The best novels that nail what life is like living with mental illness

Why am I passionate about this?

My father died by suicide when I was thirteen. Because my family never spoke about the issues leading up to and resulting from this devastating event, we suffered a great deal. I have a deep love for books that expose just how dark, and troubled the teen existence can be. Authors who are brave enough to tackle such topics feed my bravery. The more stories we have on the topics of suicide, mental health, and trauma the broader the conversation and the more those who feel as though no one could possibly understand what they are going through feel seen.


I wrote...

Making Friends With Monsters

By Sandra L. Rostirolla,

Book cover of Making Friends With Monsters

What is my book about?

Why does everything have to be so complicated? Why? Monsters! That’s why! They stick their scungy little noses into everything. Twelve-year-old Sam learns this lesson the hard way. His fact-finding mission about Monsters starts off with the best of intentions. He just wants to help his older brother, Ben. After a terrible accident awakens his own Monster, Sam’s behaviour starts causing problems with everyone, including the girl he loves. He discovers the family secret that caused Ben’s downward spiral and realizes that someone else also has a Monster. And the hideous beast did something really bad.

If Sam is to get through this mess, he needs to find a way to make friends with his Monster before the ravenous beast turns around and swallows him whole.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Turtles All the Way Down

Sandra L. Rostirolla Why did I love this book?

John Green’s description of Aza’s obsessive-compulsive disorder was so vivid, so real, I felt as though I was living Aza’s torment.

Many people might find this type of immersive experience off-putting and think, “Why would I want to feel such an extreme, when all I really want is an escape?”

I love nothing more than a story that takes me deep inside a character, and makes me “feel-the-feels” so to speak.

Plus, John Green’s eloquence with prose and dialog is unmatched. His writing stands in a league of its own.

By John Green,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Turtles All the Way Down 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?

The critically acclaimed, instant #1 bestseller by John Green, author of The Anthropocene Reviewed and The Fault in Our Stars

"A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control." -People

"A sometimes heartbreaking, always illuminating, glimpse into how it feels to live with mental illness." - NPR

John Green, the award-winning, international bestselling author of The Anthropocene Reviewed, returns with a story of shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Aza Holmes never intended to pursue the disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there's a…


Book cover of My Heart and Other Black Holes

Sandra L. Rostirolla Why did I love this book?

I was drawn to this book by the title and the super-intriguing cover.

Something about the linen’s organic nature mixed with the haphazard cross-stitching spoke to me.

Warga captures the depths of depression with her writing to the point where I could feel the sadness and internal struggle of Aysel, the book’s sixteen-year-old main character.

How vividly wonderful is this line: … feels like my skin is too thin, like everyone can see right inside me, can see my empty and dark insides.

The concept of Aysel creating a suicide pact with Roman really hit home. I’ve experienced multiple deaths by suicide, including two school friends who went through with their pact.

This story helped shed light on what clinical depression looks like from the inside, which can be vastly different and seemingly in conflict with the seemingly “I’m okay” exterior.

By Jasmine Warga,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Heart and Other Black Holes 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 brilliant and heartbreaking novel perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why.

Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they've been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month's time, they plan to commit suicide - together.

Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn't equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can't figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all....and why he's even more determined than she is.

With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman - a feeling she never thought she would experience. It…


Book cover of Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Sandra L. Rostirolla Why did I love this book?

Right off the bat, Darius jumps off the page as a real teen with relatable problems.

He’s the quiet kid at school, who the others tease. And he suffers from clinical depression. What I loved was how well Khorram tackled depression’s subtleties.

I think there is a tendency for society to see depression as this overarching dark cloud that keeps us in bed 24/7. But the truth is, many people who are suffering, are functional.

From the outside, we don’t see the building up of little moments that act like a snowball gradually expanding as it rolls down the mountain face.

Be warned – the food descriptions are amazing, so you might get hungry during the read.

By Adib Khorram,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Darius the Great Is Not Okay 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?

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's a Fractional Persian - half, his mum's side - and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he's sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn't exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they're spending their days together, playing soccer, eating…


Book cover of Fighting Words

Sandra L. Rostirolla Why did I love this book?

This book focuses on the mental health aspect of trauma and the devastating impact violence and assault can have on a young life.

Della, our ten-year-old narrator, carries a dry wit and a whole bunch of charm. I was hooked from the opening paragraph of Della showing off her new ampersand tattoo.

I literally thought, “Who is this girl? I just have to know more about her.” And boy, did I!

Della’s story is raw and real and cut me to the core. I especially loved the author’s portrayal of Della and her sister, Suki’s, impenetrable sibling bond.

This book isn’t an easy read and it will make you uncomfortable. But it is a must and important read.

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fighting Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

*Newbery Honor Book*
*Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor*
 
A candid and fierce middle grade novel about sisterhood and sexual abuse, by two-time Newbery Honor winner and #1 New York Times best seller Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of The War that Saved My Life

Kirkus Prize Finalist
Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Booklist Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Best Book of the Year
BookPage Best Book of the Year
New York Public Library Best Book of the Year
Chicago Public Library Best Book…


Book cover of A List Of Cages

Sandra L. Rostirolla Why did I love this book?

This is one of those books that will sit with you for days. It is the story of two friends—former foster brothers—who were separated then reunited.

One is doing well (Adam) and the other is lost in a deep labyrinth of emotions (Julian). The connection between these boys and how it evolves is masterfully portrayed.

I could feel Adam’s anguish and helplessness towards Julian. Some problems don’t have a quick fix. But what all problems need is kindness.

Sometimes this simple act can make a world of difference.

By Robin Roe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A List Of Cages 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?

FIVE STARRED REVIEWS! #1 BESTSELLER! 
 
"I love this book with my whole heart."--Jennifer Niven
 
"Remarkably gripping and moving."--Emma Donoghue
 
"Triumphant."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 
"Beautiful and brilliant."--Shelf Awareness (starred review)
 
"Emotional, visceral...heartbreaking...and beautiful."--School Library Journal (starred review)

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track…


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Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

By Ralph Hickok,

Book cover of Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

What is my book about?

From Kirkus Reviews: "This debut short-story collection paints the wistful life of a newspaper journalist as seen through his sexual and romantic encounters...

Throughout, Hickok writes in an assured style, pulling readers along. The narrow sexual focus results in a distorted picture, yet other aspects of Art's life emerge at the edges—his intelligence, his career as a journalist, and even the sincerity with which he gives in to his male urges and construes sex as love... 

Subdued yet alluring; a pensive reflection on the male psyche."

Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

By Ralph Hickok,

What is this book about?

A man arrives in a new city, hoping to start a new life, but he’s still haunted by memories of past loves…
A 12-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl have a brief romantic encounter when their families are vacationing in neighboring lakeside cottages…
Two teenagers enjoy sexual experimentation when she babysits for her little brother while her parents are out drinking…
A high school boy has a crush on an older woman who identifies with Molly Bloom…
A college freshman falls in love with a high school freshman and is amazed at the depths of her passion…
A guy wins…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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