The best young adult books for raising mental health awareness

Who am I?

I never thought much about mental health until I became a youth caregiver for my grandfather when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and then after multiple near-death experiences left me with depression, addiction, and the symptoms of PTSD by twenty years old. These past traumas not only pushed me to study literature dedicated to raising mental health awareness in teen readers for most of my adult life, but they also continue to play a major role in my life as a writer. My young adult novels, No Sad Songs and On the Way to Birdland, deal with a variety of mental health concerns in ways that provide light-hearted humor, empathy, and guidance.

I wrote...

On the Way to Birdland

By Frank Morelli,

Book cover of On the Way to Birdland

What is my book about?

When Cordy Wheaton’s father falls ill, the sixteen-year-old philosophy expert vows to reunite his family. He embarks on a modern-day odyssey with forty bucks in his pocket and a dream to find his missing brother, Travis, and convince him to be Travis again—by taking him to a show at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City and reminding him of the common bonds they share with their legendary hero, John Coltrane. Cordy’s journey is soon haunted by ghostly visions, traumatic dreams, and disembodied voices that echo through his mind. He starts to wonder if the voices are those of the fates, guiding him toward his destiny—or if he’s losing his grip on reality.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of All the Bright Places

Frank Morelli Why did I love this book?

Jennifer Niven’s writing mesmerizes in this groundbreaking tale about the mental complexities that can bog down the daily lives of teen readers. Her writing handles love, death, and suicide with grace, humor, and heart. If you read this book without ultimately falling in love with the character Theodore Finch, a young man who consistently plots his own suicide and just as consistently has his attempts derailed by the random acts of kindness that seem to spring up all around him, then I’d be as surprised as the millions of viewers on Netflix who made the feature film version of this book an instant classic. Please, please, please read this book. Then watch the movie. You won’t be disappointed in either experience.

By Jennifer Niven,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked All the Bright Places 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?

Now a major film starring Elle Fanning and Justice Smith on Netflix.

A compelling and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.

Theodore Finch constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself, but each time something good stops him.

Violet Markey exists for the future, counting the days until she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief for her late sister.

When they meet on the ledge of a tower, what might have been their end turns into their beginning.

It's only with Violet that Finch can truly be…

Book cover of Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Frank Morelli Why did I love this book?

What’s better than a book in which a character, Darius Kellner, knows how to speak fluent Klingon? Well, a book that provides teen readers with an understanding of what it feels like to live with chronic depression and what to do when you feel like you don’t quite fit no matter where you go. One of the features I love most about Adib Khorram’s debut novel is how it artfully describes depression as a potential puzzle piece in one’s life instead of as a defining characteristic, an example we see in brilliant detail when Darius meets Sohrab, the boy who shows him how to recognize and eventually be comfortable in his true identity.

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 Highly Illogical Behavior

Frank Morelli Why did I love this book?

John Corey Whaley tackles a mental health issue in agoraphobia that is seldom discussed and seems to be even less understood by the general masses. One of the features of this book that makes me go back to read it time and again is how Whaley gives us a window into this heavy experience through his character Lisa Praytor, who goes through great pains to free her friend Solomon from his self imposed captivity in time to get him into college, in light and often comical prose that dances off the page.

By John Corey Whaley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Highly Illogical Behavior 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?

Sixteen year old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn't left his house in three years, which is fine by him. At home, he is the master of his own kingdom--even if his kingdom doesn't extend outside of the house.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to go to a top tier psychiatry program. She'll do anything to get in.

When Lisa finds out about Solomon's solitary existence, she comes up with a plan sure to net her a scholarship: befriend Solomon. Treat his condition. And write a paper on her findings. To earn Solomon's trust, Lisa begins letting him into her life, introducing…

Book cover of Looking for Alaska

Frank Morelli Why did I love this book?

When Miles Halter ends up at Culver Creek Boarding School just down the hall from the breathtakingly erratic and total badass, Alaska Young, his life changes from boring and conventional to sexy and somewhat self-destructive almost overnight. What I love most about one of John Green’s earliest young adult novels is how Alaska motivates everyone around her to be larger than life, to believe in “the Great Perhaps,” but her past experiences continually haunt her and prevent her from living out her own advice at any deep level. Green provides a heartbreaking perspective on abuse, depression, and self-destruction in this classic coming-of-age tale that breathes with authentic teen characters.

By John Green,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Looking for Alaska 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 award-winning, genre-defining debut from John Green, the #1 bestselling author of The Anthropocene Reviewed and The Fault in Our Stars

Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award • A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist • A New York Times Bestseller • A USA Today Bestseller • NPR’s Top Ten Best-Ever Teen Novels • TIME magazine’s 100 Best Young Adult Novels of All Time • A PBS Great American Read Selection • Millions of copies sold!

First drink. First prank. First friend. First love.

Last words.

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words—and tired of his safe life…

Book cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Frank Morelli Why did I love this book?

If you’re looking for a book that will get you all up in your feels, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the one. Written as an epistolary novel, Chbosky’s character Charlie shares his observations on life through letters he seemingly aims directly at the reader. In them, the reader is introduced to an empathetic, socially awkward young man who is struggling with his own identity, his understanding of the social scene, abuse, addiction, and so many more issues that affect his mental health that it is sometimes hard to see how he will continue to cope throughout the duration of the novel. What makes me go back to this book at least once per year are the many tear-jerker moments Chbosky includes, and how Charlie’s narration truly allows me to feel his experiences directly through his voice.

By Stephen Chbosky,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Perks of Being a Wallflower 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 modern cult classic, a major motion picture and a timeless bestseller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story.

Charlie is not the biggest geek in high school, but he's by no means popular.

Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is attempting to navigate through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and music - when all one requires to feel infinite is that…

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Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

Book cover of Dinner with Churchill

Robin Hawdon Author Of Number Ten

New book alert!

Who am I?

My writing is eclectic and covers many topics. However, all my books tend to have a thriller element to them. Perhaps it's my career as an actor and playwright which has instilled the need to create suspense in all my writings. I sometimes feel that distinguished authors can get so carried away with their literary descriptions and philosophical insights that they forget to keep the story going! It is the need to know what happens next that keeps the reader turning the pages. Perhaps in achieving that some subtlety has to be sacrificed, but, hey, you don't read a political thriller to study the philosophical problems of governing nations!

Robin's book list on lone heroes and threats to national security

What is my book about?

This is a new novel by one of the UK's most prolific writers. It is based around an extraordinary true incident at the start of World War II when fierce political opponents Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain encountered each other at a famous dinner party. Seen from the perspective of Lucy Armitage, a young girl suddenly conscripted by a strange stroke of fate into Churchill's overworked but adoring team of secretaries.

As Churchill prepares to take over the leadership of the nation, Lucy finds herself increasingly involved in her famous employer's phenomenal work output and eccentric habits. When romance and the world of espionage impinge on her life, she becomes a vital part of the eternal struggle between good and evil regimes that still exists today.

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

What is this book about?

It is on historical record that, on the evening of October 13th 1939, six weeks after war had been declared on Hitler's Germany, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, fierce and implacable opponents for years over the appeasement issue, met together with their two wives, Clementine and Anne, for a private dinner at Admiralty House, and event which caused ripples throughout Westminster.

Chamberlain was still Prime Minister, but had seen all his efforts to negotiate peace with Hitler shattered. Churchill had been recalled to the cabinet after ten years 'in the wilderness', his dire warnings of the Nazi threat vindicated.


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