YA Mental Health Must-Reads of 2019

One of the things I’m most passionate about in YA is mental illness representation. I mean, isn’t it always amazing to read about characters and stories that you can relate to or see yourself in? Which is why all kinds of representation is SUPER IMPORTANT! I’m definitely a little biased because of my own experiences, but some of my favourite books are queer and have mental illness representation because THAT’S ME! I FEEL SEEN!

I’ve read quite a few incredible YA novels with mental health representation so far in 2019, so today I want to share some of my top favourites with you! I particularly loved these five that I’ve read this year, and I hope you love all of them as well.

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The Million Pieces of Neena Gill

Holy crap, I was not ready for the way this book emotionally destroyed me. MAKE A TISSUE BOX YOUR #1 PRIORITY FOR THIS ONE. Gosh, it was just beautifully written, and heart-wrenching, and slightly SOUL-DESTROYING. But wow, it was definitely one of the most raw and accurate mental illness portrayals I’ve read all year. This is an #OwnVoices novel not only for the mental illness representation, but also because the protagonist is Pakistani-British as well—and that was really great to see. 

One of my favourite aspects of this novel was the way in which the sometimes confusion and disoriented style reflected Neena’s own mental state. She’s also an unreliable narrator, which made this book a super quick read as I wanted to know what was really going on and not just how she was perceiving things. I was desperate to know how things were going to end up, and I was just wishing everything in Neena’s life would go okay. IT WAS HEARTBREAKING. If you’re looking for a powerful, emotional read that will enthral you from the very first page, look no further than The Million Pieces of Neena Gill.


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The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

This book is EASILY one of my favourite reads of 2019. I was expecting to really enjoy it, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the way in which this book would take over my life once I started reading it and sear itself on my heart. Oh my goodness, it was just incredible. Not only is this a book about dumplings and first love, it’s also about mental health, and microaggressions, and the importance of family. I just loved this book SO MUCH.

What made this book feel so close to home for me was the mental illness representation. A person in my family has been through similar experiences as Anna’s mother, and I see so much of myself in the character of Rory. AND THAT MEANT SO MUCH TO ME. I seriously just wanted to give every single one of the characters a massive hug because they’ve been through a lot. Plus, I was LIVING for all the references to dumplings and various other dishes that had me salivating. You’re going to need a snack while reading this one, folks!


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How it Feels to Float

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How it Feels to Float is one of my favourite books with mental health representation of 2019. IT WAS SUPURB. And it’s got queer representation as well, so that’s two things I love seeing in a book! This is another one that just had me sobbing uncontrollably. I absolutely loved getting to know Biz and learning more about her own experiences. She felt like such an incredibly three-dimensional, real character, and her voice was just so personal. 

If you’re looking for a book that will just sweep you off your feet with its beautiful writing style and poetic nature, this is certainly the novel for you. There were some points in the book were I just had to take a breather because the writing was so powerful. So emotional. I was utterly enthralled in this story from beginning to end, and I’ve been urging everyone to pick up a copy ever since. You won’t regret adding this one to your TBR.


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You Asked for Perfect

This book is one of my newest favourites for so many reasons, but most importantly because of how much I see of myself in it. You Asked for Perfect is a book about a boy who’s on-track to be valedictorian and he’s doing everything he can to maintain his perfect grades to get into the college of his dreams. THAT WAS ME. I was that person in high school: someone who studied until 2am, and was in 3892 different clubs, and so anxious I could barely function. What a time, let me tell you.

Not only does this novel highlight the pressures that people in high school go through, but it’s also a fantastic exploration of the universal struggles of not knowing what you really want to do with your life and figuring out what’s actually important. Plus, You Asked for Perfect also has fantastic queer and Jewish representation as well! It’s seriously one of my favourite books of all time, and I’m already excited for the author’s next release. I wish I had this book in high school!


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Serious Moonlight

I absolutely LOVED this book! Jenn Bennett is one of my favourite authors of all time, and I’m pleased to report that her latest release was just as cute and just as beautiful as all her others. It’s a book about working in a hotel, and being obsessed with mysteries, and pie, and I just devoured it. I really enjoyed seeing types of families that we don’t see much of in YA—like our protagonist is close with her mum’s best friend, who takes on more of a guardian role, for example. And I also loved that it takes about sex and love in a really honest, realistic way. Ahh, there was just so much to love about this book… I can’t even narrow it down!

But the mental health representation was definitely one of my favourite aspects. The way in which Daniel spoke about living with depression and his attempted suicide was something I could really relate to. It’s so refreshing to read books where a character’s mental illness or struggle with depression isn’t the main ‘focus’ of the book, rather something that simply makes up a person into the multifaceted, three-dimensional human they are. Goodbye, books with stereotypical mental illness representation. Hello, novels with a diverse array of characters and mental health representation where the story doesn’t solely revolve around a person’s ‘struggle’! Serious Moonlight is THE book for you if you’re after an adorable read with characters you’ll swoon over, a bit of mystery thrown in as well.

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What have been some of your favourite 2019 YA releases with mental illness representation? Have you read any of the ones I’ve mentioned? Which ones are you looking forward to? I’d love to know!

Thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for providing me with a copy of The Million Pieces of Neena Gill in exchange for an honest review!

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24 thoughts on “YA Mental Health Must-Reads of 2019

  1. Great post Sarah, I adored Dumpling as well but haven’t actually read any of the other ones here O_O Serious Moonlight sounds particularly interesting!

    I read The Memory of Light by Francisco X Stork earlier this year (though it didn’t release this year, it was in 2017) and it became my favourite book about mental health of all time. It sort of has a similar setup as It’s Kind of a Funny Story – the protagonist wakes up in hospital after a suicide attempt, and goes on a journey of healing through bonding with the other patients. What stood out to me were the sensitive writing, the psychologist’s characterisation in terms of how caring she was and the impact of that on the patients, the Latinx cultural details and the complex family and friendship dynamics. I’d really recommend it!

    • Thank you, Wendy! ☺️ I hope you enjoy the other ones you decide to pick up – SERIOUS MOONLIGHT is super cute! 💜

      Ooh yes, I know that one! I actually think I have an unread copy sitting on my shelf 🙈 I’ll have to get around to reading it ASAP because I know I’ll love it! ❤️

  2. I have Serious Moonlight and You Asked for Perfect on my TBR, I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about these books! I know Jenn Bennett can write family dynamics and sex positive environment really well, but I didn’t know Serious Moonlight deals with mental illness too.

    Thank you for the list!

  3. I am so excited to read all of these! Have you read The Astonishing Colour of After? That was the first book that depicted MH for me and in such a powerful, insightful way – and yet, as just part of one of the character’s lives.

  4. Ah, all these recs sound amazing! I haven’t delved too deep into books that confront MH issues, but I’m so glad they’re out there garnering respect and understanding

  5. Thank you for all the recommendations! I haven’t read any of them but will definitely be looking into them 🙂

  6. Ahh I love reading books with mental health rep! I’ve never heard of any of these but they all look amazing, will definitely have to keep them in mind. You Asked for Perfect in particular definitely looks like something I could relate to. Thanks for sharing! xx

  7. I have to get around to The Million Pieces of Neena Gill! It’s been languishing on my Kindle for months, and I honestly don’t know why I haven’t read it already!!

  8. Thank you for this wonderful list of recommendations ❤️ I agree that mental health rep in YA books is incredibly important. I haven’t read any of these but would really like to – I especially like the sound of ‘You Asked for Perfect’.
    📕MP📚 X

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