Books That Feature Characters Dealing with Mental Illness

Not the taboo subject it once was, mental illness offers rich territory to explore in books for kids and teens. Stories chronicling the struggles of young people and their friends, siblings, or parents who suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), agoraphobia, an eating disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, hypochondria, and other illnesses make for engrossing, insightful reading and help build understanding and empathy. Check out these multilayered novels and memoirs that explore this complex psychological terrain. And you might also want to take a look at our list of Books with Characters Who Have Physical Disabilities. 

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The Goldfish Boy

age 8+

Intriguing mystery inspires empathy for OCD sufferers.

(2017) (2017)

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Some Kind of Happiness

age 8+

Adventurous girl uncovers family secrets in engrossing read.

(2016) (2016)

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Where the Watermelons Grow

age 8+

Book about mental illness in family is real yet reassuring.

(2018) (2018)

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All the Greys on Greene Street

age 9+

Girl copes with mom’s depression in colorful ’80s mystery.

(2019) (2019)

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Finding Perfect

age 9+

Hopeful story of likeable tween’s struggle with OCD.

(2016) (2016)

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As Brave As You

age 10+

Poignant summer adventure brims with family love and hope.

(2016) (2016)

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The Madman of Piney Woods

age 10+

Moving 1901 adventure explores race, class, mental illness.

(2014) (2014)

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The Nest

age 10+

Poignant sick-sibling tale blurs lines of real and imagined.

(2015) (2015)

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Sure Signs of Crazy

age 10+

Unforgettable story of girl moving beyond her tragic past.

(2013) (2013)

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Forget Me Not

age 11+

Compelling story of girl dealing with Tourette syndrome.

(2017) (2017)

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Calvin

age 12+

Quirky, compelling tale of schizophrenic teen on quest.

(2015) (2015)

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Invisible Girl

age 12+

Searing memoir of growing up in troubled family offers hope.

(2015) (2015)

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Under Rose-Tainted Skies

age 12+

Mental health issues meet romance in witty, touching story.

(2017) (2017)

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Without Tess

age 12+

Compelling tale of teen haunted by troubled sister’s death.

(2011) (2011)

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A World Without You

age 12+

Reality and delusion mix in sensitive mental illness drama.

(2016) (2016)

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What I Lost

age 12+

Realistic, uplifting tale of teen in treatment for anorexia.

(2017) (2017)

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Highly Illogical Behavior

age 13+

Sweet, funny tale of teen helping boy beat fear of outside.

(2016) (2016)

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Just Listen

age 13+

Teen girl struggles following trauma in riveting novel.

(2006) (2006)

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The Memory of Light

age 13+

Realistic, gripping look at teen suicide and mental illness.

(2016) (2016)

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Paperweight

age 13+

Beautifully written tale of teen with eating disorder.

(2015) (2015)

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Wintergirls

age 13+

Disturbing, lauded eating disorder read; discuss with teens.

(2009) (2009)

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All the Bright Places

age 14+

Compelling teen romance tackles suicide, finds hope.

(2015) (2015)

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Challenger Deep

age 14+

Sensitive tale of teen’s descent into mental illness.

(2015) (2015)

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Every Last Word

age 14+

Touching tale of girl with OCD finding love through poetry.

(2015) (2015)

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The First Time She Drowned

age 14+

Beautiful, gripping story of healing after abuse.

(2016) (2016)

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Girl in Pieces

age 14+

Teen heals from loss and self-harm in gritty, gripping tale.

(2016) (2016)

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How It Feels to Float

age 14+

Teen battles mental illness in unforgettable, hopeful story.

(2019) (2019)

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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

age 14+

Classic story of teen schizophrenic still engages.

(2003) (1964)

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The Impossible Knife of Memory

age 14+

Stunning story about girl living with wounded vet father.

(2013) (2014)

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In Sight of Stars

age 14+

Sweet story of boy’s breakdown recovery takes time to gel.

(2018) (2018)

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story

age 14+

Brilliant, edgy story about suicide best for mature teens.

(2012) (2006)

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Mosquitoland

age 14+

Unforgettable story of a girl’s 1,000-mile journey home.

(2015) (2015)

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My Sister Rosa

age 14+

Riveting thriller about teen boy and psychopath kid sister.

(2016) (2016)

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OCD Love Story

age 14+

Unique novel about OCD teens in love is disturbing but good.

(2013) (2013)

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Six Goodbyes We Never Said

age 14+

Teens struggle with grief, mental illness in moving novel.

(2019) (2019)

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Turtles All the Way Down

age 14+

Thought-provoking exploration of mental illness, first love.

(2017) (2017)

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When We Collided

age 14+

Heartfelt summer romance explores mental illness and grief.

(2016) (2016)

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Whisper to Me

age 14+

Riveting mystery surrounds teen who hears voice in her head.

(2016) (2016)

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Wild Awake

age 14+

Brilliant, intense tale of teen coping with grief.

(2013) (2013)

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Brave Face: A Memoir

age 15+

Gripping look at boy’s struggle with depression, coming out.

(2019) (2019)

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Crazy

age 15+

Edgy story of bipolar teen and the boy who loves her.

(2012) (2012)

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A Sense of the Infinite

age 15+

Gorgeously written, mature tale of teen’s self-discovery.

(2015) (2015)

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One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

age 17+

Kesey’s great madhouse epic best for older teens.

(2011) (2002)

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Who Put This Song On?

age 17+

Eccentric teen girl fights depression in moving story.

(2019) (2019)

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