Rad Reads

Add these books with mental health rep to your TBR

The month of sunshine, blooming flowers and end-of-school countdowns has almost arrived. But that's not all May is—it's also Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental health awareness is super important all year round, but this month can be a great opportunity to read some books featuring mental health representation. Books highlighting relatable, well-developed characters who also have mental illnesses can help readers to feel understood themselves *and* learn about what others may be experiencing with their own mental health.

Not sure what to read first? We've compiled some awesome YA novels featuring realistic portrayals of mental illness that you seriously won't want to put down.

Exactly Where You Need to Be by Amelia Diane Coombs


Amelia Diane Coomb's novel is an excellent source of mental health representation, especially if you're looking for a realistic depiction of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The novel follows Florie, who has been diagnosed with OCD and is facing the fact that her BFF is leaving for college in a few weeks while she's stuck at home. Florie decides she's done letting her mental illness define her life and embarks on a road trip with her bestie to see their fave true crime podcast duo live (plus, her BFF's super cute older brother tags along with them!).

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


Speak is a critically acclaimed novel for a reason. It is all about Melinda who, after a tragic event at a party, suffers from PTSD and depression. Struggling with her mental health, she must learn how to cope and redefine her identity. Melinda channels her emotions into her artwork and gains the courage to confide in her best friend and art teacher and stand up for herself at last.

(Content warning: This book talks about topics that some readers may find challenging or distressing to read about. Consider reading alongside a trusted adult.)

Solitaire by Alice Oseman


Alice Oseman has become known for her Heartstopper graphic novel series and Netflix show, but she has also written several stand-alone novels—many of which feature fantastic mental health rep. Solitaire is a great example of one, as it includes realistic teen depression and OCD representation.

The book follows Tori Spring, who is working with her new friend Michael Holden to uncover the thrilling mystery of "Solitaire" (aka a secret group that has been partaking in serious mischief at her school). The adventure she embarks on causes her to take a deeper look at her depression, all while working through her feelings about her younger brother's eating disorder and OCD diagnosis.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson


We heart Leah Johnson's novel, not only because it features a girlboss protagonist who runs for prom queen in hopes of securing a scholarship for her dream school...but also because of its great anxiety rep. While competing against her new crush for prom queen, main character Liz Lighty experiences symptoms of anxiety that seem to heighten with her newfound time in the spotlight. Liz has to be brave and persevere as she navigates her romance, friendship and family matters and learns to embrace who she is.

They Hate Each Other by Amanda Woody


If you want a swoon-worthy read that features enemies-to-lovers and fake-dating tropes *and* mental health rep, this is the book for you. Amanda Woody's novel follows Jonah Collins and Dylan Ramírez, two boys who don't quite get along. But when a rumor about the two circulates, Jonah and Dylan decide to engage in some fake dating. (We all know where this is going...).

During the whole charade, Dylan lives with PTSD and experiences panic attacks. Jonah accepts that this is a part of who Dylan is and supports him during any anxiety-filled moments. So not only do we get some great mental health rep, but we also get some super sweet moments between our fave characters!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green


We've been John Green stans since our The Fault in Our Stars days, and Green's Turtles All the Way Down is an instant hit. This novel tells the tale of Aza, who becomes wrapped up in a mystery as she and her BFF try to locate a billionaire who's on the run. The book also features a bit of a love story, as well as plenty of mental health rep. Aza herself has anxiety and OCD, and she shares her experience living with these mental illnesses in a way that is both honest and relatable.

Psst, Turtles All the Way Down has also been made into a movie, which will be released on May 2. Brb, planning our watch party rn! 

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by Maggie Salter | 5/4/2024