May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Whether or not mental health issues have personally affected you, it is important to understand them and gain empathy through other perspectives. Here are some teen books that shed some light on a complex issue.
Depressed, overweight Anna Bloom's parents commit her to a teen psychiatric ward when they become worried about her. Anna's humorous journalistic voice demonstrates how normal this experience can be, with issues about weight and relationship drama intruding where they're least expected.
Although there are a few unbelievable twists in this story, such as a teen being admitted to an adult psych ward with a colorful cast of characters, Ned Vizzini's account of an elite school student cracking under pressure has a ring of tragedy complicated by the fact that he recently took his own life. However, this teen title has more humor and heart than one would expect from such subject matter.
Here's a change of pace in a posthumous narrator and a tear-jerking story that offers little levity and romance. Still, this story about the tapes left behind by victimized high school student Hannah Baker explaining the reasons why she committed suicide strikes a chord with her secret admirer Clay, and with most teens who read this somber story. Rarely has the message of reaching out despite our social anxiety been so palpable as in the ending to this book.