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.

Book Spotlight | Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning

Fame never comes for free, and Molly’s about to find out what it costs.

Guitar Girl

Guitar Girl is one of my all time favourite YA books. An underrated classic.

Molly is a seventeen year old who, along with her friends Jane and Tara wants nothing more than to be noticed for something. Anything. Even if you’re as anxiety-ridden a teen as I was, that’s relatable. So they start a band, pick up a couple of rude and aloof boys on the way, and boom. Fame, success and Molly is suddenly, and increasingly reluctantly in the shoes of her grrrl rock icon, Ruby X. I was fourteen when this book came out and I’m pretty sure I was given a copy not long after it was released. Everyone knew my aesthetic, even then.

If you like YA and you haven’t read this book, I would thoroughly recommend it. Molly is badass and vulnerable in equal measure and her narrative is spiky and relatable and warm. It’s the dream of learning three chords on the guitar and changing the world, and the nightmare of losing control of everything you stand for. Plus there are mysterious terribly-behaved boys, the dangerous side of fame and excess, and a song about Hello Kitty. Every box ticked.

On that note, if you want a cool girl band singing songs about relatable shit, may I recommend “Hey Siri, Open Tinder” by Childbirth. You’re welcome.

Book Spotlight | The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd

Do you ever read a book that you just know you’d have LOVED in high school? The Sun Is Also A Star is one of them. The journey of two teenagers over the course of one day, brought together by fate and rippling their way through New York City, it’s one of my. favourite reads so far this year

Normally the “instalove” trope is one of the things that makes me want to peel off my own face in frustration, but TSIAAS made it work, through science and poetry. It was the epitome of the heady, intense love of teenage years, when the world shrinks to the point of two people. It should have been tacky, but it wasn’t. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

There were a couple of scenes that I didn’t really enjoy, mainly because they seemed unrealistic to me and kind of pulled me out of it, but the rest of it was pretty spot on. Full of hope and joy and the real tugging sadness of growing up. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Shelve it under “Books I’d Give My Kids To Read”.

Plus Natasha listens to Nirvana and Soundgarden. MY GAL.

Rating: ****

Six for Sunday: Favourite Books People Never Seem To Know About.

MY DUDES. My time has come.

Six for Sunday is a weekly book meme hosted by Steph at Alittlebutalot. There are so many books that I never see getting any love, so strap in, I’m about to take you on a trip through six of them.

The Entire Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

I found these books in a charity shop and have been heavily obsessed ever since. I love all of the characters, I love the plot, I love the setting, I love how heavily the arts influence the world and the lives of the people who live there and it’s just GLORIOUS.

Guitar Girl – Sarra Manning

Guitar Girl

This was one of my first, if not THE first YA book I ever owned, and I love it. My dream as a fourteen year old was to be in a band, despite having only the bare minimum of musical talent, so I lived vicariously through other mediums. Molly, the lead protagonist (and singer) of Guitar Girl writes songs about Hello Kitty and working a dead-end job and is pretty much a straight up BAMF. All the characters are so flawed and precious and it’ll break your heart and make you want to form a three-chord band. AND SO YOU SHOULD.

The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Laurie Halse Anderson is my hero. Speak is a book I bang the drum for at every opportunity, but The Impossible Knife of Memory is a brilliant book. It’s the story of Hayley and her war veteran father who suffers from PTSD and traumatic flashbacks, and the struggle as they move back to their home town after a nomadic life. LHA’s books are always so authentic, and her characters so acerbic and vulnerable and Hayley is no different.

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows – Nora Raleigh Baskin

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows

Nora Raleigh Baskin is also a QUEEN and one of the staples of my early YA reading. WEGEMK is a book about a young girl who has grown up with her father and older brother and is desperate for a stepmother so she has someone to teach her the things that all the other girls learn from their mothers. It’s a gorgeous wee book about friendship and growing up as a girl and finding out who you are. I loved it when I was eleven and I love it now.

