The best YA novels on bullying and depression

The Books I Picked & Why

Everybody Sees the Ants

By A.S. King

Book cover of Everybody Sees the Ants

Why 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.

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Before I Fall

By Lauren Oliver

Book cover of Before I Fall

Why 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.

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I'll Give You the Sun

By Jandy Nelson

Book cover of I'll Give You the Sun

Why 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.

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Eleanor & Park

By Rainbow Rowell

Book cover of Eleanor & Park

Why 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.

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A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay

Book cover of A Monster Calls

Why 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.

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