More Happy Than Not (2015) and History Is All You Left Me (2017) by gay YA author, Adam Silvera, are a perfect pair. Featuring realistic gay protagonists, they confront themes crucial to older YA readers including identity, sexuality, love, and loss. Silvera’s representation of mental illness is unflinchingly honest and raw. I may not be able to bid you “happy reading”, but I hope you will find Silvera’s writing as powerful as I did.
TITLE: Into the Water
AUTHOR: Paula Hawkins
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017
GENRE: Crime, Mystery, Psychological Thriller
PAGE COUNT: 386
The success of Paula Hawkins’ debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, built up my expectations for her new release. Although I was anticipating a tense and tightly-woven mystery, Into the Water delivers a slow simmer with anticlimactic results. While it missed the mark for me, I can see how its slow climb and narrative consisting of multiple points of view will appeal to some readers. Continue reading
TITLE: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me
AUTHOR & ARTIST: Ellen Forney
RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2012
GENRE: Adult Graphic Memoir
PAGE COUNT: 256
In this intimate and informative graphic memoir, comic artist Ellen Forney tells her story of battling bipolar disorder. Along the way, she delves into the origins and issues of the “crazy artist” stereotype, and rewrites her own identity as a creator with mental illness. Most of all, Marbles is for readers who want insight into the long-term challenges of living with bipolar disorder.
This year, I have enjoyed reading more representations of mental illness in adult and YA books. I love when these narratives contribute to breaking down stigmas, and validating real experiences. As a children’s book lover, I was curious to research what picture books are available for young readers struggling to understand a family member’s depression.
TITLE: This is Shyness
SERIES: This is Shyness #1
AUTHOR: Leanne Hall
RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2010
GENRE: Young Adult, Magical Realism
PAGE COUNT: 272
In the magical realist town of Shyness where the sun never rises, strangers Wolfboy and Wildgirl share a dangerous night of self-discovery and unexpected kinship. While Shyness is a vivid and interesting setting for this YA adventure story, I struggled to connect to the characters or the sense of stakes.
Wolfboy is a Shyness local. Wildgirl is on a mission to forget. When their eyes meet across the room at the Diabetic Hotel, they join forces and decide to see where the night takes them. As their backstories gradually unravel, their bond deepens, and the adventure heats up. Continue reading
TITLE: A Time to Dance
AUTHOR: Padma Venkatraman
PUBLISHER: Nancy Paulsen Books
RELEASE DATE: May 1, 2014
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 320
A Time to Dance is unlike any other book I’ve read. Delivered in flowing verse, Venkatraman combines a lovingly detailed representation of disability with sumptuous insights to her own culture and religion. The result is a story for all ages that celebrates the beauty in all things. Its uplifting message has resonated with me long after reading, and impacted my perspectives on disability and religion. Continue reading
TITLE: It Ends With Us
AUTHOR: Colleen Hoover
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster UK
RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2016
GENRE: Contemporary Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 376
It Ends With Us is a powerfully moving novel about domestic abuse. It educates readers on the self-delusions and self-blame that perpetuate the abusive cycle, as well as the financial and family factors that sometimes make separation impossible. For a book with such a light and accessible tone, It Ends With Us took me on a dark emotional journey that resonated long after reading. This is a necessary book that makes difficult discussions accessible to our generation. Continue reading
TITLE: American Born Chinese
AUTHOR: Gene Luan Yang
PUBLISHER: First Second
RELEASE DATE: September 1, 2006
GENRE: Junior Graphic Novel
PAGE COUNT: 240
Fusing mythology with a contemporary coming of age story, American Born Chinese confronts Asian stereotypes and cultural alienation. These topics may sound heavy, but Yang weaves his story around these themes effortlessly, like a present-day Aesop’s fable while remaining fresh and fun.
Jin Wang is the only Chinese American at his new school. When the new kid from Taiwan tries to befriend him, Jin is scared that being seen with a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) will destroy his chances of fitting in. Meanwhile, cool all-American teen Danny is scared his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee will ruin his rep with his popular crush. Continue reading
TITLE: The Camera My Mother Gave Me
AUTHOR: Susanna Kaysen
RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2001
GENRE: Nonfiction, Memoir
PAGE COUNT: 149
In this soul-bearing memoir by the author of Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen chronicles her relationship with her vagina. When this under-appreciated part of her anatomy starts to hurt, destroying her sex life, her vagina suddenly becomes the centre of her universe. Susanna is forced to analyse her new relationships with emotional abuse and chronic pain, and how all this impacts her identity as a woman… in a nutshell, everything you’re not supposed to talk about in public.
AUTHOR: Raina Telgemeier
RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2016
GENRE: Junior Graphic Novel
PAGE COUNT: 256
Ghosts is a heartwarming graphic novel that celebrates life… even after death. Featuring a cast of differently abled and racially diverse characters, it is a colourful and timely story that will inspire conversation between parents and junior readers.
Cat is an introvert while her little sister Maya loves to sing and dance her heart out. However, Maya’s cystic fibrosis means she is often out of breath. When their family moves to the coastal town of Bahía de la Luna for Maya’s health, Cat is sad to swap sunshine and friends for a foggy town obsessed with the afterlife. After all, ghosts aren’t real… Right? Continue reading