Today, I thought I'd share the UKYA novels we have that feature mental illness. As regular readers will know, I'm really passionate about diverse books, and more recently, interectionality within diverse books, and books by authors from marginalised groups. Unfortunately, mental illness is the only marginalisation in a lot - though not all - of the UKYA featuring mental illness. Meaning, for the most part, the charcters are white, cishet, non-disabled (otherwise), and Christian/athiest (or religion is not mentioned at all). This is really, reall disappointing, but kind of a trend we have in UKYA - we have very little intersectionality in our books, and it's really not ok.
However, I have shown which of the following books do feature characters with intersectional identities, those that are written by authors from marginalised groups where known, and thoseare #OwnVoices where known. And where the description doesn't make it clear, I say what mental illness the main characters have.
Colour Me In by Lydia Ruffles
Nineteen-year-old actor Arlo likes nothing more than howling across the skyline with best friend Luke from the roof of their apartment.
But when something irreparable happens and familiar black weeds start to crawl inside him, Arlo flees to the other side of the world, taking only a sketchbook full of maps.
With its steaming soup and neon lights, this new place is both comforting and isolating.
There, Arlo meets fellow traveller Mizuki. Something about her feels more like home than he's felt in a while. But what is Mizuki searching for?
How far can you outrun yourself . . .
Before you lose your way back? From Goodreads.
Arlo has depression.
Author: Chronic migraines, synaesthesia.
The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles
An incandescent, soul-searching story about a broken young woman's search for a truth buried so deep it threatens to consume her, body and mind.
These are the things Lux knows:
She is an artist.
She is lucky.
She is broken.
These are the things she doesn't know:
What happened over the summer.
Why she ended up in hospital.
Why her memories are etched in red.
Desperate to uncover the truth, Lux's time is running out. If she cannot piece together the events of the summer and regain control of her fractured mind, she will be taken away from everything and everyone she holds dear.
If her dreams don't swallow her first. From Goodreads.
Lux has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Character: Chronic migraine, synaesthesia.
Author: Chronic migraine, synaesthesia. So #OwnVoices.
Are We All Just Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne
Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself? From Goodreads.
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love? From Goodreads.
Evie has OCD.
The Definition of Us by Sarah Harris
When Florence meets Jasper, Andrew and Wilf she can't imagine they'd have much in common - with at least five mental health conditions between them, they all have very different reasons for being referred to Manor Lane Therapy Centre. Wilf has ADHD and a tendency to punch doors, Andrew's ASD means he likes to run to a schedule as precise as a Japanese train, and Jasper would be far too perky if it wasn't for his moods at mealtimes.
It's only when Howard Green, the centre's psychotherapist goes missing that they start to share some common ground. They've told Howard things they've never told anyone before. They trusted him and were making progress. Starting again with someone else is an unbearable prospect. Together the four of them decide that they need answers and set off on a roadtrip, vowing to track him down.
As they cross the country in a 'borrowed' van, asking each other Ultimate Questions and facing a series of challenges along the way, they start to reveal their true selves - and Florence realises there's more to all of them than just a diagnosis . . .
Full of irreverent humour, witty dialogue and characters you can't help but fall in love with, this timely novel is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and Jennifer Niven. Put together through the descriptions on Goodreads and Little, Brown Book Group's website.
A review I've read says Florence has depression, Jasper has an eating disorder, and Andrew has anxiety. Not sure what mental illness Wilf has, but I think maybe anxiety, too. I don't know what the fifth mental illness is that the description is reffering to.
White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock
Peter Blankman is afraid of everything and must confront unimaginable terror when his mother is attacked.
Seventeen-year-old Peter Blankman is a maths prodigy. He also suffers from severe panic attacks. Afraid of everything, he finds solace in the orderly and logical world of mathematics and in the love of his family: his scientist mum and his tough twin sister Bel, as well as Ingrid, his only friend.
However, when his mother is found stabbed before an award ceremony and his sister is nowhere to be found, Pete is dragged into a world of espionage and violence where state and family secrets intertwine. Armed only with his extraordinary analytical skills, Peter may just discover that his biggest weakness is his greatest strength. From Goodreads.
Author: Bullimic and anxiety. #OwnVoices for binge eating and anxiety.
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.
But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves. From Goodreads.
Kiko has social anxiety.
Character: Biracial; half-Chinese, half-White American. Sexual assault and emotional abuse survivor.
Author: Biracial; half-Chinese, half-White American. Emotional abuse survivor. So #OwnVoices.
Clean by Juno Dawson
I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter ... it's liquid gold.
When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she's hit rock bottom.
She's wrong. Rock bottom is when she's forced into an exclusive rehab facility.
From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.
As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all ...
It's a dirty business getting clean... From Goodreads.
Countless by Karen Gregory
'Is there anything that's concerning you?’ Felicity says. ‘College, home, boyfriends?' Though she's more or less smiling at this last one.
I don't smile. Instead, I feel my face go hot. Silence stretches as wide as an ocean.
When I look up, Felicity has this expression on her face like she's just seen Elvis. Slowly, she leans forward and in a gentle voice I've never heard her use before she says, 'Have you done a pregnancy test?'
When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time …
Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. From Goodreads.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
Steffi doesn't talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can't hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn't a lightning strike, it's the rumbling roll of thunder.
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life - she's been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He's deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she's assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn't matter that Steffi doesn't talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she's falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.
From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout. From Goodreads.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable. From Goodreads.
Mikey has anxiety.
Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.
For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …
An important and uplifting debut from a British author, which tackles mental health issues such as agoraphobia and OCD. From Goodreads.
#OwnVoices for OCD and Agoraphobia.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Audrey can't leave the house. she can't even take off her dark glasses inside the house.
Then her brother's friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again - well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she'd thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable. From Goodreads.
Panther by David Owen
Life isn’t going terribly well for Derrick; he’s become severely overweight, his only friend has turned on him, he’s hopelessly in love with a girl way out of his league, and it’s all because of his sister. Her depression, and its grip on his family, is tearing his life apart. When rumours start to circulate that a panther is roaming wild in his south London suburb, Derrick resolves to try and capture it. Surely if he can find a way to tame this beast, he’ll be able to stop everything at home from spiraling towards disaster?
Panther is a bold and emotionally powerful novel that deals candidly with the effects of depression on those who suffer from it, and those who suffer alongside them. From Goodreads.
Derrick has an eating disorder: he binge eats.
Junk by Melvin Burgess
Two teens fall in love with each other and heroin. Tar has reasons for running away from home that run deep and sour, whereas Gemma, with her middle-class roots firmly on show, has a deep-rooted lust for adventure. Their first hit brings bliss, the next despair. From Goodreads.
Are there any that I've missed? Do please let me know, and I'll add them!
What do you think about the lack of intersectionality in UKYA novels? And the lack of diversity in UKYA overall? I think we're terribly behind when compared the the US. We nedd more intersectionality in UKYA overall, but definitely in UKYA featuring mental illness. Privileged white, cishet, non-disbaled, Christian/athiest people are not the only people who have mental illness.
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