The best books for young adults that will make you laugh and cry

Who am I?

The topic of mental health, which is prominent in all the books I’ve recommended, including my own, is one I am passionate about. As a neurodivergent person, I know first-hand how difficult the teen years can be. Not only are you dealing with the issues like friends, family, and school, but you are working with other factors that can make learning and socializing especially difficult. When I was a teen, I did not have books like these to guide me and let me know I was not alone in my feelings and struggles. It is my deepest wish that all kids have books, tools, and guides to help them.

I wrote...

List of Ten

By Halli Gomez,

Book cover of List of Ten

What is my book about?

Ten: three little letters, one ordinary number. For Troy Hayes, a sixteen-year-old suffering from Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the number dictates his life. Fed up with the daily humiliation, loneliness, and physical pain, Troy writes a list of ten things to do by the tenth anniversary of his diagnosis—culminating in suicide on the actual day. But the process of working his way through the list changes Troy’s life: he becomes friends with Khory, a classmate with her own troubled history who unwittingly helps him cross off items on his list. He moves ever closer to his grand finale, even as Khory shows him that life may have more possibilities than he imagined. 

The books I picked & why

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Turtles All the Way Down

By John Green,

Book cover of Turtles All the Way Down

Why this book?

Turtles All the Way Down was the first fiction book I read where I saw myself, the neurodivergent, insecure person living one day at a time. And I’m talking books in all age categories and genres. I remember saying out loud, and later to anyone who would listen, “he gets it. The feelings, the thoughts, the interactions with others. Everything!” And then I went on to tell everyone what a genius John Green is. What makes this book special, and why I recommend it, is that this is a story all readers will love. It is about individuality and miscommunication all tied together in a mystery.

All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven,

Book cover of All the Bright Places

Why this book?

For me, All the Bright Places accurately represents the joys and sorrows of life. This book is so full of depth, heart, and incredible characters, when I read it, I forgot it was a book. I was excited for every chapter when Finch and Violet would take me on their adventure. These characters are relatable and true to life. Even if you’ve never been through the situations they have, you can imagine them as kids in your neighborhood, workplace, or school. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking book that I will reread every year and always experience the excitement.

The Way I Used to Be

By Amber Smith,

Book cover of The Way I Used to Be

Why this book?

I always say that you never know what goes on behind someone else’s closed door. How they appear physically and/or mentally in public doesn’t tell their whole story. It’s like social media. We only share the good parts of our lives. Everyone has secrets and fears and reasons they keep parts of their lives to themselves. The Way I Used to Be is a perfect example of why we should never judge a person without knowing them and why we should take the time to get to know a person, pay attention to changes in personality, and let them know you are a friend. We are all guilty of not taking the time and this book is a reminder to myself that I must be better than that.

Kind of Sort of Fine

By Spencer Hall,

Book cover of Kind of Sort of Fine

Why this book?

There may be other young adult books written about high school seniors who have no idea what they want to do when they grow up, but there aren’t many. That is one aspect I love about this book. There are many high schoolers, and adults, who have no idea what career they want. It’s important for them to know that is normal, especially in this high-pressure world. One of the two main characters, Lewis Holbrook, is that kid. He’s also a great friend, hiding a crush, and learning to be adventurous. I love books that show it’s okay to not have your life planned. I fear for the kids who are under so much pressure, and any book to help them gets a recommendation from me.

The (Un)Popular Vote

By Jasper Sanchez,

Book cover of The (Un)Popular Vote

Why this book?

This book hits all the right points for me. A diverse cast, teens figuring out who they are, and the problem of obstacles thrown in their way. That’s real life. In this divisive climate, we see and hear a lot of arguments played out on the news. Parents arguing against this, teachers and librarians fighting for that. What we don’t see and hear enough of are the kids, the ones who are truly affected by these disagreements. What I love about this book is that we get to hear their points of views, their feelings. We see what happens when a parent refuses to accept their child for who they are and puts limitations on their love. I love this book because it gives me that perspective.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in suicide, anxiety, and OCD?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about suicide, anxiety, and OCD.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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