This is a tricky and sensitive topic, and it’s a brave author who takes it on. Often, there will be a note after the story where authors reveal their own struggles with neurological difficulties, and this only adds layers of poignancy to the fiction. These books are often the most confronting to read–the characters are damaged, battling demons and sometimes doing it alone. My two honourable mentions are like that: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow and Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield. Both main characters are damaged through external forces (child abuse and neglect), but other books show characters whose conditions are internal, a result of brain illness. The range of books in this genre is expanding all the time, and as long as the presentations are sensitive and compassionate, it’s good that it is.
When We Collided by Emory Lord (April 2016)
I read this back in January, and images still play in my head. I found the intense relationship between Vivi and Jonah dazzling yet of course, unsustainable. They way they lean on each other, that precise moment they meet when they most need the other, it’s a tour de force. I was left weeping and laughing. I wanted it to be resolved in exactly the way it did, and yet, it’s heartbreaking and real.The representation of this particular neurological disorder is uncommon in YA. It’s so great that this book exists, but even better that it’s such a quality piece of literature.
Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy (August 2016)
A complicated story set in Ireland, about a dead girl, Annabel who wastes away because of her anorexia, told that in order to receive her greatest wish, she must assist Julia, an overweight senior high student running the school newspaper. Annabel thinks she must stop Julia eating, but it’s not that simple of course. The reasons behind Julia’s weight gain are disturbing and quite adult. This book doesn’t shy away from confronting issues teenagers face. Anorexia is called an illness here, and body dysphoria continues to plague both young women and men. While the issues are weighty, the treatment of them is quirky and honest. I was upset by the information, yes, but also entertained by Annabel and Julia’s narrative voices, and their strength and growth.
The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras (November 2016)
This was another find on Netgalley, probably not out in Australia yet, but certainly worth tracking down. Viviana’s anxiety consumes the novel, and its depiction shows how debilitating they can be. But the story also shows her working through her issues realistically. There is a lot going on in this book, and my longer review is posted at Goodreads.
On Wednesday I include other books that offer social concerns that aren’t quite depression or grief.