Dogger – Shirley Hughes

dogger

This is a book that very few people seem to remember. I loved Dogger when I was really young, although it BROKE MY HEART because I was an overly sensitive child. Thank god it has a happy ending.

Based on the name people seem to assume that I’m making this book up but I’m not. Promise.

If Only They Could Talk – James Herriot

if only they could talk

I basically swallowed these whole as a child. I’m pretty sure everyone will have heard of James Herriot, but I’m not sure how many people have read his books. They’re incredibly sweet, a glorious trip through the Yorkshire countryside, and they’re so hysterically clever and witty that I challenge you read this without at least cracking a smile.

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I’m now in the mood to read all of these again. Except maybe Dogger. Probably not going to pull Dogger out on the train.

What books haven’t I heard of that I should have? Please open my eyes.

Book Spotlight | The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

A soc has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. 

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is widely accepted as the first ever “proper” Young Adult book. It was published at a time when books for young adults were, as author S.E. Hinton says, “Mary Jane wants to go to the prom with the football hero and ends up with the boy next door and has a good time anyway.”. Or horse books.

It’s the story of a gang of “greasers”, who have a long-running rivalry with the “Socials” or “Socs” – who’re essentially the jocks in this scenario. Think Grease, but with fewer cars and lots of drama and bloody fighting instead of pink ladies and singing. Hinton was sixteen years old when she wrote it. Respect to her. When I was sixteen I could barely get out of bed and she wrote a friggin’ classic.

The Outsiders has been banned in a number of schools because it portrays gang violence, underage smoking and drinking and a bunch of other “sensitive stuff”. Ironically, Hinton points out in the edition of the book that I have that “every teenager feels that adults have no idea what’s going on”. GEE.

Banning books is dumb. Books like this can open up discussions and give young people an avenue to feel like they have a voice, instead of feeling adrift. Hinton was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, articulating the gritty, grubby, very real issues she was seeing in her school and neighbourhood. More than a few of these are still relevant today.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

Rating: *****

Book Spotlight | Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

tree

I think USYA gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes. There’s a bit of a vibe that UKYA is a gritty, honest, dirt-under-the-fingernails look at what it’s like to be a teenager, while USYA is more like…902010 or something, with main characters played by 30 year olds that look nothing like anyone we went to school with.

As someone whose entire YA education came in the form of books sent over to me by my Auntie Fee from New York, I take issue with this. While I could slam a list onto the table, let’s look at something I read recently, courtesy of the March Wildest Dreams book box.

Far From The Tree is the story of three siblings, all given up for adoption by their mother, who find each other in their teenage years. Each of them has a different set of circumstances and background. They team up to find their birth mother, and in the process must find out where they fit into the world.

While they find each other at particularly difficult times in their lives – teenage pregnancy, the foster care and adoption system, relationship problems, family break-up and mental health are all big players in this store – the plot mainly centres on their growing relationships with each other. I hate the word “heartwarming” because it makes me cringe so hard I want to chew my own knuckles off, but it is. It’s well written, and the characters are defined by their relationships with each other, rather than their circumstances, which is nice.

I’d 100% recommend this to any young person – fifteen year old me would have binged through it. It wouldn’t have been one of my favourites (I didn’t cry like everyone else seemed to, but then I am a robot) but I can appreciate a book about finding your place in the world as much as anyone.

Rating: ***

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Love Freebie!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is on the theme of “love”, with no restrictions…so for fun I thought I’d find someone I loved and get ten books THEY loved. As Sean and I had a weekend in Derby where he was unable to escape my wheedling, I took the opportunity to make him my special guest.

me and sean

I bent the rules a little and let him pick full series instead of a books in some cases, because he was angsting about it and let’s face it – we all know that pain.

This, therefore, is Sean’s Top Ten Tuesday – his favourite books (or book series) of all time.

White Wolf – David Gemmell

white wolf

“I was recommended both White Wolf and Legend by David Gemmell by a friend at university – whilst both are brilliant, the character of Skilgannon reminded me a lot of Drizzt Do’Urden from Baldur’s Gate, one of my favourite games I played as a kid. The quality of the character development of Skillgannon from start to finish is amazing, and I would recommend picking it up if you haven’t yet.”

