The best YA novels on bullying and depression

Who am I?

I am the author of Cracked, Empty, and Ultimatum, three contemporary Young Adult novels that each focus on the hideous effects of bullying. I’ve presented to thousands of students, adults, teachers, and librarians from the elementary through university level on the topic of “The Power of Human Kindness”. I spent twelve years as a public-school teacher (ten of them in middle school), where I developed highly successful ways to stop bullying, resulting in me presenting to my entire faculty, school board, and eventually, my district. I was also the director/owner of Camp Kindness, a summer day camp, and have contributed to numerous news articles on bullying.

I wrote...


By K.M. Walton,

Book cover of Cracked

What is my book about?

A teen takes a bottle of pills and lands in the psych ward with the bully who drove him to attempt suicide in this gripping novel.

Victor hates his life. He has no friends, gets beaten up at school, and his parents are always criticizing him. Tired of feeling miserable, Victor takes a bottle of his mother’s sleeping pills—only to wake up in the hospital. Bull is angry and takes all of his rage out on Victor. That makes him feel better, at least a little. But it doesn’t stop Bull’s grandfather from getting drunk and hitting him. So Bull tries to defend himself with a loaded gun. When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, there’s no way to escape each other or their problems. Which means things are going to get worse—much worse—before they get better.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Everybody Sees the Ants

K.M. Walton Why did I love this book?

If you’ve never read an A.S. King book, well, all I can say is: fix that immediately. King’s brilliance shines through her witty dialogue and her ability to peel back the layers on the uncomfortable parts of life all while managing to use magical realism perfectly. Her books are that good. I’m not kidding. This book focuses on 15-year-old Lucky Linderman, who is the target of Nader McMillan’s relentless bullying. You’ll fall in love with Lucky. You’ll fall in love with this book.

By A.S. King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everybody Sees the Ants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their family is fine. And he certainly didn't ask to be the recipient of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily dysfunction of his life. Grandad Harry, trapped in the jungles of Laos, has been visiting Lucky in his dreams--and the dreams just might be real:…

Book cover of Before I Fall

K.M. Walton Why did I love this book?

Despite reading this for the first time in 2010 I can still remember how I felt upon finishing. Wowed. It’s quite a sticky story, and by sticky, I mean it sticks with you. Samantha Kingston is a popular high school senior with a seemingly perfect and shiny life. Hot boyfriend, best friends, revered by her classmates. Then she dies and is forced to relive her last day seven times, and it is in those seven experiences that she discovers who she really was…and is.

By Lauren Oliver,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Before I Fall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A bestselling summer read as heartbreaking as The Lovely Bones and as gripping as Jenny Downham's Before I Die.

**Now a major Netflix movie starring Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley*

'Gossip Girl meets Groundhog Day' Grazia

'Tender, funny and raw' Marie Claire

'A clever, funny, insightful and utterly addictive novel' Daily Mail

'Compelling and poignant, a truly memorable read' Closer

They say 'live every day as if it's your last' - but you never actually think it's going to be. At least I didn't.
The thing is, you don't get to know when it happens. You don't…

Book cover of I'll Give You the Sun

K.M. Walton Why did I love this book?

Jandy Nelson’s writing is pure genius. I was blown away with her prose after reading The Sky is Everywhere (an excellent book as well), so when I’ll Give You the Sun released I gobbled it up. It’s the story of twins, sister and brother—Jude and Noah—brilliantly told from each of their points of view. Noah opens the book when the twins are thirteen and very close. He’s being bullied because he’s gay. Then it moves forward in time with Jude’s point of view when they’re sixteen and have drifted apart. Ultimately, at its core, I believe it is a story about assumptions, misgivings, and love. And it’s a stunning read.

By Jandy Nelson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked I'll Give You the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestseller

Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize

Winner of the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award

Winner of a 2015 Stonewall Honor

"This is the big one - the BLAZING story of once inseparable twins whose lives are torn apart by tragedy." Entertainment Weekly

From the critically acclaimed author of The Sky Is Every where, a radiant novel that will leave you laughing and crying - all at once. For fans of John Green, Gayle Forman and Lauren Oliver.

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close - until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they…

Book cover of Eleanor & Park

K.M. Walton Why did I love this book?

Eleanor & Park brings to life how mental illness affects not only the person suffering but also the relationships she/he has. And it does so with wit and humor and mountains of heart. But it’s also a pitch-perfect “first love” story set in 1986 that will have you laughing, sighing, cringing, and breathless.

By Rainbow Rowell,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Eleanor & Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'Reminded me not just what it's like to be young and in love, but what it's like to be young and in love with a book' John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she's never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and - in Eleanor's eyes - impossibly cool, Park's worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to…

Book cover of A Monster Calls

K.M. Walton Why did I love this book?

This book is one-of-a-kind for many reasons. The obvious would be the incredible illustrations throughout, enhancing the expertly written prose. The not-so-obvious would be its ability to make you willingly put yourself in the main character’s shoes despite his currently hideous situation: his mother is seriously ill. Conor is in a desperate personal struggle, an emotional struggle. He wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window, a surprising monster. This monster wants something from Conor, and it pushes him to confront his fears and his rage.

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Monster Calls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The bestselling novel and major film about love, loss and hope from the twice Carnegie Medal-winning Patrick Ness.

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking…

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By Linda Kass,

Book cover of Bessie

Linda Kass Author Of Bessie

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Bookstore owner Learner Reader Historical novelist Long distance cyclist

Linda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In the bigoted milieu of 1945, six days after the official end of World War II, Bess Myerson, the daughter of poor Russian immigrants living in the Bronx, remarkably rises to become Miss America, the first —and to date only— Jewish woman to do so. At stake is a $5,000 scholarship for the winner.

An intimate fictional portrait of Bess Myerson’s early life, Bessie reveals the transformation of the nearly six-foot-tall, self-deprecating yet talented preteen into an exemplar of beauty, a peripheral quality in her world. It is the unfamiliar secular society of pageantry she must choose to escape her roots as she searches for love and acceptance, eager to make her mark on the world.


By Linda Kass,

What is this book about?

Just days after the close of World War II, Bess Myerson, the college-educated daughter of poor Russian Jewish immigrants living in the Bronx, is competing in the Miss America pageant. At stake: a $5,000 scholarship. The tension and excitement in Atlantic City's Warner Theatre is palpable, especially for traumatized Jews rooting for one of their own. So begins Bessie.

Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Bessie reimagines the early life of Bess Myerson, who, in 1945 at age twenty-one, remarkably rises to become one of the most famous women in America. This intimate fictional portrait reveals the transformation of the…

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