Top Ten Tuesday

Books Featuring Characters With A Mental Illness {Top Ten Tuesday}

170926 TTT Mental Illness

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Hi everybody, and welcome to a new Top Ten Tuesday!

Today I’d like to talk a bit about books featuring characters with a mental illness. Even today, mental illness is still stigmatized, judged and misunderstood. I think it was only last week when I saw a Twitter discussion where someone was saying depression was a choice and people suffering from depression should just ‘get over it’. And sadly, thoughts like this are not an isolated event. We need to talk more about mental illness. People need to be educated and there needs to be more understanding.

Though it of course can’t solve everything, I do believe that literature can play a big part in helping overcome that stigma and misunderstanding. Not only could it help educate people, but it could also help people with a mental illness in seeing that they are not alone. Most mental illness can lead to obesity and similar disorders, learn more about blood boost formula for diabetes.

So for today I’d like to spotlight some books featuring characters with a mental illness. I would like to say that I am no expert, so while I do think these have some good representation, they might not be 100% accurate or could potentially be triggering in some cases. Also, I know this is only a small selection and I am always looking for more stories with great mental health rep, so feel free to comment with some recs!

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley


“He was afraid of the world, afraid it would find a way to swallow him up. But, maybe everyone was sometimes. Maybe some people can just turn it off when they need to.”

The main character Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years. In comes Lisa, a girl trying to “fix” Solomon so she can get into one of the best psychology programs in college.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard


“Here’s the thing about anxiety: it’s not rational. It’s not rational, but it’s still real, and it’s still scary, and that’s okay. “

Steffi is a selective mute because of her severe social anxiety. One day she meets Rhys, who’s deaf. Since Steffi knows basic sign language, they end up forming a bond.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

“That’s what we do. We walk a tightrope every day. Getting out the door is a tightrope. Going grocery shopping is a tightrope. Socializing is a tightrope. Things that most people consider to be normal, daily parts of life are the very things we fear and struggle with the most, and yet here we are, moving forward anyway. That’s not weak.”

Queens of Geek is an adorable story about 3 best friends going to a convention together. One of those three characters, Jamie, is on the Autism spectrum and has anxiety.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera


“There’s nothing wrong with someone saving my life, I’ve realized, especially when I can’t trust myself to get the job done right. People need people. That’s that.”

This is a story focusing on Griffin, who just lost his first love and ex-boyfriend Theo. Though it’s a story about mourning first of all, it also focuses a lot on Griffin’s OCD.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

“It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.” 

Violet feels alienated after the death of her sister and Finch is thinking about ending it all. Their story starts when they meet eachother at the top of the school belltower. (Note: I personally loved this story but it has been called out for romanticising depression so please take this into account)

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

finding audrey by sophie kinsella

“The trouble is, depression doesn’t come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don’t realize it at first. You keep saying ‘I’m fine’ to people when you’re not fine. You think you should be fine. You keep saying to yourself: ‘Why aren’t I fine?” 

Audrey is a 14-year old girl who can’t leave the house or make eye contact and wears sunglasses 24/7 because of her social anxiety. The story deals with her mental illness, but also tells everything with a lot of humor and family dynamics.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” 

This is one of the most beautiful coming-of-age stories I know, and main character and wallflower Charlie is an amazing main character.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

“I don’t trust anybody. Not anybody. And the more that I care about someone, the more sure I am they’re going to get tired of me and take off.” 

Cath has social anxiety and is struggling though her first year of college, but escapes into writing fanfiction.

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

“In a typical mental health catch-22, the alienating nature of depression tends to keep its sufferers from finding their way to the very support groups that might help them.” 

Prozac Nation is a memoir about Elizabeth Wurtzel’s struggle with depression. I read it ages ago and remember liking it, but I’ve also seen some negative reviews. Not sure how I’d feel about it now, but I think it’s still worth the read.

HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS ALREADY? WHAT DID YOU THINK? Do you have any other recs for books with great mental health rep?


  1. I’ve heard Jennifer Niven’s book is REALLY good. I’ve not read it though so I don’t know if it’d be a book I’d like. In fact, I haven’t read any of Jennifer’s books, but they do seem really popular, and I’ve been tempted to pick up one a time or two. One of these shopping (book) sprees, I’ll have to cave. Do you have a favorite by her?

    Happy reading, Lindsey!

    1. I only read All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, but I really loved it! I’ve heard some mixed reviews about it though, so not sure if you’d like it… Hope you will enjoy it when you pick it up!

  2. I like this topic- so nice to see more mental health rep these days. I haven’t read about agoraphobia so I should give that one a look. And I thought Queens of Geek and Fangirl both addressed social anxiety pretty well.

