If you are looking for authentic and compassionate novels about mental health, look no further. Here are 20 must-read YA mental health novels like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
Charlotte is only 17 but she has lost so much in her lifetime. Her best friend and father are gone, and her mother has nothing left to give her. Charlie turns to self-harm to numb the pain, but she still hurts so much.
This is a harrowing book about Charlie’s honest and devastating journey to put herself back together after she has fallen to pieces.
You can find Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow here.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
This book follows the 5 Lisbon sisters, who live in a quiet suburb in Detroit. They are beautiful, charming, and adored by everyone around, including the neighborhood boys who watch them from afar. But over the course of the year, each sister dies by suicide one by one.
The neighborhood boys are transfixed, and slowly they piece together the story of the desolate family and why they all seem to have such a detrimental fate.
You can read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides here.
The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
Cassie’s mom put her in a mental institution when she was 16, and she’s been there against her will ever since. But now that Cassie is 18, she can finally emancipate herself and leave. She starts a new life, going to college and meeting a new group of friends, and she even tries to rebuild a relationship with her mom.
But Cassie’s relationship with her mom remains unhealthy, taking her back to her past and threatening to destroy everything she’s worked so hard to build for herself.
The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter can be found here.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
In 1967, at age 18, Susanna Kaysen was sent to McLean Hospital after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. McLean Hospital was known for treating famous people such as Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell and having very progressive methods.
In this memoir, Kaysen recounts her time at the Hospital, writing about what she experienced as well as what fellow patients were like. This book is insightful and honest, and it provides a look into mental illness and recovery.
You can find Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen here.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
This book is the story of 3 women from different time periods. Virginia Woolf is writing a story and living in a London suburb with her husband in the early 1900s. Laura Brown is living in a Los Angeles suburb in the mid-1900s and has begun to feel tension within her perfect family. Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party in the honor of her friend who is dying from Aids in the late 1900s.
All of these women may have different stories, but they end up intertwining in subtle and astonishing ways.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham can be purchased here.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Clay discovers a strange package on his doorstep addressed to him, and when he opens it he finds several cassette tapes. They are from Hannah, who was his classmate and crush before she died by suicide two weeks before. On the tapes, Hannah tells him 13 reasons why she decided to end her life.
As Clay listens to Hannah’s pain and discovers everything she was feeling, he knows that his life will be changed forever by her story.
You can read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher here.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Seventeen-year-old Mia doesn’t remember the accident, but she remembers being taken from the wreck. Her family was with her, but Mia doesn’t know what happened. Now she is in a coma, and she is left to put together the pieces and figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and what decision she should make next.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman can be read here.
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Carver sent a text to his 3 best friends asking where they were, but he never expected that the text would lead to an accident and their death. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself, and the district attorney is being pressured to open up a criminal investigation.
Carver spends a day with the grandmother of one of his deceased friends, and together they say goodbye. Soon the other families want to have goodbye days with Carver as well, but he’s not sure if their motives are genuine or if they will lead him straight to prison.
You can find Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner here.
Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks
Go Ask Alice is the diary of Alice, a 15-year-old girl who develops a drug addiction. It all started when she was served a laced drink at a party, and since then, she’s been on a downward spiral. Alice went from having a loving family and home to living on the streets.
Her journey is dangerous and harrowing, and eventually robs her of her life.
You can purchase Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks here.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie is a quiet and observant wallflower who is making his way through high school. He navigates first dates, friends, family, and drama, as well as young love and heartbreaking losses.
This story follows Charlie on his coming-of-age journey as he learns what it’s like to experience life before he has to fully grow up.
You can read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky here.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
Eric Calhoune has been friends with Sarah Byrnes for years. When they were younger, they were both outcasts because of her scars and his weight. Now, Sarah is in a hospital and she is silent. Eric has to figure out what’s going on and what secret she’s hiding before it takes them both down.
