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Teen

12 Books on Physical and Mental Wellness for Teens

by Jennifer Garry

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Photo credit: martin-dm, E+ Collection/Getty Images

Wellness is a hot topic right now, and for good reason — with stressful news cycles, upside-down schedules, and a global pandemic to grapple with, we can all use a reminder to take care of ourselves. It can be tricky to communicate this message of wellness for teens. For the most part, they don’t want to hear it from their parents or other authority figures. That’s where books can help.

These 12 books range from a memoir of someone who lost her mother to novels about teens struggling with mental illness and self-discovery, essays and stories from YA authors to guides from a coach and a fitness pioneer. All of them will help teens feel more connected, no matter what they might be facing.

  • The Valley and the Flood

    by Rebecca Mahoney

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    When her car breaks down in the Nevada desert, Rose wanders into the small town of Lotus Valley. There, she meets prophets, makes new friends, and tries to prove a prophecy wrong. This captivating and magical novel is about a girl with PTSD who must discover and embrace every piece of herself.

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  • How It All Blew Up

    by Arvin Ahmadi

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    When Amir comes out to his Muslim family, everything blows up. He travels to Rome to escape the drama, where he feels free to be himself — until his past shows up again. Funny, authentic, and devastating, this novel will capture your heart from the very first page.

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  • Concrete Kids

    by Amyra León, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

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    The newest book in the Pocket Change Collective series, this collection of free verse poems invites readers to dream big. Amyra León, a musician, playwright, and educator, takes readers through her childhood, experiences in foster care, and learning to love herself. For teens and adults looking for an inspirational book that encourages them to reach for the stars, this is a must-read.

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  • Let’s Talk About It

    by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan

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    This guide to growing up is essential reading for teens. Delivered in a graphic novel format, teens will find answers to all the embarrassing questions they have but don’t want to ask. Whether it’s jealousy, body image, or consent, this informative book handles every topic with humor and tact.

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  • How It Feels to Float

    by Helena Fox

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    If you’re looking for an unputdownable novel about mental illness, grief, loss, and sexuality, don’t miss this stunning book. Biz’s father died when she was seven, but she could always still reach him — until now. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, this award-winning novel will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

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  • Who Put This Song On?

    by Morgan Parker

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    Growing up as the only Black girl in her suburban neighborhood hasn’t been easy, and Morgan feels pressured to fit in even as she wants to break free. Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, this novel is about a girl who struggles with depression, faith, and fitting in. Loosely based on the author’s experiences, this book will have you cheering for Morgan every step of the way.

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  • How to Make Friends with the Dark

    by Kathleen Glasgow

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    If you loved Kathleen Glasgow’s novel Girl in Pieces, then this one is a must-read! When her mother dies suddenly, Tiger finds herself without a family or home. She bounces around the foster care system before finding an unexpected home with a long-lost sister. This book is an emotional yet hopeful story that deals with depression, self-harm, loneliness, and family.

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  • Watch Over Me

    by Nina LaCour

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    Teens will love this haunting ghost story about a girl dealing with grief and trauma from the author of We Are Okay. When Mila goes to live on an isolated farm in Northern California, she hopes that she has finally found a home and family to call her own. But her past still haunts her, and it will take the love and support of her new family members to survive.

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  • The Young Champion's Mind

    by Jim Afremow, PhD

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    Award-winning coach and sports psychologist Jim Afremow is known for his approach to training an athlete’s mind, body, and spirit. In the new young adult edition of The Champion’s Mind, Dr. Afremow turns his attention to student athletes. The book guides teens through topics like getting in the “zone,” staying humble, and progressing within a sport.

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  • Hope Nation

    by Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, Nicola Yoon, and Marie Lu, edited by Rose Brock

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    Some of our time’s most influential young adult authors have joined forces in this collection of essays and personal stories designed to help embolden hope. Offering moments of light in the darkness and speaking directly to teens, this anthology acknowledges pain, offers encouragement, and stresses that hope is a decision. Authors include Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!

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  • Total Teen

    by Tracy Anderson

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    Total Teen is fitness pioneer Tracy Anderson’s body-positive guide to living a healthy, balanced life. Through exercises, activities, and recipes, as wells as questions and prompts, Anderson guides teens into being their best physically, mentally, and emotionally — with no fad diets or calorie counting.

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  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay

    by Adib Khorram

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    Darius never feels good enough. The half-Persian teen doesn’t fit in at home, and he’s sure his first-ever trip to Iran is not going to make him feel any better. His clinical depression doesn’t help. But when Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, everything changes and he has never felt more like himself. If you love Darius the Great Is Not Okay, be sure to check out the newly-released sequel, Darius the Great Deserves Better.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2020 and updated in 2021.