There has been a huge emphasis recently in bringing awareness and understanding of mental illness. It seems like everyone I meet has struggled with or knows someone who has struggled with or is currently struggling with depression, autism, anxiety, addiction and more.
Below are 5 books that have main characters dealing with some sort of mental illness or developmental disorder.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (2-Feb-2009) Paperback by Stephen Chbosky is told in a series of letters written by high school student Charlie to an unknown recipient. Charlie goes into excruciating detail of his awkward, anxiety-driven encounters with peers and friends. At his best Charlie suffers from acute anxiety and at worst he might be autistic. This book has also been turned into a movie starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green follows the story of Aza Holmes, who suffers from anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as she teams up with best friend Daisy and neighbor Davis to discover the whereabouts of Davis’ father, a fugitive from the law. Davis would rather not know what happened to his father, but the ever-tightening spiral of thoughts that plague Aza every day won’t allow her to drop the case.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins tells the story of Rachel Watson, an alcoholic who has hit rock bottom when her husband leaves her for another woman and starts a family, she loses her job and her best friends and reluctant roommate doesn’t want Rachel to stay with her anymore. When a woman Rachel views from her commuter train window every day disappears without a trace, Rachel stumbles into the middle of the investigation and finds that she may have more to contribute than her fantasy about the woman’s life. Rachel’s character must cope with the reality of her broken life while she goes untreated for addiction and depression.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter: A Novel by Kim Edwards is the story of a nurse who takes on the care of a newborn child with Down syndrome. As little Phoebe defies the odds and grows into a little girl and then young woman, her caretaker, Caroline, struggles with the decision to introduce Phoebe to her biological family, including her father who chose to give her away and her twin brother, Paul. While Phoebe herself is a beautiful example of how much challenge and fulfillment raising a child with Down syndrome can be, it’s her parents who brings this book to my list. Filled with regret that spans decades, Dr. David Henry and his wife suffer from immeasurable grief at the loss of their daughter – one believing her dead at birth and other filled with uncertainty of her current life.
Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught follows the story of Schizophrenic Jason as he finds comradery with two other young adults who suffer with anxiety and psychological disorders similar to his own. When Sunshine, one of the trio, disappears, Jason must sort through the memories and voices to find the truth behind her disappearance. Will he become a suspect? Why can’t he remember what happened?
I would recommend any of these books to those who love contemporary fiction and coming of age stories. And who knows, maybe by reading between the lines and getting the point of view of someone suffering from a mental illness, it will allow us to become more compassionate to those who have first-hand knowledge what it’s like to be suffering.
Considering purchasing these books? Check them out here: