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Top 10: Books dealing with mental illness (guest post by Kim Baccellia)

My early years growing up in Sacramento were filled with lots of confusion and fear.  At the time, I knew something wasn’t quite right with my father but the one time I did confine in a friend?  I was labeled ‘bad’ and a bad example.  Only later did I found out that most of the young women in my church were told to avoid me.  As if you could catch what was happening in my home.

I felt so alone.  My church wouldn’t help my family.  Other people would avoid us as if we had the plague.

Only recently, after my father’s death, did I have a name for what my father had.

Bipolar Disorder.

I wanted to know all I could about this mental illness as I believe knowledge is power.  What I found is there is still a stigma attached to it.  I’m happy that just recently there has been some YAs that have addressed this and other mental health issues.  I thought I’d share some of my favorites.  I believe these books NEED to be out there and I’m a huge advocate for them.


Young girl dealing with bipolar disorder flees being put in mental institution to find biological mother in small Texan town.  She later finds out that maybe she’s not as crazy as she thought.  I loved the way the author shows us a strong protagonist who refuses to be ignored while battling her own demons and the ones in her town.




I love Ellen’s books so much.  She’s not afraid to write unflinching tales  with their honest portrayals of teens.  IMPULSE is one of my favorites as it shows teens in a mental hospital dealing with some very intense issues.  The companion novel PERFECT is another must read.


This powerful, haunting tale follows a teen that cuts herself as one way to deal with the pain of her sexual abuse. 


I read this book in high school back in the later 1970s.  This is a very gritty portrayal of a schizophrenic teen who ends up in a mental hospital battling reality.  Little did I know why this book felt so hauntingly real to me.  My own father was dealing with the same issues.

 BAD GIRLS CLUB by Judy Gregerson
This book also deals with schizophrenia but only this time around it’s the parent.  What I loved about this book is how realistic it is on how a teen deals with her mentally ill mother without help.  I know how lonely that can be.  A must read.


This is a great novel that shows a teen dealing with panic attacks.


This story of a teen, who has to use prime numbers in everything, is haunting and very powerful.  One huge plus for this book is it shows a boy’s POV on how he deals with OCD.

This is another one of my favorites that deals with OCD and how how the teen tries to find inner strength.


I still remember hearing Jay read the beginning of this at a SCBWI Agent Day event and getting chills.  This is one of those haunting tales that stays with you.
(Please visit our previous TLT post 13 Reasons Why I Love Thirteen Reasons Why)


A huge plus for me in this novel is how Garsee shows what happens when someone doesn’t take their meds. I’ve seen this in my own family and it’s just as scary as it’s shown in this novel. 
Rinn’s haunting descent into madness is chilling. I love how it’s not over the top but rather subtle. You can’t tell if it’s the disorder talking or the ghost.

The ending is shocking and caught me off guard. Love that! 

A must read for paranormal fans that shows bipolar disorder in a realistic
(TLT review of The Unquiet)

Kim Baccellia is an author as well as a PR and Online Marketing associate for Mont9Books.  You can find her at @ixtumea on Twitter or at www.kim-baccellia.com.  You can also find her reviewing books at YA Books Central.  Find out about Kim’s books – Earrings of Ixtumea, Crossed Out and No Goddess Allowed – at her website.

Karen adds a couple of title to the list:
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison (OCD)
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown (OCD)
Cut by Patricia McCormick (Self injury)
Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spenser Hesser (OCD)
Inside Out by Terry Trueman (Schizophrenia)

What titles are on your list of good reads that depict teens dealing with mental health issues in some way? Please share with us in the comments.


  1. Dina Schuldner says:

    What You Must Think of Me: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager's Experience with Social Anxiety Disorder by Emily Ford is a five star nonfiction read.

  2. People can be so cruel when they are ignorant. I'm happy you overcame such prejudice and have become the person you are today. Thanks for listing these amazing books.

  3. Hold Still by Nina Lacour is one that has stuck with me for years now! Looking forward to reading a few of these. Just finished Crazy by Amy Reed, didn't love it as much but still a good representation of bipolar disorder.

  4. Ooh, need to check out CRAZY.

  5. Also INSIDE OUT. Plus I need to add another book that deals with ADHD/Asberger's in a very real way: HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly. A total must read.

  6. I think scars looks like a very vital read. I'm sure it will be a great point of reference for people who need to understand the reasons why people resort to self-inflicting pain to deal with whatever stressful situation they're in.

  7. Thank you for this post. I wish there were more like it.

  8. Sleeping in Eden by Nichole baart is a good book about depression and suicide

  9. Sleeping in Eden by Nichole Baart

  10. Try reading identical by Ellen Hopkins, the character is dealing with multiple personality disorder.

  11. Michelle Picard says:

    All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is about a Abtoung man raking with depression, anxiety, family dysfunction, love and loss. Outstanding book!

    Mosquitoland is a book that sounds a lot like Bleeding Violets.

    Falling into Place by Amy Zhang is a young woman’s struggle with depression and suicide.

  12. Pan’s Whisper by Sue Lawson… my favourite book ever, don’t know if you can get it outside of Australia, but it is incredible! It deals with a girl’s lost memories and the fall out from another character’s Bipolar episodes. Very sad, yet beautiful. It brings me to tears every time, yet is also very comforting to me to know that there are others with Bipolar (I myself was diagnosed with BPII age 16) who have messed up worse then me.

  13. Heather says:

    Hi I wanted to know some good books for teens about bipolar. Thank you


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