Saturday, 2 August 2014

Great YA Mental Health Fiction

Mental health in novels

I am very interested in mental health and therefore I read a lot of novels that are based are around this subject. I prefer to read books that explore different mental health issues in adolescents as this is the career that I intend to go into. Obviously there are numerous non-fiction/self-help books that cover a range of topics but there is also some really interesting young adult fiction that also explores this.

Book number one: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

I got this book for my birthday last year and I bought it as I had just read The Silver Linings Playbook and I wanted to read another of Mathew Quick’s novels. I found this one far more interesting than Silver Linings because I really did like the complex character of Leonard and he was easy to emphasis with (about certain things). Without giving too much away this book is set over the span of a day (with a number of ‘flashbacks’ to explain situations and his relationships with people). On this day Leonard decides not just to kill himself but to kill his old best friend as well (for reasons we find out later – it’s not just the normal straight forward scenario). Leonard decides to give presents to all the people that have helped him or whom he classes as his friends and he goes into a lot of detail about how he met them and their relationship.

This book is written so that you understand Leonard’s depression and why he decides to kill himself. The language used is quite simple but the topics discussed are too challenging for younger readers to understand fully. There are only two things in this book that annoyed me and they are: this book is written so that it has a number of in-depth analyse of certain comments at the bottom of the page. This can be quite frustrating to read but without them I don’t think that this book would be the same. The other thing is the ending is rather disappointing but I understand why Quick wrote it this way (I do not want to give too much away).

Overall this is one of my favourite books out of all the ones that I have read. This book made me cry a lot and I wouldn’t be surprised if it made others cry as well.

Book number two: Impulse

I have this book on Kindle as I bought it when I was on holiday last year. This book is set in a psychiatric unit in America and the story is told by three characters: Connor, Tony and Vanessa. Each of these characters is in Aspen Springs for different reasons but this book shows how friendships can be formed even in dire situations and how each of them learn to live again. Not just this - it also shows that it is possible to be loved and to love again.

Connor is in Aspen Springs after trying to kill himself with a gun after his relationship with a teacher was discovered. His overbearing and ‘unloving’ parents put constant pressure on him and they care more about his GPA than his feelings. His story is a strange one as he refuses to believe that he actually should be in Aspen Springs. Connor is a complicated and angry character but his story is an interesting one.
Tony is from a troubled background and he had a very turbulent childhood. This caused him to mingle in the drug scene before he began to have depressive episodes and this ended to him attempting suicide by swallowing numerous pills and downing some alcohol. He is saved by a confused policeman who stumbled across him lying in a pool of his own sick. Tony’s story is not my favourite but he is the ‘roughest’ character and it is interesting to see the friendship that he develops with Connor and Vanessa.

Vanessa is the only main female lead (excluding the psychiatrist) and she self-harms. She was admitted after being discovered by her brother as she lay in her Grandma’s bath tub after attempting suicide by slitting her wrists. Vanessa is a boring character but her story is a sad one, especially her relationship with her mother. However tedious her narration is at points her character develops well towards the end despite being very annoying at the beginning.

This book has many twists and turns and, although it didn’t make me cry, it is an emotional roller-coaster. The only annoying thing is the formatting as it is written like a poem but this didn’t both me after a few pages (in fact I enjoyed the alternative formatting.) A tip with this is if there is a chapter that has certain words separate to the rest of the text read all the separate words as well as this will help you understand the rest of the chapter. I do like this book and I recently bought and read the sequel to Impulse (Perfect) and this was also very good. I haven’t read any other Ellen Hopkins books but mental health issues seem to be a theme in her writing so they’re probably good as well. There are a few spelling mistakes though throughout both of her novels but they are easy to ignore and they don't affect the book and what is being sense.

Book three: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Ned Vizzini’s recent suicide made me pick up this book again and reread it and I do love this book. I don’t think I will go into much detail as it really will ruin this book for you but a rough outline is that Craig is an intelligent boy who goes to a very intellectual high school (Executive Pre-Professional) with his best friend Aaron and Aaron’s girlfriend Nia who Craig is ‘in love’ with. Craig has already been diagnosed with depression and already takes anti-depressants for it; however the book starts with Craig on Brooklyn Bridge deciding whether to jump off or not. He doesn’t. Instead he heads off to the nearest A&E and is admitted to the adult psychiatric ward where he remains for seven days. During these seven days he learns to live again, understand his illness and make new friends. Despite being such a difficult topic it is riddled with humour and has a surprising feel good feel. I love this book but the actual design of the paperback book annoys me as it is the type of book that flops open.

These are three of a lot of books that I could have talked about and I do intend to write another two blog posts: one about adult mental health and non-fiction works. I was going to write a summary of 13 Reasons Why, The Shock of the Fall, Zelah Green and Looking For Alaska but I can fit them all into another category so I will include them at a later date. Meanwhile I hope that some of you enjoy these three books and if you have any other suggestions please recommended them to me.

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