Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature: Exploring Real Struggles Through Fictional Characters

Libraries Unlimited/Teacher Ideas. Nov. 2018. 213p. index. Tr $45. ISBN 9781440857386.
Richmond (English, Northern Michigan University) offers a somewhat dry but intriguing look at mental illness representation in teen literature. Each chapter focuses on a different disorder (anxiety, self-injury, addiction) and opens with a definition from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, examining the criteria for diagnosis and discussing treatment options. The author summarizes recent works, published between 2003 and 2017, in which a main character exhibits the disorder; she then evaluates the book’s portrayal of mental illness. Each section concludes with works cited and recommended titles (nonfiction, YA fiction, and adult novels) that explore similar themes. Quotations from the books studied break up the long, sometimes monotonous text. The novels generally center on white female characters, though Richmond states that she attempted to provide a diverse sample, especially in regard to socioeconomic backgrounds. Back matter includes sample lesson plans with correlated Common Core and AASL standards and classroom activities.
VERDICT A good choice for professional development and academic collections, especially for those interested in YA literature or the representation of protagonists with mental illness

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