A collage of book covers that feature mental health topics

Recommended Reads

9 must-read books for Mental Health Awareness Month


May 22, 2023

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and in recognition of this important month, I'd like to recommend some books that explore mental health themes in unique and realistic ways. These titles offer a diverse look at mental health issues, from mysteries to coming-of-age novels.

Note: We highly encourage you research trigger warnings for the following books, as it can help you make informed decisions about the material you choose to engage with and ensure your well-being while reading.

Truly Devious

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

A young adult mystery novel, this is the story of Stevie Bell, a true crime fanatic who’s admitted to the prestigious Ellingham Academy in Vermont to solve a cold case mystery. This book does a great job at depicting anxiety, especially in teens. The main character suffers from anxiety, particularly correlated to traumatic events and social anxiety.

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska by John Green

This coming-of-age novel explores themes of depression and grief. The book follows the story of Miles Halter, a high school student who’s obsessed with famous last words, as he navigates the complexities of his new school and falls in love with the enigmatic Alaska Young.

The Program

The Program by Suzanne Young

This young adult dystopian novel explores themes of depression and suicide in a world where these issues are viewed as contagious diseases. The book follows the story of Sloane Barstow, a teenager who’s struggling to cope with the loss of her brother and the pressures of a society that demands emotional perfection.

Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Lawson’s memoir explores the author's struggles with anxiety and depression in a humorous and honest way. This book provides a unique and refreshing perspective on mental health issues, reminding readers that it's okay to find joy and humor in the darkest of times.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Exploring themes of loneliness and social isolation, this book follows the story of Eleanor Oliphant, a socially awkward and isolated woman who begins to form connections with others and confront the trauma of her past.

Finding Aubrey

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

A young adult novel that explores themes of anxiety and recovery, this book follows the story of Audrey, a teenager who’s struggling with anxiety and depression after a traumatic bullying experience. The book provides a hopeful and uplifting portrayal of mental health recovery.

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Exploring themes of grief and loss, this book follows the story of Conor O'Malley, a young boy who's struggling to cope with his mother's illness and the fear of losing her. The book provides a poignant and emotional portrayal of the complexities of grief and loss.

White Smoke

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

This is a mystery/thriller novel that explores mental health representation, focusing on the main character, Marigold, who’s struggling with OCD and anxiety. This young adult psychological thriller takes a chilling modern take on the classic haunted house trope.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This classic coming-of-age novel explores themes of mental illness and trauma. The book follows the story of Charlie, a high school student who’s struggling to cope with the trauma of his past and the challenges of adolescence. The book provides a compassionate and honest portrayal of mental illness and the importance of seeking help.

Fiction books that feature characters with mental health issues can play a vital role in reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. These books have the power to normalize mental health struggles and lessen the shame and isolation that individuals with mental health issues may feel. By portraying characters with mental health issues in a positive light, readers can gain insight into different mental health conditions, allowing them to better understand and empathize with those who may be struggling. These books provide relatable characters that readers may identify with, helping individuals with mental health issues feel less alone and validated in their experiences.

Fiction books that include mental health representation can provide readers with coping strategies and self-care tips, as characters may demonstrate healthy ways to manage symptoms through therapy or medication, contributing to readers' personal growth and self-improvement. By reading and discussing these books, we can work to reduce the stigma.

Borrow them on the Libby app from your library.


About the Author

Nahomy Ortiz-Garcia is a Social Media Specialist for OverDrive, the creator of the Libby library reading app. When she’s not working, she’s most likely reading or creating bookish content for her bookish blogs @NahomysLibrary. Nahomy’s current favorite book is “Yours Truly” by Abby Jimenez.


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