Legend – David Gemmell

legend

“While I grew to prefer Skilgannon as a character (compared to Druss in this book), Legend is still a brilliant book with one of the best battle scenes I have ever read.”

The Empire Trilogy – Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts

feist

“Feist is probably more well known for the Riftwar Saga book Magician than this duet with Wurts. The depth of the individual characters and the world’s political atmosphere is something very akin to Game of Thrones and having a female protagonist is awesome. The experiences Mara goes through from book to book gripped me and I already want to go back and experience them again.”

Gameplayers – Stephen Bowkett

gameplayers 2

(This is the book that I tracked down and bought for Sean for Christmas – find out more about that here! – Kirsty)

“Out of all of the books on the list, Gameplayers is probably the least technically well written – but it still appeals to me, pure because of the nostalgia. I first read the book when I was around the same age as the characters and found myself going through lots of similar experiences that John went through. It also led me to loving RPG games and trying to play Dungeons & Dragons with people when I could. I’m still trying to D&D today!”

Riftwar Saga – Raymond E. Feist

magician

“My grandad Adrian knows of my love of high fantasy and one night in 2005, while my family were visiting, he asked if I had read Raymond E Feist’s Magician. I said no, and that weekend we went out and I got a copy. Before I had travelled home, I had read the entire book, and already bought Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon on Amazon. From there I was hooked on Feist. Whilst Kirsty has issues getting into High Fantasy, i love losing myself in 6 pages picturing the fjord around me.”

(This is one of my biggest bugbears with high fantasy – yes I’m sure that’s a pretty hill and you’ve described it wonderfully and I know that the setting in a lot of stories is a character in its own right but come on.)

The Two Towers – JRR Tolkien

the two towers

“I’ve always favoured the Two Towers in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Events of Helms Deep and since the first book is primarily two chapters of Tom Bombadil and lots of character development and Frodo whining, i found it to be the perfect balance of building up to the events of the third book and having enough context to keep me gripped.”

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling

azkaban

“It’s time to admit it, Sirius Black is a man-crush i had throughout Prisoner of Azkaban similar to those man-crushes people supposedly had on Keifer Sutherland when he did 24. Things just kicked off straight from the start in this book, and its always been my favourite in the series.”

Talon of the Silverhawk – Raymond E. Feist

silverhawk

“Talon of the Silverhawk was the final Feist book I really enjoyed – I finished the full Conclave of Shadows saga, but as I got through each book I started to find them harder to read. There are three books that Feist wrote that I’d love to see as a film or series and those are the three in this list. Talon was just sufficiently distancing from the ever present story surrounding Pug and I enjoyed the aspect of how Talon grows from the start of the book.”

The Hunger Games trilogy

hunger games

“The first non-High Fantasy book/series on this list! i picked them up before I had a long weekend from work, and by the time I had to go back all three books were finished. Out of the three, the second book was my favourite. The games like a clock was just such a cool system that I have to give a nod to it.”

The Goosebumps series

goosebumps

“The Goosebumps books my brother’s, but I read them all as I grew up. They are aimed at young teens, so obviously the writing style is focused at that, and they aren’t the type of book I’d be looking to go back and read now as i’m in my mid 20’s (mumble mumble…. 29) but I wanted to capture my full reading history on this list. These were essentially an introduction to reading for me, and they mean a lot to me.

SEAN’S HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Narnia – C.S Lewis

Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller

Romance of the Three Kingdoms – Luo Guanzhong

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In case it’s not obvious, I’m marrying a big fantasy nerd. Thanks Sean!

Throwback Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Take to a Desert Island

Surprise! I’ve decided that when I’m struggling with a Top Ten Tuesday topic instead of dropping something mediocre (my greatest fear) I’ll go back into the Broke and the Bookish archive and pick a previous topic instead. Won’t find me slacking, no sir.

Since the very first prompt was “Childhood Favourites” and I’m pretty sure I talked about mine not long ago, I’m going for the top ten “Books I’d Take to a Desert Island”. Commence!

