This week’s topic:
June 28: FREEBIE WEEK — topic of your choice or go back and do one you missed!
Cool! I love getting to do whatever I want!
So…it’s no secret that teens, young adults and adults find themselves in stories and often like to read stories they find to be relatable. For readers who have anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses, books provide helpful reminders that they are not alone and that help is available. I’ve read a lot of great books recently with interesting, helpful and sometimes not-so-helpful therapists and counselors. I hope this list will continue to grow as I read more and more mental health minded YA.
1. Daniel/Dr. Leed in Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
This book is the first time I ever saw CBT portrayed in YA and it was done so well. If you want to see me gush about this book in general, check out my review. The awesomeness of this book in general aside, I loved the character of Dr. Leed. One of things I loved about his character was that he had such a different relationship with Jordy and Maguire, demonstrated by the fact that Jordy only refers to him as Daniel and Maguire tends to use Dr. Leed until she finds out Jordy doesn’t. Dr. Leed helps Jordy and Maguire achieve their goals and is there for them whether they are making strides forward or stumbling backwards. I would love to see more characters like him in YA and continue to see different types of therapy explored in YA.
2. Dr. Minerva in It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
This novel. *sobs* It was one of the first mental health YA books I read and if you want to hear more about my thoughts about this book, check out my post about it here. I also think that Dr. Minerva was one of the first therapists I encountered in any book. While she didn’t really register when I read it the first time, I ended up falling in love with her character the second time I read this book. While she doesn’t get a lot of page time, she’s established as a stable and supportive person in Craig’s life, the perfect character to have in the background for people to relate to when they need to.
3. Doctor Ann in Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Doctor Ann feels like a mid-point between the involvement Dr. Minerva and Dr. Leed have with their YA protagonist clients. She helps Riley, a gender fluid teen confront a variety of issues from identity to parents to bullying. She is the kind of doctor that accepts Riley unconditionally and is a helpful voice of guidance. Doctor Ann was also the character in a YA novel that encouraged me to find my own counselor and explore aspects of my identity I never thought to before, and because of that, I think this book will always have a special place in my heart.
4. Dell Duke in Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Dell is Willow’s behavioral counselor who she has to meet with after both her adoptive parents are killed in a freak car accident. He’s not exactly the most competent person at his job and he tries to exploit Willow’s intelligence with mixed results. However, when Willow needs him to help her, he’s there, even if it means giving up his cozy apartment. Dell Duke shows that even the most unmotivated and unassuming adults can still end up changing the lives of, and be changed in turn by, the young people they meet.
5. Dr. Brooks & Dr. Frankel in 100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen
Okay, so having a crush on your therapist probably isn’t going to end well. That’s why I decided to list both therapists that appear in this quirky novel about a girl, saltwater fish and A LOT of baked goods. Dr. Brooks had the potential to be a really great therapist in this story, but for reasons that you would have to read the book to find out, this isn’t the case. In short, he’s kind of creepy. But Molly’s psychiatrist, Dr. Frankel, is a real improvement and has a GREAT passage where she explains the process of recovering from mental illness to Molly. And she looks like Bea Arthur from Golden Girls according to Molly, so what’s not to like?
Of course, therapists and counselors aren’t the only people who can help teens in crisis or mentally ill teens along on their journeys. Sometimes a teacher, a foster parent or even a total stranger can play a pivotal role.
Check out five of my favorite unlicensed helpers below:
6. Bill in Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Charlie’s English teacher might not have a psychology degree (or at least it’s never stated that he does), but he’s still a supportive and crucial person in Charlie’s life. Bill recognizes Charlie’s potential and abilities to read and write. He serves as a person that Charlie can confide in, from his social issues to his sister’s problem. In short, he was one of my favorite characters in Perks and not just because Paul Rudd plays him in the movie (okay, that might help a little bit).
7. Mrs. Spier in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Simon’s mom is a psychologist, but Simon is her son and not one of her clients. Still, her personality reflects her job and she’s the kind and caring person that Simon needs as he deals with the trials and tribulations of being a teen, coming out and managing having his first boyfriend. And she might just be the slightest bit embarrassing, but all of the Spiers are just a little bit embarrassing in the most lovable way possible.
In these two companion books, A (a person who wakes up in a different person’s body every day) and Rhiannon face a difficult decision when A wakes up in a depressed girl’s body and they discover in her journal that she has set a date in the near future to kill herself. A and Rhiannon are both just teenagers, but their actions and Levithan’s powerful poetic writing are enough to land them on this list, and into my own list of my favorite passages about teens with depression in all YA. Their brief encounter shows that teens can be extremely mature and decisive in the face of crisis and reveals the good that strangers can do, even if this occurs in a magical realist setting.
9. Oli in The Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson
Mara does see a therapist in this book when she decides to spend a summer in Tahoe with her father after an embarrassing panic attack breakdown during a calculus test at her highly academically minded high school. However, he doesn’t help her…because she doesn’t want to be helped by him. I’ve seen other people complain that this book doesn’t do a good job of representing therapy, and no, it doesn’t show a lot of therapy. But it does show that in order for it to work, someone has to want to be there (and it probably helps to not have your mom in the room either if you can help it). Still, Mara’s dad’s old friend, Oli, is the kind of person that Mara eventually allows to help her. A hedonist in the truest sense of the word, Oli shows Mara that people don’t care about what she did, not really, and that sometimes the best place to be is on the pure snow of the slope.
10. Hans Hubermann in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I can never see an accordion again without thinking about this book, or Hans. That’s the level of the impression this book left on me. And I may own four different copies of it, but that’s beside the point.When Liesel comes to the Hubermann home after the death of her little brother, she is reluctant to trust her adoptive family. However, she finds a deep well of love in her adoptive father, Hans. He teaches her how to read and plays songs for her on his old accordion. He is everything a father should be to his daughter and under his guidance, Liesel grows into a clever young woman in one of the darkest times of Europe’s history. Hans shows that help, love and aid can come from family, even unconventional ones and even in the grimmest of circumstances.
This list is by no means comprehensive. I have a ton of Mental Health YA books on my TBR and hope to find more examples of both therapists and non-therapists that would belong on this list as I read. I hope I’ll be able to make another of these lists in the future.
Have you read any of these books? Have you read any other mental health minded YA with great therapists, counselors or helpful people?