Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Mental Health Matters

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and every May I try to read and hopefully post a Reading on a Theme dedicated to books that address mental health. I'm so impressed with the many YA books that handle mental health issues with deft and love. More books on this topic here.

Family in Iran:
Darius Kellner doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere. Half Persian, half American, he feels like he's not enough of either. His father oscillates between being overbearing about Darius's depression and being unapproachable. When Darius's grandfather is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, the whole family journeys to Iran to see him. Darius the Great is Not Okay is a book about connection to family and friends. In Iran Darius meets Sohrab, who becomes the first really close friend he's ever had, and with that relationship Darius begins to understand himself. The love in Adib Khorram's book radiates off the page--the embrace of family, the joy of a true friend, the acceptance of self. A truly special book.

Fearful of the Future:
With just a few months left of high school, Nick and June should be looking forward to what's to come, but instead things are falling apart for the pair. June's mental health has been unraveling for months. Finally, the situation comes to a head, and she finds herself in the hospital. Nick finally decides he's done stealing cars for his manipulative boss, but he can't convince himself that his fate is not already sealed. I really liked Shalanda Stanley's debut, Drowning is Inevitable, and I think Nick and June Were Here is even better. This book deals with some really serious and powerful issues: mental illness, poverty, abandonment. The rural South setting is pitch perfect, and Nick and June will break your heart. Nick and June Were Here was out February 12, 2019. Review copy from NetGalley.

Highly Illogical Behavior is the story of Solomon, who hasn't left his house in three years, Lisa, the girl who believes she can fix him, and Clark, Lisa's charming boyfriend. This book is both extremely entertaining and very thought-provoking. I really like that John Corey Whaley was willing to show both good and bad examples when it comes to loving and accepting those with mental health concerns. The characters are so endearing. I loved reading about Solomon and Clark geeking out over their love of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And Lisa, oh, she makes terrible decisions, but as a reader, you still have a soft spot in your heart for her. I read this book in one morning. I just gulped it down in one go.

Prepping for a Catastrophe:
One way that Ellis's anxiety condition manifests is in an obsessive need to prepare for the apocalypse. One afternoon, Ellis meets Hannah in her therapist's waiting room, and Hannah claims she knows when and how the world will end. The two girls clearly need each other. Katie Henry tackles a lot in Let's Call it a Doomsday. Besides the mental health issues, Ellis is dealing with her faith as a believing Mormon, her sexuality, and her family, who doesn't seem to really understand Ellis or want to fully accept that she needs medical help. I like that this book handled religion respectfully. The Mormon elements are very accurate, but, one should remember, that there is a lot of variation within all religions in terms of practice and belief. Let's Call it a Doomsday is out August 6, 2019. Review copy from Edelweiss.

A Sister's Death:
Julia's mother has certain expectations for her daughter, and Julia feels like she never measures up. She can't be the daughter her mother wants her to be. Everything gets worse when Julia's seemingly perfect older sister, Olga, is killed in a car accident. As Julia learns more about her sister's life, her world begins to spiral out of control. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a really good book, but it's also a really hard one. Erika L. Sanchez's novel is a story of a girl who is not handling her mental health, who is not getting the help she needs, and it's so painful and sad to be in her head sometimes. The dynamic between Julia and her Mexican mother is complicated. This book is very, very real.

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