On The Road – Jack Kerouac

on the road

If the words in On The Road were a drink, they’d be a good gin, just the right amount of tonic, bit of lime, ice and a sprig of mint. And I’d put my entire face into it forever.

The Singing – Alison Croggon

The Singing

Hello. If we haven’t already met, I’m the one that bangs the Pellinor drum at every opportunity I get.

The Singing is the final book in the series, but it’s my favourite. I finished The Crow on a train and spent some time furiously tagging onto crap WiFi to download The Singing with the last of my student loan money because I couldn’t bear the idea of having to WAIT and go to a BOOKSHOP before I could read it. It was a good decision.

I think I might need a Pellinor anthology just in case.

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

Radio Silence

Radio Silence is the book I wish I’d had in school, when I was struggling with who I was and who I wanted to be. Plus I want to pick Aled up and put him in my pocket.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson was my introduction to YA, when I was a kid and I read the Wild at Heart series. One of my favourite series when I was younger, and I made A Loud Noise when I realised later – after I’d read Speak – that LHA was the author.

If you haven’t yet read Speak, please read Speak. USYA gets an unfairly bad rap as being Not Realistic and Not Relatable, but Melinda is a character that will get under EVERYONE’S skin regardless of whether you can relate to her trauma or not.

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is one of my favourite books of all time. Grubby, gritty, written by a teenage girl, I read the whole thing on the plane back from Florida last year. Essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in YA as a genre. Stay gold.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

the hobbit

I’ve had the full LOTR set of books for like, EVER, and I’ve never managed to get stuck into them (high fantasy generally tends to not be my thing) so being trapped on a desert island with a finite amount of reading material seems like decent encouragement.

Insomnia – Stephen King

insomnia

The Shining is one of two books that has ever actually terrified me (the other is by Joe Hill, King’s son, so go figure) but I love Insomnia. I’m due a reread as I’ve only tackled it once, but it was lingering sinister…ness rather than outright freaky freaky, and it’s long so it’ll be good for afternoons if there’s sharks or something and I can’t go swimming.

The Disaster Artist

the disaster artist

The Room is the pinnacle of cinema. Nothing will ever compare. Second only to the viewing experience is the book about the making of the film by actor Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

Never has a book had me in full on tears of mirth like The Disaster Artist. Definitely watch the film first, but if you enjoy trying not to howl on public transport then this is the book for you.

I keep forgetting that there’s a pretty well rated film adaptation and I didn’t catch it at the cinema, so that’s on my list. Oh hi Mark!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

hps

As if I’d ever not take a Harry Potter book. If I’m only going to take one, it’s going to be my signed first edition for pure nostalgia. Might be difficult to keep it in good condition on a desert island, though.

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What would you take to a desert island? Why are we on a desert island? Does anyone know how to build a boat? Let me know!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To

So this is a bit of a cop out for me. Mainly because my previous Top Ten Tuesday of “Books I’m Planning on Reading Over Winter” sees me knock about…three off the list, namely A Christmas Carol, Blackbird and A Shiver of Snow and Sky.

At the risk of repeating myself, I suggest you go back and read that post. However, to make up numbers, I’ve got another three books that have been glaring at me for months until I want to die from the shame.

Wing Jones – Katherine Webber

wing jones

I’ve got a signed copy of Wing Jones that I picked up at the Edinburgh International Book festival this year, because a) I’ve heard literally NOTHING but good things about it, and b) I love signed books and sprayed edges. It’s been “next on my TBR” for so long and I always end up with something else that I want to blog about or want to read for a Twitter chat, but not this year because this year I am actually GOING TO READ IT.

Orangeboy – Patrice Lawrence

orangeboy

I’ve heard SO many good things about Orangeboy. And Patrice Lawrence in general, actually. This one is a book I picked up as part of a mad spree and it’s been sitting in my bookcase for a shamefully long time. I’m going to read it, and them I’m going to buy and read Indigo Donut too.

