World Mental Health Day | YA Books Tackling Mental Health

Mental health is a subject close to my heart – I had a nervous breakdown when I was 14 and have struggled with depression and anxiety ever since. I nearly dropped out of uni, I’ve been on medication since I was 19 and I’m currently battled postnatal depression.

I lost my teenage years to mental illness and it’s something that I’ve struggled to come to terms with. It has a profound effect on you if you suffer in your adolescence. The social and emotional development that comes with going through high school just didn’t happen for me, and I had to try and find my way through it in a couple of years in my early 20s. It was awful.

That’s why I’m such a huge advocate of mental health representation in Young Adult books. Being able to see your own emotions and experiences is incredibly validating, and it can help you to recognise aspects of mental illness that you perhaps hadn’t picked up on. Reading about other peoples’ experiences can help you understand and empathise with the suffering of others.

Here are three of my favourite YA books that tackle mental health issues, and a selection of books from my TBR list that come highly recommended.

The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

There are few authors who do it as well as Laurie Halse Anderson. The Impossible Knife of Memory tackles parental PTSD and narrator Hayley’s trauma as she struggles with her past, caring for her veteran father and starting a new school.

I like the angle of having Hayley be the onlooker while a close family member suffers through their mental health. It’s something that affects a lot of young people and allows them to find a character going through the same struggle, as well as providing PTSD representation.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

I spent a lot of high school too anxious to speak to anyone, and it had a disastrous effect on my social and emotional wellbeing. Steffi’s experience of social anxiety really spoke to me, and A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a book I really wish I’d had as a teenager – I had no idea what selective mutism was, and it might have empowered me to look into ways of coping.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? – Holly Bourne

I’ve read a fair few books on anxiety and depression, but bipolar disorder is still a hugely stigmatised and misunderstood condition, particularly in young people.

Olive isn’t a likeable character, but mental illness – especially before you get help – can make you unlikeable, and a lot of people don’t realise that it’s a symptom. I think education is vital to prevent misconceptions and judgements about how people struggling with their mental health are “supposed” to behave, and hopefully to increase understanding and empathy.


Here’s what’s currently on my TBR in terms of YA mental health. Most of these I’ve been meaning to pick up for months (or years…) so hopefully as my major reading slump falls into the distance I’ll get to them. They all look INCREDIBLE. In terms of both cover and content.

What am I missing? Who’s got some great MH rep coming out next year? LET ME KNOW.

My Spoopy Halloween TBR

I’ve never been daft on Halloween. It seems to have rocketed in popularity since I was little – I don’t remember there ever being the swathes of decorations and costumes and events when I was little. You went ducking for apples in a leotard and some whiskers drawn on with eyeliner.

Nevertheless, it seems to be a Big Thing now, especially in book circles, so I thought I’d get involved. I’ve read a disappointing amount of horror for someone whose uncle is a literal horror author, so I’ve decided for the month of October to try and vibe with it and read only creepy horror things.

Sight Unseen – Sandra Ireland

My current read!

Sandra’s really good at creating atmosphere and weaving history into a story until the setting and figures from the past become just as important as the main characters. It’s a thriller rather than a straight up horror, but it’s got enough witchcraft and eerie atmosphere to chill you as we head into Halloween season.

Sefira and Other Betrayals – John Langan

I didn’t appreciate how cool it was having an uncle who wrote books until I was coming into my early teens, probably because he doesn’t write the kind of stories you’d take out of the library for your kids.

We got a copy of Sefira as a wedding present (my uncle signs and dates and doodles in the books he gives us, which is cool) but it was around that time I fell out of reading because I was pregnant and ill. Definitely going to break into it one night when my daughter has me awake at 4am…

Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

I’ve read Heart Shaped Box before, but OH BOY is it a cracker. One of two books that has actually properly chilled me before. I picked it up because it’s got the same title as a Nirvana song (yes, it really is that easy to get me to buy your book) and then basically inhaled it. There’s one scene in particular that actually scared me so much I felt sick, which doesn’t happen often when I’m reading.

