12 Important Books To Read During Mental Health Awareness Month

May 11, 2020 | 8:30 PM

12 Important Books To Read During Mental Health Awareness Month

By Team Fierce Reads

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949. So many of the stigmas and assumptions surrounding mental illness that were prevalent back then have changed, but there is still a lot more progress to be made. 

Young adult books are a wonderful way for people of all ages who deal with a mental illness to find characters they can identify with. At a time when teen anxiety is at an all-time high, books can help to destroy the remaining stigmas about mental illnesses and let people know they are not alone. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month's 71st anniversary, here are 12 meaningful and important books—both novels and nonfiction—that deal with a lot of mental health issues including heartbreak, grief, depression, anxiety, assault, suicide, and illness.

A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen
Ellie is a seventeen-year-old girl who dies by suicide. Yet, the day after her death, she finds herself having an out-of-body experience, in which she revisits parts of her life. Flashing between past and present, she is shown glimpses of the events that lead up to her death, and major players in her life, like her parents and the boy she had a crush on. It’s through these images that Ellie must figure out why a part of her has stayed behind. Told in an epistolary-like style, this is a novel of hope even in the darkest places.

Your Brain Needs a Hug by Rae Earl
When she was a teenager, author Rae Earl dealt with OCD, anxiety, and an eating disorder, and she survived. Your Brain Needs a Hug is filled with her friendly advice, coping strategies and laugh-out-loud moments to get you through the difficult days. Witty, honest, and enlightening, this is the perfect read for feeling happier and healthier and learning to navigate life without feeling overwhelmed or isolated.

Little Universes by Heather Demetrios
When a tsunami strikes the island where their parents are vacationing, it soon becomes clear that Mae and Hannah's mom and dad are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from sunny California for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles with secrets their parents’ death has brought to light, and with their uncertainty about the future. This powerful novel about grief and addiction explores the bond between sisters and the kinds of love that never die.

Miss You Love You Hate You Bye by Abby Sher
Zoe and Hannah (AKA Hank) have been inseparable since they met in elementary school. Zoe is effortlessly popular while Hank hides comfortably in her shadow. But when Zoe's parents unexpectedly divorce, Zoe beings to sink under the weight of her broken family and develops an eating disorder. Now she must rely on Hank for help. Written partially in letters from Zoe and mostly in narrative from Hank's perspective, Miss You Love You Hate You Bye is a poignant and eye-opening novel about friendship, mental health, and learning to put yourself first.

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
This is the powerful story of two teens in the midst of some tough times. Malcolm lost his mother to cancer and has been acting out ever since. Susan is the new girl who is dealing with the possibility of her parents' divorce. In spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other and come together to face their problems together.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
This classic novel just celebrated its 20th anniversary and it's just as timely as ever. Speak is about a teen who is assaulted by a fellow classmate at her high school and keeps what happens to her a secret. Forced to continue attending school with him, she finds her voice and learns to speak up for herself. 

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron
In this speculative novel, a teen tries to handle her grief over her mother's death while secretly trying to nurse a winged woman who fell from the sky back to health. Set against the backdrop of a society trying to come to grips with the possibility of a world beyond, Out of the Blue is the story of how one unexpected turn of events can put you on a path toward healing.

Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins
Robin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places—a summer service trip to Kolkata to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds build between the travelmates, Robin and Kat discover that justice and healing are tangled, like the pain of their pasts and the hope for their futures. You can’t rewind life; sometimes you just have to push play.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum 
August and Jack are "misfits" who have been friends since they were young. But when Jack begins slipping into hallucinations, August decides to help Jack with his mental illness the best way he knows how: by sticking by his side. Written in vivid micro-fiction with a stream-of-consciousness feel and multimedia elements, The Wicker King touches on themes of mental health and explores a codependent relationship fraught with tension, madness, and love.

How to Be Luminous by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
When Minnie's famous artist mother disappears, she starts seeing the world in monochrome. Literally. How can she follow in her mother's footsteps and create incredible works of art when all she sees is black-and-white? This lyrical and engrossing story about the aftermath of tragedy and the power of self-belief and love is truly a can't-miss read.

How the Light Gets In by Katy Upperman
Since her sister’s tragic death, Callie has basically given up. With painful reminders of her sister all around her, her grades have plummeted and she barely recognizes the people her parents once were. When she visits her aunt’s home one year after her sister's death, she doesn't expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or a local boy brimming with sunshine. But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams and unanswered questions. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?

Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia
Before, Peyton was a star soccer player with the perfect boyfriend. Now, she has a torn knee ligament and a shattered sense of self. No one believes her boyfriend pushed her, causing her injury. To escape her past, Peyton moves in with her uncle, where she meets the charming and gentle Owen and begins to recover from the trauma of her relationship. With southern charm, underground martial arts, and red-hot chemistry, Broken Beautiful Hearts will steal your breath away.