time to research and make sure the details are as accurate as possible (P.S. Always look out for an author’s note at the end of the book!).There are novels that depicted anxiety and depression in a manner where I didn’t necessarily relate to. On the other hand, there are books that resonated within me, striking a crucial cord. Just because I failed to catch my reflection in a certain novel does not mean that the author’s work is invalid!

Readers tend to criticize authors yet again when they realize a book’s focus will be a mental disorder, dismissing it as an author’s attempt to use a serious issue to gain profit.  Hearing those reviews make me sad, if I’m being honest. Writing is one of the purest forms of expression, and most likely the author will project at least a part of them into their work. To dismiss their books as “fishing” is rude and quite disrespectful.

All in all: Respect authors’ representations and depictions of mental health. Instead of criticizing with what one is unfamiliar with, see it from the character’s- or writer’s- perspective. And most of all: Learn from the book. Take something from it.


  1. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
  2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  3. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Pierce
  4. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  5. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
  6. When We Collided by Emery Lord
  7. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
  8. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Until next time!


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