These tween and teen books bring awareness to characters with "invisible" disabilities. They showcase character battles and the will to survive and thrive, as well as the need for help and empathy. Each author also intimately describes a personal struggle with disability as well as a hope to inspire a more open and inclusive world with their stories.
In Focused, Clea struggles with school work and exams, plus social activities, like chess (one of her favorite games), and hanging out with her best friend. When she finds out she has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), she learns new tools and strategies that help her get organized. Clea also learns that having something to fidget with, like a sand-filled balloon, actually helps her focus. Most important, she finds a support system and doesn't give up, learning how to read and enjoy a book as well as even savor a first kiss. Author Alyson Gerber reveals in an end note that she struggled with ADHD growing up and got stuck in a whirlwind of failure and self-blame. She wrote this book to help readers understand that people with ADHD need help, and that life is a lot easier with support. She also provides resources for ADHD, including the National Resource on ADHD, CHADD.
In On A Scale of 1 to 10, Tamar, a patient in a psychiatric hospital, is coming to terms with her mental illness and desire to "self-destruct" after losing her best friend. Other hospital patients struggle along with Tamar, including Alice, who has anorexia, and others who have anxiety and depression. But the main focus is on Tamar, who is terrified and sad, but learns to find hope. Slowly, but surely, she clings a little bit more tightly to the beauty of being alive. Author Ceylan Scott reveals in an author's note that she was admitted to a psychiatric ward when she was a teenager. At 16 she decided she wanted to write this book after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
Last but not least, meet Samantha in I Don't Want to Be Crazy. Author Samantha Schutz's poetry memoir reveals the struggles of an anxiety-ridden, self-loathing girl leaving for college and looking for an excuse to break away from an unhealthy relationship with a careless boyfriend. Initially, Samantha loves the independence, but she fears the judgment of her peers and moves through friendships and new boyfriends quickly and uncertainly. It's not long before the tremors and sweating begin, along with difficulty breathing, a racing mind and loss of control. Soon, the differences between panic disorders and depression begin to blur until Samantha finds the strength to gain control of her life with a support system and through therapy, breath work and learning to consider each problem individually, rather than piled together. Schutz wrote and published this book when she was 26 years old. Schutz recommends mentalhealth.gov and NAMI.org as well as the National Suicide Prevention Line, (800) 273-TALK, as professional resources for others who are struggling.