Dancing Without Music is Now Available

When major depressive disorder, seizures, and an eating disorder leads to hopelessness, lack of interest, loss of pleasure, and worse: alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, isolation, anxiety, panic attacks, physical illness, and suicidal feelings, seventeen-year-olds Mia Callan and Milo Chatham who only recently began dating find this brutal array of dangers overwhelming, and possibly even deadly.

Bullying on and off social media, spiked drinks at first parties, stalking, and sexual assault are just some of the obstacles they have to face as burgeoning young adults.

What happens when they try to get out of danger? Will it follow them anyway and wreak havoc upon their lives and those of their loved ones. Will they find the correct medications that will allow them to live normal lives full of success, satisfaction, and sobriety? Can a first true love win in the end?

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, novel in verse, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on Bookshop, TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

35 Fantastic YA Books on Mental Illness

  1. Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford
  2. Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
  3. The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
  4. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
  5. The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart
  6. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
  7. Paperweight by Meg Haston
  8. When We Collided by Emery Lord
  9. Clean by Amy Reed
  10. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  11. If I Wake by Nikki Moyes
  12. Therapy by Kathryn Perez
  13. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
  14. How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
  15. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
  16. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  17. Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman
  18. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  19. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  20. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  21. Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
  22. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
  23. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  24. Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  25. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  26. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  27. The Fear of Doing Nothing: Notes of a Young Therapist by Valery Hazanov
  28. Under Rose-tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
  29. Cut by Patricia McCormick
  30. Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
  31. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
  32. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
  33. Beneath the Skin by Kyla Stone
  34. Glass Screams by L.R. Claude
  35. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

These are the ones that come to mind when asked about my favorites. I know I must be missing some; but it’s a great list, nonetheless.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Bloomsbury, 2016

In this intensely romantic and emotional rollercoaster of a story, Vivi is the type of girl who wants to live her life to the fullest and to record her passage through life, but she has a disease: bipolar disorder. Although she wants to live, the treatment leaves her to be miserable and so she stops taking her medications. Jonah is a boy who lost his father to a heart attack. He and his two older brothers have to take care of the house and their three little brothers. Jonah doesn’t really get to experience everything other kids his age do while Vivi does whatever she possibly can. Throughout the novel, the two characters learn a lot from each other and learn to engage in a lot of new things they usually wouldn’t.

This YA novel was filled with many moments of suspense and joy as it brought out so many different perceptions of each character and overall was just a very exciting read as its storyline is magnificent with its appreciated details that take you into Vivi and Jonah’s world. This well-written experience about accepting yourself and helping others while continuing to live on even though things might not be at their best right now and taking life rain and shine. It’s about how sometimes even our scars can help others and give a little bit of light to those we meet. This book shows how lives can be messy but beautiful while still leaving an impact on so many others, too.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels about mental illness or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: The Place Between Breaths by An Na

Atheneum, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2018

This little, cerebral thriller of a book packs a punch. However, there’s a few things to consider before you read it. It is a book about mental health and schizophrenia. It is not a fluffy cuddly book. This one bites, and confuses. The author has South Korean origins, meaning that the Eastern influences are heavy in the writing style of the book. And why do I say both things before I even review the book? Because if you’re expecting a perfectly “coherent” fluffy book, this book is not it and it definitely isn’t a Western view of the world even if it is set in the US.

Throughout the novel we get to know Grace, who saw her mother deteriorate in the grips of schizophrenia, and then ultimately disappear from her life. Her mother has never been found, which has led Grace’s father on a desperate quest to find a cure for this debilitating illness. Grace interns at the lab where her father works. He is a headhunter, bringing in the top scientists from around the world to join forces in search of the key that will unlock a cure for Grace’s mother—the love of his life—if only they could find her.

This is a non-linear novel that uses the seasons of the year to anchor you in the story. Na is a master of imagery and it felt to me that her arresting descriptions of the weather coincided with Grace’s moods and mental state. I could be reading too much into it, but nothing in this book felt accidental.

In addition to jumping back and forth between the seasons and around in the story, the reader is also left to parse between reality and delusion. This made for an intriguing and gut-wrenching, but unenjoyable read. Though, I would argue that “enjoyable” was not the goal, and for this I was glad.

Though a novel, this did not read like an attempt to make schizophrenia into entertainment. This felt like a deft effort to bring understanding to an illness that continues to be misunderstood, despite decades of research. The portrayal of this mental illness and how it breaks the mind apart from the inside out was honest and elegant. It does not glorify the disease but rather exposes it in all its gruesome tragedy.

