Sometimes, I like reading lighter, fluffier books, like Avid Reader by Robert Gottlieb or The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, by Wendy Welch. Usually, though, I prefer reading books where serious issues, like mental illness, poverty, suicide, and bullying, are tackled. Often times in the past ten years, though, it’s been a bit a bit hard finding books that deal with hard things. Thankfully, however, it’s gotten easier finding these kinds of books, and people are discussing these things more. Here are some of my favourites.
By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead, by Julie Ann Peters, deals with some pretty heavy shit in the form of bullying and a suicide attempt. Daelynn survived her suicide attempt, but still has to deal with the effects- her throat was damaged, and she has to wear a brace and can’t eat regular food, talk, or go home by herself without panicking her parents. Making things worse is the fact that most of her classmates at her private school treat her like a leper. Your heart goes out to Daelynn, especially when she talks about the bullying that drove her to attempt suicide. I’ll admit, it was a bit hard reading some parts of the book, but overall, I really liked it. I liked the boy who tried to befriend her and thought he was sweet, but Daelynn, with her trust issues and inability to talk, didn’t make it easy for him. Used, $2.99
Girls Like Me, by Nina Packebush is the kind of book I would have loved as a teenager. It’s real. It’s gritty. Most of all, it deals with real issues teenagers face. 16-year-old Amanda, who prefers to go by Banjo, is pregnant and still dealing with the suicide of Gray, her genderqueer boy/girlfriend. (I found out later Banjo identifies as pansexual, a more nuanced term than bisexual for people attracted to both or all genders.) The book starts out with our heroine waking up in a locked psych ward and her “shiny new therapist” unable to help her come to terms with Gray’s suicide. Banjo was prescribed medication for bipolar disorder, which she ended up not having to take when it was decided later that the medication was dangerous for a fetus. I liked Banjo and her mom; her mom was supportive and made sure she got a therapist she liked and was there for Banjo through everything. New, $8.99
The Quelling, by Barbara Barrow, is a little bit lighter than By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead, but it still deals with some serious shit. There’s murder and mental illness. Addie and Dorian are both about 19 and are clever, beautiful, and violent. The sisters have spent most of their lives in a locked psych ward, diagnosed with a rare psychiatric disorder called Reactive Attachment Disorder. Addie gets pregnant, ostensibly to replace the family she lost. Meanwhile, the girls’ doctor comes up with a controversial and possibly dangerous cure, which is even more dangerous for pregnant women. I liked the girls a lot, and they definitely lived up to the hype of them being clever. New, $15.99