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Four Novels that Improved My Understanding of Mental Health

November 19, 2016

Trigger Warning: talk of suicide, self-harm, sexual assault, and mental illness.

 

1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

 

This novel has stuck with me since I read it about six years ago in middle school. The story revolves arounds Clay Jensen, a guy in high school who returns home from class one day to find a box of cassette tapes on his doorstep. The cassette tapes are narrations voiced by his former classmate and crush, Hannah Baker, who recorded 13 reasons why she committed suicide two weeks earlier. Clay is one of the reasons. Throughout the story, readers learn about Hannah’s compelling story and the reasons why she made the decision she did.

 

 

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

 

Is it too soon to jump back on the bandwagon of this one? But honestly, this novel is inexplicably moving when you pay attention to the “minor” details. The novel is written in diary format by an introverted teen named Charlie. As he watches his peers and life itself from the outside, Charlie attempts to come to terms with past events. He meets Sam and Patrick who help him gain confidence in the world around him. It isn’t until the very end of the book when the reader really begins to learn about Charlie’s internal mechanisms.

 

3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

 

To be frank, when I read this book in my first year of high school, I was highly disinterested. I think it’s mostly because I didn’t understand it. Speak is about high school freshman Melinda Sordino. Melinda is shutout, excluded, ignored and isolated from her peers after she calls the cops at an end-of-summer party. No one understands or even knows the reason she did it, except for Melinda. Facing it is difficult, but in the middle of the novel, Melinda comes to terms with the fact that she was raped by an upperclassman. This is the sort of book you just have to read. There are no words to describe or explain Melinda’s healing process. Just read it.

 

4. Looking for Alaska by John Green

 

I typically read slowly but I finished this book in less than a week (which is pretty good for me). In simple terms, this book is about love, loss, and the search for the “Great Perhaps”. Miles Halter lives a boring, repetitive life until he moves to Culver Creek boarding school. There he meets Chip, Takumi and Alaska, who is falls madly in love with. Throughout the story, Miles is set on finding something more meaningful in life, and is challenged by Alaska’s concept of the “labyrinth”. In this story John Green illustrates many of the typical challenges of growing up and the search for self-identity. You won’t regret this read.

 

** Disclaimer: These fictional novels are not a testament to the experiences individuals have felt or gone through. Each individual has their own experience in situations like these, and in no way do these novels meet the specifications of those experiences. **

 

 

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