Contemporary Mental Illness

Sometimes you can’t see the hurt.  Maybe it doesn’t even hurt; they just think differently.  Some say it’s just in their heads, a figment of their minds.  But it’s a serious issue nonetheless.  The books in the category will focuses on mental illnesses, from schizophrenia to bi-polar disorder.

For books with physical ailments, such as a cancer, or situations involving intensive medical treatment, such as amputation or physical therapy, please see the Contemporary Disease/Health section.

Books are listed by author’s last name.  A series will be counted as one entry.  The summary of the first book will be the only summary given as later book summary may include spoilers.  Titles that are hyperlinked are linked to their Goodreads page.

Anonymous

Letting Ana GoLetting Ana Go

She was a good girl from a good family, with everything she could want or need. But below the surface, she felt like she could never be good enough. Like she could never live up to the expectations that surrounded her. Like she couldn’t do anything to make a change.  But there was one thing she could control completely: how much she ate. The less she ate, the better—stronger—she felt.  But it’s a dangerous game, and there is such a thing as going too far…  Her innermost thoughts and feelings are chronicled in the diary she left behind.

julie HALPERN

Get Well Soon Have a Nice DayAnna Bloom:  Get Well Soon (book 1); Have a Nice Day (book 2)

Anna Bloom is depressed—so depressed that her parents have committed her to a mental hospital with a bunch of other messed-up teens. Here she meets a roommate with a secret (and a plastic baby), a doctor who focuses way too much on her weight, and a cute, shy boy who just might like her.  But wait!  Being trapped in a loony bin isn’t supposed to be about making friends, losing weight, and having a crush, is it?

beth KEPHART

ONe Thing StolenOne Thing Stolen

Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she’s become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. Can Nadia be rescued or will she simply lose herself altogether?

martine LEAVITT

CalvinCalvin

Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Hobbes is back—as a delusion—and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that if he can convince Bill Watterson to draw one final comic strip, showing a normal teenaged Calvin, he will be cured. Calvin and Susie (and Hobbes) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track him down.

john NEUFELD

Lisa Bright and DarkLisa, Bright and Dark

Lisa Shilling is 16, smart, attractive — and she is losing her mind. Some days are “light, ” and everything is normal; during her “dark” days, she hides deep within herself, and nothing can reach her. Her teachers ignore what is happening. Her parents deny it. Lisa’s friends are the only ones who are listening — and they walk with her where adults fear to tread. This classic novel of a teenager’s descent into madness, in the tradition of Go Ask Alice and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, has remained a best seller for close to thirty years.

samantha SCHUTZ

I Don't Want to be CrazyI Don’t Want to be Crazy

This is a true story of growing up, breaking down, and coming to grips with a psychological disorder. When Samantha Schutz first left home for college, she was excited by the possibilities — freedom from parents, freedom from a boyfriend who was reckless with her affections, freedom from the person she was supposed to be. At first, she revelled in the independence … but as pressures increased , she began to suffer anxiety attacks that would leave her mentally shaken and physically incapacitated. Thus began a hard road of discovery and coping, powerfully rendered in this poetry memoir.

nic SHEFF

SchizoSchizo

Miles is the ultimate unreliable narrator—a teen recovering from a schizophrenic breakdown who believes he is getting better . . . when in reality he is growing worse.  Driven to the point of obsession to find his missing younger brother, Teddy, and wrapped up in a romance that may or may not be the real thing, Miles is forever chasing shadows. As Miles feels his world closing around him, he struggles to keep it open, but what you think you know about his world is actually a blur of gray, and the sharp focus of reality proves startling.

shelley STOEHR

CrossesCrosses

We cut ourselves. Not by accident, we do it purposely–and regularly–because physical pain is comforting, and because now it has become a habit.  Nancy doesn’t have a best friend, until she meets Katie in the bathroom at school. She and Katie have something in common: they both cut themselves. At first, it’s just fun–like the drugs and alcohol and shoplifting–and Nancy and Katie don’t talk about why they do it. But soon Nancy realizes that she and Katie need cutting to get through the day. Nancy can cover the scars on her arms and legs. It’s the others, the ones inside, that are becoming hard to hide.

ned VIZZINI

It's Kind of a Funny StoryIt’s Kind of a Funny Story

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life — getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job — Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That’s when things start to get crazy.  At his new school, Craig realizes that he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping — until, one night, he nearly kills himself.  Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

meg WOLITZER

BelzharBelzhar

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.  She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.  But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.  Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

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