Babylon Berlin – Volker Kutscher

BABYLON BERLIN AW.indd

I’d never heard of Babylon Berlin until not too long ago. Apparently it’s a major TV series, which shows how on the pulse my finger is. Or isn’t. I’ll hold my hands up and say I wanted to read this for AGES before I even found out what it was about purely because it’s got a really cool title. I’m a marketing team’s dream.

Fortunately it only got cooler when I read the synopsys. Plus the English language version has been released by a Scottish publisher, Sandstone Press all the way up in Dingwall! Marvellous.

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Thus begins my TBR list for 2018. What else should be on it? Hit me!

TTT: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017

It might be 2018, but I read so many good books last year that I’m not done talking about them yet, so let’s live in the past for a moment.

This Top Ten Tuesday is going to be an easy one. As I said yesterday, the biggest reading slump ever came to an end, so almost every book I read in 2017 was by an author new to me. The only difficult bit was picking ten!

Alice Oseman

radio silence

Fun fact: I stumbled across Alice Oseman because I was in the process of lightly planning a book that I’d tentatively been calling “Radio Silence”. I Googled it to see what came up, and was quite distraught to discover I’d been beaten to it. I’m OK with it though, because it’s one of my favourite books, and one that I wish I’d had when I was in school. This book was my introduction back into the UKYA scene and I’m very fond of it.

Sara Barnard

beautiful broken things

Want to have your still-beating heart ripping out and solidly wrung? Read anything by Sara Barnard. A Quiet Kind of Thunder spoke to my anxiety-riddled heart and Beautiful Broken Things was so relatable that I wanted to take it out for coffee and tell it everything was going to be OK in the end.

Angie Thomas

the hate u give

The Hate U Give was my favourite book of 2017. Powerful and well-written and unforgiving. The other side of the Black Lives Matter movement, what it’s really like to be black and American. It’s a must read.

Charles Dickens

a christmas carol

I’ve always found the classics to be impenetrably dull. Likely a side effect of learning some of them in school. To christen my new Kindle at Christmas I downloaded A Christmas Carol, so I could be on flavour, and I ended up really enjoying it. Some of the lines really tickled me, particularly the one about the houses playing hide and seek.

Lisa Lueddecke

asosas

You can read my review of A Shiver of Snow and Sky here. I read it before Christmas when the weather was something like -7 degrees, there was frost on the ground so thick it looked like snow and every word was steam in the air, the Skyrim soundtrack on in the background. The ultimate experience.

Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Editing Emma was one of my favourite books on 2017. It was funny, it was brilliantly written and it had me simultaneously cringing for Emma and cringing for myself because, well…we’ve all been there.

Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

I LOVE FANGIRL. So brilliantly written, everything was almost tangible, the characters felt like my best friends by the end and I wanted to move in with Cath and Reagan. It was the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

Alice Broadway

ink

I hadn’t even read the blurb of Ink when I picked it up. I looked at the front cover and the title, went YUP and bought it. Easiest way to my heart is a cool front cover. Really enjoyed the book as well – I’m sure I read somewhere there was going to be a sequel, so I’m looking forward to that.

Cassandra Clare

city of bones

I’d heard of the Mortal Instruments serious because I knew it was a film, and it had somehow escaped me that it was a book too. I picked up City of Bones to give it a go and…I don’t love it. I know that I’ll probably get slaughtered because it’s so well-loved but it didn’t light my fire at all. I’ll restart it at some point in the near future and give it another go, and hope it doesn’t feel like a slog to get to the end.

Raymond Feist

magician

This was a Sean recommendation. Sean loves high fantasy novels, whereas I can’t be doing at all with a book that takes five pages to discuss what the countryside looks like. He tried to persuade me with two books: Magician and Daughter of the Empire. Both of them I abandoned halfway through, but as I hate DNFing any book, like City of Bones I’ll likely feel compelled to have another go. Maybe I can skip the lengthy descriptions of all the trees in the garden…

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This year I’m going to be a book consuming machine, which is great in a lot of ways…but it might make next year’s list harder. Challenge accepted.