There are dozens of lists of popular YA novels that talk about mental illness, depression, anxiety, and suicide in one or more characters. For various reasons, these kinds of stories have replaced the YA dystopia boom of the early 2010s in our culture.
So in case you haven’t heard, Thirteen Reasons Why is the new Maze Runner. Here are my top three recommendations in the depression, anxiety, and suicide YA sub-genre, plus a bonus recommendation.
- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven—This is one of my all-time favorites that combined a love story with depression; it was such a wonderful, heartbreaking, lovely book that I read it twice. And I will probably read it again!
- By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters—This book is a fast read but hard. The character is so tough, harsh, hard to love, and yet I just wanted to break through her pain and help her.
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher—The premise of this book is fantastic. A girl has committed suicide, and she has left behind 13 tapes explaining why she did it. The main character and the reader go on a journey to understand what happened. It’s a little hard to get emotionally close to the girl through this storytelling, but it’s a compelling read.
Bonus round: If you already like these books and these authors, consider picking up my novel Straight A’s, which also deals with academic pressure, anxiety, depression, and suicide. The story shows how perfectionism can be taken too far and lead down a dangerous path.
What are your favorite YA novels in this category? I'd love to hear your recommendations.