It was a bit of a revelation when I discovered that Joe Hill is actually Stephen King’s son, which makes sense when you consider that the only other book to seriously freak me out is…

The Shining – Stephen King

If you’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s classic adaptation of The Shining but not read the book, I would thoroughly recommend you do so. It’s a completely different beast. Stephen King can be very hit and miss for me, but The Shining is brilliant, atmospheric and even though you know what’s coming (because it’s such a famous story) it still grips you.

Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror – ed. by Christopher Golden

Another gift from my uncle that I’ve only really dipped in and out of (he’s got a cracking story in it as well! but it’s wall to wall bangers – a short story anthology with the common theme of vampires. I can read one a day as the sun go down!

Also it’s got a cool as fuck title. “Vampiric Terror”? OKAY.

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Another one that isn’t technically a horror, but it’s a bloody good book anyway. It might not have literal ghosts in it but the atmosphere is so thick and ominous you could carve it like a pumpkin, and there’s a no small amount of haunting in a sense.

Also Mrs. Danvers gives me the fear. So it’s a scary book.


Those more versed in horror than I am – what else should I be reading? What’s likely to leave me a quivering mess? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Book Review | Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.


I confess immediately that I am shamefully ignorant when it comes to Middle Eastern history. I’d heard of things like the Islamic Revolution in passing, but I had no idea what it was, where it happened and what effects it had on the countries involved.

Subsequently, I went into Persepolis entirely blind. I’d heard a few Booktubers talking about it, so when I spotted it in my local comic book store I snapped it up. (The daughter of the owners also highly recommended it. Bonus!) I had no idea really what to expect – such was my ignorance.

What an education. The complex bits – the introduction to the culture and politics of the region, and the background leading up to the events – are presented through the lens of young Marjane, so they’re simplified without being patronising. As she grows up she shows her struggles with identity – during her education in Europe and her return to Iran – in an unflinchingly honest way, both in terms of the history and her own attitudes. (If you want to pull a selection of awkward faces, by the way, check out the two-star Goodreads reviews describing “the main character” like it’s not a memoir. Brutal.)

If I’ve discovered one thing it’s that a graphic novel is a perfect vehicle for learning. It allows you to present difficult and infomation-heavy topics in a way that’s easy to absorb without having to patronise or dumb it down. Persepolis is definitely for graphic novel and history nerds, but everyone should read it if they have a chance – it’s an insight into a country and culture that was certainly never included in the curriculum when I was in education.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Six For Sunday | Characters/Authors I’d Like To Go For A Coffee With

I like coffee. I like books. One day I’d like to be an author. This prompt speaks to me.

I have crippling social anxiety and I’m dreadful at small talk, but let’s pretend for the purposes of this exercise that it doesn’t make me sweat profusely.

Laurie Halse Anderson

If I could pick anyone’s brain, it’d be Laurie Halse Anderson. She writes the most incredible YA books and manages to deal with tough, relevant issues sensitively without shying away from them. Exactly the kind of thing I’d like to be able to.

George – The Famous Five

I always wondered how George grew up, after spending her childhood dressing and identifying as a boy and refusing to answer to the name Georgina. There are theories now that she was a very early example of a trans character in children’s literature, even though she’s simply described as a “tomboy” in the books. I read the books when I was very young and they were a big influence on me in terms of not being “girly” and conforming to gender stereotypes, and even then it broke my heart wondering what George would have done when she reached puberty and potentially found it more difficult to “pass”.

Kell – A Darker Shade of Magic

Oh he’d have absolutely no time for me whatsoever, but still.

Alison Croggon

Another author I’d love to hang out with, and talk about worldbuilding. Alison Croggon has created a rich, intricate setting and lore in the Pellinor series and I’d love to know how she manages it. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

Aled and Frances – Radio Silence

I really, really identify with Aled and Frances in different ways. I always say that Radio Silence is the book I wish I’d had when I was in high school – I like to think I’d have been friends with them both.

V.E. Schwab

Based on nothing other than Instagram, I can absolutely see myself hanging out with V.E. Schwab in some coffee shop with mahogany furniture and a log fire.


This is a great prompt, and I can’t wait to see who other people would take out for coffee!