5 YA Books that Accurately Portray Mental Illness

reading a page without knowing woman with books flying around light blue background

Roald Dahl in Matilda said it best, “books [give] a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” It’s important to see yourself in media, but it’s especially crucial for young people with mental illness. It can be easy to feel like no one could possibly understand you, but books (even sad ones) can be uplifting, showing you that you’re not the only one who thinks that way. While no book represents mental illness as well as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), there are a lot of great books out there that are as accurate as they are entertaining. Here’s a list of a few of my favorites:

All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places explores depression, suicide, and social pressures. It can be triggering at times, but it’s a beautifully written read. It follows the lives of Finch and Violet as they fall in love, and Finch falls apart. There wasn’t a second I was bored while reading, and the ending left me in tears.


By Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl focuses a lot on familial mental illness, and the responsibility one feels when their family member is sick. It’s a light read, that won’t send your bawling, but might make you feel at home. Cather’s anxieties and familial relationships are relatable and realistic. If you’re dealing with anxiety or living with a sick family member, Fangirl might bring you comfort.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

By Ned Vizzini

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a book that is hard to put down. It details what it’s like to be committed to a mental health facility and chronicles the main character’s healing journey. It focuses mainly on depression but does touch on other illnesses such as PTSD. It’s not a light read, but the ending will leave you feeling hopeful about the future.

Holding Up the Universe

By Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe doesn’t only look depression, binge eating, and the impact of bullying, but focuses on an even rarer disorder, prosopagnosia. It centers around Libby and Jack. Libby was previously the world’s fattest teen (a title given to her after her mother’s death). Now, she’s going back to school and ready to start the healing process. Jack has prosopagnosia, commonly known as face blindness, a neurological disorder where he can’t recognize faces. It’s a heartwarming read about two teens dealing with their separate issues, together.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

By Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I fell in love with Aristotle on the first page. Aristotle is angry and anxious, and feels alone, but isn’t sure how to reach out to people or the person he wants to reach out to most, his father. His father returned from the Vietnam war when he was a baby, and Aristotle doesn’t know what he’s like without PTSD. They both seem to want to reach out to each other but are stuck behind their own mental blockade. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe not only accurately portrays PTSD, but explores sexuality, race, and familial relationships as well.

Here at Psych2Go, we understand the importance of representation in media, especially when it comes to mental health. To purchase any of these books, you can click on the title links above. Do you like our list? If you have any other book recommendations, please leave them in the comments. Happy Reading!

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