It was definitely worth the read, and I believe an important work for helping people understand what schizophrenia looks like from the inside out. It’s a confusing illness, and to wrap up the story with a neat little bow would have been disingenuous. In the end, I appreciated the beauty and tragedy, and clarity and confusion Na wove together to create this novel. There are a lot of twists and intriguing bits in the story where at first you aren’t sure but as the story progresses you begin to realize how much Grace is fighting and what “enemy” she’s fighting. In my opinion it was a clever book with the way it sets things and how it leaves you guessing

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: All the Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman

Hot Key, 2019

As soon as I read the subject matter of this boldly designed book, I knew that I had to devour it. It’s a character driven; UK Young Adult contemporary novel based on mental health. Not to be disappointed when I began reading, I was drawn into the stories of the three girls. I loved the author’s note at the beginning which really set the tone for the book.

The book tells the story of 3 young girls from 3 very different lives, but they all have one sad fact in common, the want to die.  As a result the girls each sign up to a website that is designed to pair people with other people who want to die. But it is this pack that brings the 3 girls together and allows them to find the support that they each needed

As I learnt more about why Mehreen, Olivia and Cara had joined MementoMori. I really began to connect and empathize with the diverse characters which weren’t the sole focus of the story and didn’t define the characters entirely. Mehreen’s religion was an important factor, but she was so much more than just that and was such a real character that, despite me being from a totally different background, I could relate. I found it to be the same with all the characters and that was something that I think Yasmin really excelled at with this novel and its unusual typeface

So, the website sets a time place and course of death for the girls, and as the date of termination (as it is referred to) approaches the girls have to complete a task that is set and send photographic proof. The first 2 tasks the girls do with easy, but it is when the 3rd task arrives that the girls admit that they have changed their minds. 

The problem is the website doesn’t want to let the girls out. After all, they signed up and agreed to the terms and conditions. Pushing the girls to their breaking point the girls begin to crumble and turn on each other.  

This is an interesting book, but as I first mentioned you need to be careful when reading this story as it is an emotional and mental journey. It has to be noted that this book contains many triggers, for those that vulnerable to such material. Topics touched upon, besides suicide, include self-harm, rape and severe anxiety and depression. I personally was okay with all of these and found that they were handled very sensitively and not in a way that made for uncomfortable reading.

All the Things We Never Said is not a typical YA book. I believe that it is a book that can help to open dialogue and get people talking about their feelings and issues, instead of hiding behind a mask that so many people use today to hide how they are truly feeling.

This book highlights the importance of speaking, talking about your problems, and how you are feeling. As it is through these actions, the characters realize that they are not alone and that the simple act of talking to someone openly and honestly can change your perspective.

An audiobook is also available for those that may have issues with the typeface.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2013

Seventeen-year-old Vancouver rocker and classically trained pianist Kiri Byrd is home practicing her art while alone for the summer since her parents are off on a cruise. Pretty early into her stay at home, Kiri’s plans go awry when she receives a mysterious call to pick up some of her deceased older sister’s belongings in a sketchy part of town. Kiri forms a bond with sister Sukey’s troubled neighbor and with a boy named Skunk that alter her views of many things.

At first it seems that Kiri is simply coming into her own, gaining wisdom, and accepting life’s unpredictability, but soon it becomes clear that Kiri (manic) is also losing control because the experience of dealing with the shocking truth causes her to tumble into a downward spiral, so Kiri’s mental state is alarmingly called into question. Reader will sense the narrative becoming less lucid, more frantic, and questionably mentally ill as is that of her new romance who is paranoid.

Kiri is a musician, preparing for the Young Pianists’ Showcase, which means dedicated practice and now she’s not sleeping and manically playing at 5 a.m., while her thoughts go wild and then subdued again. Due in most part to the author’s convincing dialogue and moving characterizations this young adult, coming-of-age novel blurs the lines between genius and madness, love and loss, demands and freedom, perception and reality, peace and turmoil. The debut author’s embracing of the complexities of grief, family dynamics, creativity, mental illness, and love pens them with a thoughtful, subtle hand. Despite how we as readers may fear for Kiri, she’s unabashed in how she lives her life, and it’s both exhausting and exhilarating to watch.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007

Three teens who meet at Reno, Nevada’s Aspen Springs mental hospital after each has attempted suicide connect with each other in a way they never have with their parents or anyone else in their lives. This was a very good book, well-written in free verse format, that described the repercussions of suicide.

Their distinct character’s lives unfold in alternating chapters which might be confusing at times remembering whose mind you’re in. The dynamic of the 3 characters was also a little confusing because the 2 boys were supposed to be gay, but then fell in love with Vanessa.

