Updated: Nov 12, 2021
Looking for YA books about mental illness? Suffering from traumatic incidents is a universally accepted part of most of our lives. It has no respect for an individual. It can touch us all. In dealing with these traumatic issues, our mental psyche is tested.
Sometimes it fails.
Our minds are resilient and meant to protect us, but sometimes, our minds are unable to withstand an upheaval of a different magnitude. We splinter. Unable to pull ourselves back together after a tumultuous mental fall.
As a young adult, I experienced traumatic moments but found comfort in fiction. I found most times, by accident, books that allowed me to live vicariously through the characters. I could empathize with their plights because they were mine as well - or similar enough.
Our mental health is such a personal struggle, not many are privy to this aspect of our life. Reading can offer a cathartic perspective when we’re unable to gain an audience elsewhere. Or when we simply don’t care to express our sorrows or fears with others.
It was that for me… I hope you can find comfort and maybe even a semblance of normality in the characters and situations found in these books. This list is a fraction of the fiction available to young adults that deal, in some capacity, with the difficult subject of mental health.
YA Fantasy fiction – plots/subplots - that deal with mental illness:
The Shadow Keepers by Marisa Noelle
Depression, Self-esteem, Ghosts, Creepy/Dark
Sixteen-year-old Georgia Boone sees evil, shadowy creatures in mirrors. They look like humanoid crows and stare at her with hungry red eyes. Recently, they’ve been whispering terrifying threats.
Of course, no one believes her.
When Georgia is sent to the UK's most prestigious mental health centre, Brookwood Hospital, she is forced to face her fears and answer the question...
VOLT by Dawn Brazil
High Fantasy, Depression, Suicide, Self-harm, Multicultural, Death
Death came for Seventeen-year-old Samantha. She wasn’t ready but her boyfriend, Ryan, was.
After a horrific accident leaves her in a coma for three months, Sam is barely able to function. Death has a way of changing you. Pain can be so crippling you’re unable to claw your way from its grip. Sam doesn’t struggle against the waves of despair. She inhales them. She wants to suffocate and she’s going under, fast. Until she enters the magical, mystical world of V.O.L.T. In VOLT, she’s allowed to find Ryan. It’s a shot of pure adrenaline that kick-starts her heart and sets her on a riveting journey of self-discovery.
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
Dystopian, Sci-Fantasy, Aliens, Self Discovery, Music, Multicultural, LGBT+
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the death of one-third of the world’s population. Today, seventeen-year-old Ellie Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When young Ilori commander Morris finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. But Morris isn’t a typical Ilori…and Ellie and her books might be the key to a desperate rebellion of his own.
The Program by Suzanne Young
The Program series (book 1)
Dystopian, Suicide, Romance, Depression
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.
We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchison
Fantasy, LGBT, Depression, Bullying, Suicide, Attempted Rape, Aliens
Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.
Only he isn’t sure he wants to.
Seven Crowns By E. V. Everest
Bellaton Series (book 1)
Fantasy, Orphan/Foster Care, Romance, PTSD, Royal Academy
A crown is dangerous. A crown split seven ways is deadly.
Sixteen-year-old Ana is far from royalty. She’s a foster kid with a dead mom and a deadbeat dad. The only thing she wants is to escape—her hometown and her grief.
Ana’s plans are derailed when a dangerous family secret is revealed. She is the sole heir to a fallen dynasty on a world where seven families share the crown. Her family was murdered one by one, leaving six families to rule. Now, someone knows Ana’s location. With assassins closing in, Ana’s life and the crown are at stake.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
The Mara Dyer Series (book 1)
Fantasy, Depression, Death, PTSD, Hallucination
Mara Dyer believes life can't get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is. She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.
This article was written by Dawn Brazil.
Since the world is not comprised of dreamy book boyfriends, Dawn creates them for everyone to fawn over. She writes Young Adult fantasy and science fiction with romance – always with romance.
When not writing, she can be found with her nose in a book. She also loves to recreate an array of dishes she pulls from Pinterest. Dawn lives in South Texas with her sports-obsessed husband and they have three technology-infatuated young adults.
Check out more of her work by clicking on any of the covers below.