This is a story of love, loyalty, and friendship and how it can last even when things aren’t going well.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher can be found here.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Lia and Cassie were best friends who always competed with each other to see who could be the thinnest. But that was before Cassie went too far and ended up dead, and now Lia feels incredibly guilty that she couldn’t help her friend.
This story is written by the author of Speak, and it explores Lia’s path to recovery as she struggles through the pain of losing Cassie.
You can find Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson here.
Happyface by Stephen Emond
Happyface is the journal of a shy and artistic boy who has decided to reinvent himself when he moves to a different town. This new boy is happy, confident, and has many friends. Although it’s all an act, the more that this boy puts on a happy face, the sooner it starts to feel genuine.
You can read Happyface by Stephen Emond here.
The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
Jade has recently been diagnosed with Panic Disorder, and one thing that helps her is visiting the zoo. She even has a webcam of the zoo set up in her room to help calm her down, and this is where she first spots Sebastian.
Eventually, Jade meets Sebastian in person and they form an immediate connection. Jade feels safe with him as she’s drawn into his world. But when she learns a horrible secret that Sebastian’s been keeping, Jade has to make an excruciating decision about what feels right versus what is right.
You can purchase The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti here.
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Finch and Violet are strangers, but when they first meet they form an instant bond. Finch is always thinking of ways he could die, but each day he finds something to make him stay. Violet is trying to overcome the grief of losing her sister.
As the two spend more time together, they become more comfortable and slowly but surely heal each other.
You can read All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven here.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Esther Greenwood is a young, beautiful, and extremely talented woman, but she is struggling to stay afloat. Esther can’t seem to escape the harrowing walls of her mind, but still, she is fighting to keep going.
This story takes you into the mind of Esther, following her breakdown and exploring all of the things that she is feeling and experiencing throughout it.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath can be found here.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
In 1986, Eleanor and Park both know how it feels to be outcasts. When they meet each other on the school bus, their friendship just makes sense. And as the two spend more time with one another, they begin to develop more than just a friendship.
Eleanor and Park also both know that young love almost never lasts. Still, they are desperate to try and defeat the odds.
You can read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell here.
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Adam Blake is a senior, and he’s super excited when he gets to be an aide to the school psychologist because it means he won’t have to do much. But then the psychologist wants Adam to track down a freshman named Julian who keeps dodging her.
When Adam finds Julian, he is surprised and excited to see that it’s his old foster brother from 5 years ago. At first Julian seems like the same happy guy, but soon Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets. Something is going on inside Julian’s house, and Adam is determined to help him—even if it could cost both of them their lives.
You can find A List of Cages by Robin Roe here.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Samantha Kingston is a popular high school senior who is prepared to spend February 12th, “Cupid Day”, partying and celebrating. When a terrible accident occurs that night, Sam is surprised to wake up the next day. But that’s when Sam realizes: it’s still February 12th.
Sam lives that day over and over again for a whole week, making small adjustments each time, and slowly she learns things that she never thought she would learn.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver can be read here.
A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti
Annabelle used to have a life full of friends and family and love. But when she started gaining the attention of a boy, it went from flattering to unsettling in an instant.
Now, a year later, she is going on a 2,700-mile cross-country run to try and escape everything that has happened to her. With only her Grandpa Ed, a journal, and her thoughts to keep her company, every step Annabelle takes on her journey is one step closer to healing.
You can find A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti here.
What ages is Speak meant for?
Speak is a YA novel, meaning that it’s meant for anyone ages 12 and up. It does include themes and topics such as sexual assault, self-harm, and profanity, so be sure to read at your own discretion.
Will there be a Speak number two?
There are no specific second books to accompany Speak. However, Laurie Halse Anderson has come out with a book called Shout which is a memoir about her own experience with sexual assault, and it deals with many ideas that are presented in Speak. Anderson doesn’t shy away from the fact that these two books share many similarities, and says that the writing of Speak and the reaction people had to it did play a role in pushing her to write Shout.
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