SPOILER ALERT:

I blame the parents for what happens to Conner. after his sister read the letter I got the sense that he was going to kill himself because that letter screamed you have to be perfect when the reason he killed himself is because he wasn’t perfect. Nobody’s perfect. And his mother never seemed to think it was her fault, she just thought going to a mental hospital could fix him, but its hard to fix someone who felt empty inside to begin. I wonder if she really loved her son at all. I’ve got to say I like the father more; he is also to blame but I think he was a really good person inside, deep down but he just didn’t know how to show it and that’s why he was so distant.

The story was interesting from the very beginning, easy to read, realistic, and connectable. There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t feel close to the characters!

Ellen Hopkins writes in such a unique format. The books may be thick but don’t let that stop you. Her books just flow along about serious issues and get right to the heart of the topics, no matter she chooses to write on. The characters are so well explored and distinct. I’d recommend this for those who like darker YA fiction about mental illness.

Book review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016

High school junior Morgan Grant can divide her life into two parts: Before and after the devastating events of October 15. Before, Morgan was a bright, popular athlete with a promising future, whose days were filled with friends, sun, sand, swimming and school. After, Morgan is a survivor of a deadly tragedy whose worsening anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder have caused her to become a shadow of her former self.

Traumatized by what she has experienced, terrified of a world she can neither control nor predict, and haunted by feelings of guilt and culpability for what has happened, Morgan’s agoraphobia worsens until she no longer is able to leave her family’s two-bedroom apartment and she seeks comfort in a familiar, daily routine filled with little more than soap operas, home schooling, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Underwater is a sincere, heartfelt exploration of mental illness and a topical, all too important reminder that the story does not end when the final shot has been fired and the cameras finished rolling. For some, the story has only just begun.

Morgan’s journey to recovery is a difficult one. This YA author offers no easy answers or simple solutions for Morgan’s agoraphobia, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, but rather demonstrates the impressive mental and emotional labor and strength required to rediscover and remake oneself in the wake of a tragedy. Though Morgan’s progress is gradual and she often becomes frustrated with her missteps and failures along the way, Reichardt’s inherently charming and endearing protagonist is never presented as any less worthy of help, love or acceptance or as being beyond hope or recovery. Morgan is allowed to shine in other ways, most notable of which is evident in her devoted relationship with her single mother, a hard-working nurse, and her precocious younger brother, Ben, for whom she clearly cares deeply. Though the circumstances surrounding Morgan’s illness and the severity of what she suffers are arguably extreme, there’s little doubt that the essence of Morgan’s story – of being unashamed of one’s illness and working to better take care of oneself – will resonate with Underwater‘s readers, particularly those who also suffer from anxiety, as Morgan does.

There have been many novels written the about the subject of school shootings in recent years. Many writers have tried to make sense of an act that is, by its very nature, senseless, but what’s different about Underwater from its peers is its chosen focus. While other stories have focused largely on the psychology and motivation of the perpetrator or the details of the shootings themselves, debut author Marisa Reichardt instead chooses to focus on the devastating aftermath of such an event. Reichardt neither sensationalizes nor exploits this topic, instead offering a sensitive, empathetic portrayal of the repercussions of such a tragedy. In doing so, Underwater has the potential to act as a source of comfort for those who suffer from anxiety, agoraphobia and/or post-traumatic stress disorder and an excellent resource for readers who wish to better understand and empathize with those who do.

Underwater‘s synopsis does the novel a disservice in that it implies that Morgan’s recovery is mainly due to Evan’s appearance in her life. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. While a potential romantic relationship with Evan can provide Morgan with an additional incentive to pursue treatment and regain some semblance of normality, it is not the sole motivating factor in her recovery. Before Evan’s introduction, Morgan had already been undergoing treatment for her anxiety, agoraphobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder for four months. This treatment includes both the use of prescription medication and ongoing therapy with her psychologist, Brenda. Evan is not perfect–Evan grows frustrated and impatient with Morgan’s progress (or lack thereof) and is not always as supportive or as understanding as one might hope–but it’s to be commended that their blossoming romance is never presented as a solution to Morgan’s problems. There’s also something to be said for the strength and empowerment that can be drawn from a strong support system and the grandness in forming such a community. From her burgeoning relationship with Evan to her unconditional love for her mother and brother, Ben, Morgan has several positive relationships in her life from which she draws comfort and courage.

Underwater is a poignant, powerful, and ultimately uplifting and inspiring story of recovery and forgiveness that successfully attempts to lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness. It accomplishes this by providing readers with a positive and responsible portrayal of therapy and medication as effective tools in managing mental and emotional trauma and encouraging readers to embrace hope and possibility, even in the face of what might initially appear to be insurmountable obstacles. This YA novel is a genuinely kind and heartwarming narrative about triumph and love in the wake of adversity. 

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