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Tween

Teen

Middle Grade and YA Books on Mental Disorders and Differences

by Melissa Taylor

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Background credit: Limolida Design Studio/Shutterstock

Whether a child or someone in their family or friend group is affected by a mental disorder, realistic books show children the realities of living with a condition. While these books tackle tough subjects, they do so with heart, hope, and compassion. Here are some fantastic books that build empathy and inclusiveness and help tweens and teens understand that they are not alone.

  • Middle Grade

  • All the Greys on Greene Street

    by Laura Tucker, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

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    Olympia tries to hide that her dad is missing and that her mom’s confined to bed due to depression. But when her worried friends tell an adult, both Olympia and her mother get the help they need. Sensitively written, this is an honest portrayal of the complexities and challenges children face when a parent struggles with mental illness.

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  • The Science of Breakable Things

    by Tae Keller

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    Using the scientific method, Natalie tries to solve her mom’s depression. She theorizes that a trip will cure her mom’s stay-in-bed-all-day blues. To get money for the trip, Natalie must win an egg drop contest — for which she also applies the scientific method. As events unfold in the competition and at home, Natalie realizes that neither life nor depression is an exact science... and that depression doesn’t have a quick fix.

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  • Each Tiny Spark

    by Pablo Cartaya

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    Emilia’s dad is a Marine who returns home as a different person than when he left. His stark personality change confuses Emilia, who doesn’t understand post-traumatic stress disorder. Together, they repair a vintage car, which helps them rebuild their relationship. Meanwhile, Emilia’s school boundary situation compels her to become a passionate advocate against racism and injustice.

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  • Turtle Boy

    by M. Evan Wolkenstein

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    Will, a boy with body dysmorphia, hates how his face looks almost as much as he hates the hospital — the place his father died after surgery. Unfortunately, for his Bar Mitzvah service project he’s assigned to visit a terminally ill boy in the hospital. This forces Will to confront his grief and feelings about how he looks.

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  • YA

  • Finding Audrey

    by Sophie Kinsella

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    Suffering from social anxiety disorder and depression, Audrey finds it impossible to leave her house, let alone make eye contact. Her brother’s friend, Linus, becomes a love interest and supports Audrey in her efforts to go to therapy so she’ll be able to do things like walk to Starbucks by herself. Surprisingly filled with humorous moments, this is a story of a girl with a quirky, loving family who works hard to cope with her mental disorders.

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  • All the Bright Places

    by Jennifer Niven

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    Finch meets Violet — a girl grieving her sister’s death — when they’re both about to jump off the school’s bell tower. They talk each other down and later partner together on a school project, becoming friends and then more than friends. Finch shows Violet how to live in the moment even though he’s still struggling with suicidal thoughts. Emotional, insightful, and heartbreaking, this story deftly shines a light on mental illness and suicide.

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  • How to Make Friends with the Dark

    by Kathleen Glasgow

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    After her mother dies, grief pulls Tiger into a deep sadness. Moving between foster care families, she deals with food issues, domestic violence, mental illness, and alcoholism. Eventually, she finds a home with a long-lost sister. Her journey illuminates her mom’s mental illness and shows Tiger’s resiliency as she copes with grief, loss, and a new family.

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  • Who Put This Song On?

    by Morgan Parker

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    Morgan is sick of being the only Black girl in a white suburb — not to mention she feels like an outsider because of her liberal beliefs. Plus, her depression and anxiety are getting worse. Exhausted from the bleakness of her mental health, Morgan fights to stay afloat, confront the racism around her, grapple with her faith, deal with her mental health struggles, and be herself.

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  • Home Home

    by Lisa Allen-Agostini

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    After Kyla’s suicide attempt, her mom sends her from Trinidad to Canada to live with an aunt. There, she receives unconditional love and empathy from her aunt, which helps Kyla deal with her debilitating anxiety and depression. As Kyla finds support in therapy and her new, loving family life, she also makes a new friend who understands. You’ll cheer for Kyla as she finds strength and healing.

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  • Turtles All the Way Down

    by John Green

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    Aza is a teenage girl whose brain spirals with repetitive thoughts and worries. While she and a friend investigate a billionaire's disappearance, her brain’s obsessive thoughts make almost everything seem impossible. Heartbreaking and raw, this powerful story gives readers an inside look (based on Green’s own experiences) of what it’s like to have OCD.

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