bookish · discussions

the current state of mental illness in young adult books

the current state

WARNING: my opinions are laying ahead.

i noticed that a lot of people say that young adult authors have opened up to new areas, and started engaging themselves in topics more diverse and more different than what we used to see usually in books. we do not have the same main character anymore, the one who is perfect on the inside (not that this is a bad thing) and on the outside, and who wants to save everyone, who loves everyone (even the villain sometimes which is quite strange? i would just want to stab him in his black heart). other people say that we started getting more books that deal perfectly with mental illness.

and let me tell you that i completely disagree on the last thing.

to me, mental illness in some books is still only used to dramatize the story and get more hype and recognition around it. authors create these mentally ill characters just so their work can be called a “diverse novel”.

stop.

STOP.

just…stop it.

if you’re going to throw a mentally ill character in your book just for the pleasure of having diversity in your work, just stop. i’d rather read a book with no diversity at all than read some novel that pretends to be diverse like that. mental illness isn’t some kind of joker you pull out every time readers claim there is a lack of diverse characters. no depth in the topic, no research, nothing. just mental illness in the shape of bodies. we aren’t cards here. mental illness doesn’t equal drama or hype. mental illness isn’t some kind of joke. mental illness isn’t some kind of game.

got a mentally ill character in a book? that’s it, drama guaranteed.

and guess what happens next? some cute witty romance to add more drama. some love interest comes and changes the main character’s whole life, as if he needs love to make a change. well, guess what? mental illness is completely different from wanting to depend on other people. in fact, it’s the complete opposite.

and to spice the whole thing up? add some depressing quotes here and there, as if normal people talk like that.

congratulations, you’ve just created the most unrealistic novel about mental illness, and you’re gaining awards, because it’s a book about mental illness.*slow clap*

19254927


CONCLUSION: mental illness is being romanticized. mental illness is being scrutinized.

maha

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22 thoughts on “the current state of mental illness in young adult books

  1. Excellent discussion Maha. I remember reading All the Bright Places and I couldn’t explain why I didn’t like that book. Your post perfectly captures why that book is problamatic, the mental illness is romanticized and it’s barely even addresed. I wish authors would stop making mental illnesses romanticized, it’s inconsiderate towards the people who actually have to deal with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i’m so happy you saw what book inspired me to write that post *winks*. i did not like that book, and i didn’t even finish it because of this. it felt just like mental illness put into bodies, and it was just so annoying…
      and thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS POST & 100% AGREE WITH YOU. In my WIP, my MC actually suffers from depression & PTSD. But I’m making sure it’s not anything like those books that romanticize it — those are honestly so annoying because that’s not how mental illness works at all. I did actually read this other book that had a character who had a mental illness but it was actually done well. There wasn’t romance in it and it was just the character working through it & getting better herself (& going to therapy and stuff like that) — the character still had some problems, it’s not like she suddenly became all happy and perfect, but she made progress. I think that’s more so how it should be done & I really wish more books with mental illnesses did it like that.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s called Dark Touch. ^ also it actually does have romance in it, but really it’s more of a friendship and it’s still her working through it herself. It’s not like a guy comes along and suddenly everything is better — which is why I loved it!
        And thank you so much Maha ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post, Maha! I hate it when mental illness is romanticised, or when an author just puts it in there for diversity. Mental illness is such a serious topic to me, people who have it go through so much, and if it’s reduced to being a device that sells books – that cheapens it and honestly frustrates me so much. Because yeah, it’s awesome that we get more awareness on mental illnesses – but is it really that great, if it comes at the risk of portraying it incorrectly? I don’t think so.
    What an awesome post – you go girl!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally agree with this post and thank you for drawing attention to the fact that young adult authors are still romanticizing mental illness! It really annoys me that they seem to think love is the answer to curing depression etc. When you’re suffering from a mental illness, you don’t want to be out meeting new people, and you definitely will not feel comfortable enough to open up to someone like that. You barely recognise or understand yourself, so how can you fall in love with someone else? And I entirely agree that YA authors just seem to think mental illness is a lot of crying and coming up with profound speeches on your feelings. So thanks again for writing this post, you’ve really hit the nail on the head! Hopefully YA will better represent mental illness in the future instead of using it to create drama.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I completely agree with you 100%! It’s as though mental illness is just thrown as a slightly different twist on the norm, just to give the book more hype. I also can’t stand when a character with a mental illness is suddenly “fixed” by their love interest, as though the cure for mental illness is a relationship. As you said, I would much rather read a non-diverse book than one throwing in a mental illness to try to be diverse.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really like your discussion, Maha! It made me think about all the books I read with mental ilness and reflect if they were really meaningful or just there to add drama. As much as I love dramatic books, I don’t think we should romanticize suh an important topic just to give the book more hype.
    There’s nothing worse than characters that “recover” as soon as their love interest shows up. It annoys me so much, not only because it showcases the idea that if you have a boyfriend, you’ll be fine; but also because it discredits the love from the character’s family or friends. When they were around these people, they were sick; around this perfect new boyfriend/girlfriend, they’re fine. Ugh.
    I really hope you get more people thinking with this post! I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you so much!
      aghh i really want to see a book about mental illness with family issues, you know like see how their families help them get out of their illness or learn to cope with it. and i also feel like every book has a love story? i mean, i enjoy reading love stories, but sometimes it’s just useless? the story could be put in another (and better) way…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey, thanks for letting me read. I got a story I’m working out about mental illness and a family of ladies. I like what you had to say about writers going with the token mentally ill character for diversification. I’ll have to look into more of the books you’ve looked at. Peace.

    Like

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