    1. It’s definitely great to see more mental health rep around lately!

  3. Great topic and I’ve done the same for this weeks TTT.

    It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini is a good book about mental illness and also Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr.

    Check out my TTT here –

    1. Thanks for those recs, I’ll have to check them out!

  4. Great list, Lindsey! You’re right, mental illness is still a stigma, and I think having characters in books display realistic mental illnesses that someone might relate to is a good thing. Especially if they show how the character deals with their symptoms and it isn’t just something that goes away overnight or they can just stop whenever they want. I haven’t read Finding Audrey yet, but I do enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s books, so I may have to check that one out!

    1. Thanks so much Angela! And yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s definitely not great rep if the mental illness is something that can just ‘stop’. If you love Sophie Kinsella’s books, you may enjoy Finding Audrey!

  5. It is nice that mental health is more prevalent in YA these days. I read I See London, I See France recently, and the main character is the daughter of an agoraphobic who’s dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, which I can totally relate to. I never realized I had anxiety until much later in my life, I just thought I was a “worrier”. I love that authors are helping to start a conversation and help to de-stigmatize mental illness.

    My Top Ten Tuesday

    1. Oh I’ll need to add I See London, I See France to my TBR! Yeah, I think lots of people with anxiety go undiagnosed, but hopefully the conversation surrounding mental illness can keep going and help de-stigmatize it.

  6. Fangirl was the first book I remember reading that had a main character that had a mental illness. It was real, raw, and everything I needed it to be.
    It’s nice and refreshing to see more authors giving more attention to mental illness.
    I am so excited about Queens of Geek. It has been getting great reviews, and that makes me even more excited.
    Love your list,
    Ashley @ Books To The Tea
    Here’s my TTT:

    1. I think Fangirl was my first book with a mentally ill main character too 🙂 It’s indeed so important to see more representation in books.
      Hope you’ll love Queens of Geek!

  7. I’ve only actually read Perks of these, which I liked but I preferred the movie, the whole letter writing format of the book didn’t really work for me, personally.

    1. Perks is definitely one of the best movie adaptations out there, I can totally see why you loved the movie more 🙂

  8. I love this topic – mental illness has so much stigma attached to it that I think it’s important for kids/teens/young adults to know that they’re not alone. That said, I think I have half of these on my TBR.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday Post. Thank you!

    1. It’s definitely so important to have more mental illness rep in literature! Hope you’ll enjoy the books still on your TBR 🙂

  9. Interesting topic! I haven’t read any of these.I did mine on characters with autism. Here is the link:

    1. Thanks so much 🙂

  10. Oh I love your topic! I have read some of these books and really enjoyed them – Highly Illogical Behavior, Queens of Geek, All The Bright Places and The Perks are some of my favorite books, I loved the characters in these stories. Queens of Geek especially, despite having this light and fun storyline, had such a great anxiety rep, I loved it! 🙂

    1. Thanks Marie! Yes I loved Queens of Geek for that reason as well, it was so much light-hearted fun, but still touching on so many important topic and having such great representation 🙂

  11. I have read Fangirl which I liked but I thought the main character was too much like me so it kinda freaked me out lol and I tried reading History Is All You Left Me but it wasn’t my thing so it was a DNF for me. I don’t read many books that have mental ilnlness as topic but one I liked was The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer. I didn’t fully love it but I couldn’t put the book down so that counts for something.

    1. Haha yeah, I kind of felt the same way about Fangirl, but in a good way 🙂 I haven’t heard of The Shock of the Fall yet so I’ll have to check that out!

  12. I agree. There needs to be more education out there. Ignorance is bad. I also believe that representation is always a good thing and can lead to a person seeking the right help. Love the list you have made and I do think I’ll be adding a few to my wishlist.

    1. Defintiely, representation is such a crucial thing that can help so many!

  13. I see a lot of memes on Facebook about putting on a smile instead of a frown and everything will be better. It’s just a change in attitude. . . As if it were that simple to pull oneself out of Depression. It’s very frustrating. I definitely think books like this are needed to help get the message out that mental illness isn’t just “all in your head” and something you “can just get over”. Great list of books, Lindsey!

    1. Yeah those kind of memes are so annoying and even really hurtful! It’s so important to change the mindset a lot of people still have that mental illness is something you can just get over and books are definitely crucial in that.

  14. I think literature is very important as well, especially when authors are speaking from personal experience and actively trying to help remove the stigma often associated with mental illness. You’ve got a great list of books here too. I haven’t read all of them but I loved all oft he ones I did. When We Collided by Emery Lord and Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow are two other ones that I enjoyed.

    1. Definitely great mental health rep, even own voices rep, is so important! I haven’t read When We Collided or Girl In Pieces yet but I’ll have to check them out! Thanks for the recs 🙂

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