Erika’s List: YA Novels That Include Mental Illness

This list is our response to Erika’s open letter to the coach of the Waunakee Wisconsin High School cheer squad, asking her to think about mental illness in America.

No matter your opinion about the Waunakee cheerleaders’ routine, whether you think it was hurtful and insulting to those with mental illnesses, or whether you think the whole thing was just a misunderstanding, or a joke blown out of proportion by oversensitive people, the fact is that one in five American young adults have a serious mental illness or brain disorder. It’s real – it’s out there, and people struggle. We want to be sure that no one feels invisible. We compiled a list of YA books we’d read which deal with include people with brain disorders and mental illnesses in a very real, accepting, and hopeful way, and hope this list is useful to you.

Some YA authors are listening, Erika. You are not invisible. We see you.


  1. Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story
  2. Sonya Sones, Stop Pretending;
  3. Patricia McCormick’s Cut.
  4. John Neufeld, Lisa, Bright & Dark
  5. Deb Caletti, Wild Roses,
  6. Norma Fox Mazer, When She Was Good
  7. Dia Calhoun The Phoenix Dance
  8. Christine Fletcher Tallulah Falls
  9. Susanne Colasanti Waiting for You
  10. Your Own, Sylvia, by Stephanie Hemphill,
    and Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, as submitted by Laura Salas
  11. Lirael, by Garth Nix, as submitted by Farida, Saints & Spinners
  12. Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves, and Scars, by Cheryl Rainfield; as submitted by Jodie Baker, Bookgazing
  13. Mad Love by Suzanne Selfour, A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler, andHow I Made it to Eighteen by Tracy White, as submitted by aquafortis, Finding Wonderland
  14. The Marbury Lens, by Andrew Smith, as submitted by Joe Lunievicz
  15. Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta, and Orchards by Holly Thompson, as submitted by Doret

  16. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, Try Not to Breathe (title may change), by Jennifer Hubbard, as submitted by Jennifer Hubbard
  17. Black Box by Julie Schumacher, and Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern, as submitted by Jennifer Buehler
  18. All four books in E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver Series, including, The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends, by E. Lockhart
  19. Crazy, by Han Nolan
  20. Small as an Elephant, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

There are more good YA novels dealing with some of the tough issues in mental health in a positive way — and we’ll keep adding those books to the list as we find them.

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