Fictional books with mental health rep are so important and I’m really thrilled to chat about some of the stories that have meant the most to me.
This post is originally being published during May, which happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month. This month is incredibly meaningful to me and it’s something I haven’t touched on in quite some time. I thought I was overdue for a chat about mental health and wellness and what it means to me, personally.
I’ve never been one to shy away from talking about my own mental health struggles. It’s a privilege to have this platform and to live in a day and age where the stigma surrounding this topic has lessened greatly. Sure, there’s a ton of work left to do, but progress is being made and I, for one, am so grateful.
Maybe one of these days I’ll actually write up a post going into great detail about the different battles I face each day, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to give the nutshell version. Anxiety has been part of my life since I was a child (even if it didn’t have a name until I was much older). As a teenager, I was diagnosed with depression and struggled with self-harm, suicidal tendencies, anorexia nervosa, and body dysmorphia. My early 20’s brought about a diagnosis of bipolar disorder II (yes, there are multiple kinds of bipolar and it’s important to know the differences) and PTSD due to sexual and emotional abuse. Phew, my life has been a bit of a whirlwind and while the climb is never over, the mountain feels a lot less daunting now. It’s also important to note that I am a huge advocate for beneficial medication and therapy.
I’ve been a reader throughout my entire life, and there have been books that have truly felt like saviors over the years. I still find myself getting weepy when I think about some of the books that I read in high school – ones that made me feel seen for the first time. As an adult, it has become even more important to me to find books with well-written mental health rep. In the past couple of years, I’ve discovered a few truly incredible fictional novels that have come to mean so much to me. I’m really thrilled to share them all with you.
8 Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time // How the Library Can Help You Read More Books // Romance Books I Didn’t Love and What to Read Instead
10 Fictional Books With Incredible Mental Health Rep
The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
This book completely changed my life. Some may find it slow, the characters boring, etc. But me? I saw myself on every page of the story and the overwhelming sense of hope I felt was unlike anything I’ve ever read. Matt Haig writes like he’s been inside my brain. This book deals with depression (suicide attempt) and anxiety.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
by Roseanne A Brown
There are sadly very few fantasy novels that I’ve found that touch on topics like depression, self-harm, and anxiety. Everyone is a badass so there’s often no room for “weakness.” This duology depicted anxiety in particular in such a phenomenal way. The second book had me writing down quotes like it was my job.
by Ashley Schumacher
Not only is this book a beautiful ode to readers everywhere, but it also handles the tough topics like panic attacks (and how challenging it may be for a “celebrity” to manage a lifestyle while struggling with them) as well as PTSD and grief. This book would’ve been my saving grace in high school – but it’s equally incredible as an adult.
This Might Get Awkward
by Kara McDowell
The first book that I read by McDowell was One Way or Another, and I remember gasping in awe at the way she depicted social anxiety. This is something that I have always struggled with and it was navigated so well. This Might Get Awkward does an awesome job with it as well – if not an even better job – and I think that it could help a lot of people who feel as though they’re “less than” due to this.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
by Abbi Waxman
I have never in my life read a book where I related with the character more than I relate with Nina Hill. She’s an introverted bookworm with often debilitating anxiety that keeps her from feeling as though she can fully enjoy her life. It made me feel as though there’s someone who understands me – even if they’re fictional.
The Sound of Stars
by Alechia Dow
Not only does this sci-fi story handle anxiety and panic attacks in particular in a really touching way, but it also ties in the mental health struggles that someone may face if they’re trying to understand and accept their own sexuality (ace rep).
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
by Ned Vizzini
This book (and the movie adaptation) were my first looks at mental health rep in fiction as a teen and my gosh were they helpful. I would go so far as to say this story saved my life during that time. It really changed my perspective on what I was going through with depression and self-harm.
Turtles All the Way Down
by John Green
John Green’s books have truly never failed me, but Turtles All the Way Down in particular did a fantastic job of depicting anxiety – a lot of that having to do with the fact that John Green himself struggles with this, so it was very personal. Reading about how he wrote TATWD in The Anthropocene Reviewed made me appreciate the book even more. Though I read this book when it first came out, to this day I still have a whole list of quotes in my phone’s notes app that spoke to me and my own struggles.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
by VE Schwab
You didn’t really think I’d write this post and not include The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, did you? It really touches on a few different aspects of mental illness, from panic attacks to suicidal thoughts and beyond – and then it provides the most healing quotes and hope to go right along with it all. I can’t thank Schwab enough for this book.
by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Trigger warnings at the beginning of the book, open discussion about depression, antidepressants, mental illness in genetics, and navigating a relationship while trying to accept your own mental health challenges? This book has so much that I never knew I needed in a romance. I adored every second and strongly recommend it!