Conversations are taking place about mental health. Mental health and guns, mental health and mass shootings, mental health and healthcare, and the list goes on. So it’s perfect that there are so many well-timed YA books recently with characters dealing with mental health and whether they are based in reality or have magical elements, I’m feeling warm from the beauty of the writing and the creativity that the authors have come at the topics that they must be discussed!
- My absolute favorite recently was Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, not only for the sensitivity and range of the characters and topic but to read the afterword in which Shusterman describes his own son’s mental health. It only serves to endear readers as books like Stuck in Neutral did with Terry Trueman.
- Next was the short, dark prose of Patrick Downes in Fell of Dark, who is a newcomer as far as I can gather. With intersecting stories of two youth struggling to combat their illnesses and end up meeting, consequences could be explosive. Though as with many books, I enjoyed how well put-together it was complete with fitting quotes to lead off certain chapters.
- The Nest by Kenneth Oppel was reminiscent of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, but with it’s own spin that was just as much hallucinogenic and psychosomatic as truly about mental illness, but I’d still put it in this category. With the main character struggling for attention while his parents deal with the forewarned and untimely death of his little sister, he talks with and becomes a pawn of the queen bee in a bee’s nest growing a changeling baby/new sister to replace the ‘broken’ one that is taking up his parents’ attention.
- And last, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, whose stunning first line will be as remembered as the actual story of a boy plotting to kill his former best friend and himself after he connects with some of his favorite people– like his senior neighbor, a girl he has a crush on, a violinist he listens to during lunch, and a favorite teacher. The issues are real and the fact that Leonard is looking for people to pull him out of his own thoughts is heartbreaking and vivid.
All I know is that more needs to be published and it definitely needs to be discussed in book groups, individually, and anywhere else and with whoever.