Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Some realistic fiction for teen readers

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, one out of every ten teens suffers from serious mental and emotional disorders that significantly impact their lives. In the novels listed below, selected by the Athens (GA) Regional Library, characters deal with a variety of mental illnesses -- their own or those of their loved ones -- conditions such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or schizophrenia. The website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offers more information; for copies of these books, use the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Kissing Doorknobs, by Terry Spencer Hesser (Bantam Doubleday Dell Books) Realistic Fiction. The last thing in the world that Tara Sullivan wants is to "think the same thought over and over and over again, especially a thought as uninteresting and stupid as Step on a crack, break your mother's back." But ever since she heard that rhyme as an 11-year-old, she has felt compelled to count every crack in every sidewalk, and her thoughts are plagued with worry that only the repetition of bizarre rituals (such as kissing her fingers and touching the doorknob 33 times before she exits the house) relieves. Kissing Doorknobs shows, frankly and with wry humor,what life is like for those who are afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Get Well Soon, by Julie Halpern (Feiwel and Friends) Realistic Fiction. Anna Bloom has skipped so many days of school due to panic attacks and depression that her parents have committed her to a mental institution. Instructed to keep track of her thoughts and feelings in a journal, Anna instead writes (but never mails) honest and snarkily funny letters to her best friend, Tracy. At first, her letters are filled with complaints about Lakeland's "booger green and vomit brown" decor, her fellow patients, and a therapist who seems obsessed with Anna's weight. But after a while, Anna starts to feel better about herself and begins to make friends...including one who might possibly be more-than-a-friend. For some slightly grittier tales of life in what Anna calls "the loony bin," check out Susanna Kaysen's memoir Girl, Interrupted or Ellen Hopkins' Impulse.

Wild Roses, by Deb Caletti (Simon & Schuster) Fiction. "Supposedly there's an actual, researched link between extreme creativity and mental illness, and I believe it because I've seen it with my own eyes." So says 17-year-old Cassie Morgan, whose stepfather, the famous violinist Dino Cavalli, is brilliant -- but also tends to be depressed, paranoid, and delusional. Dino's erratic behavior is getting worse as the date of his big comeback concert approaches, and when love-struck Cassie begins seeing one of his violin students (despite Dino forbidding her to do so), things quickly come to a boiling point.

It's Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini (Miramax Books/Hyperion Books) Realistic Fiction. After working diligently to gain acceptance into New York City's prestigious Executive Pre-Professional High School, Craig Gilner buckles under the pressure once he's there. His strategy for dealing with his ensuing depression -- smoking pot and avoiding studying -- only makes things worse, and Craig finds himself dialing the number of a suicide hotline. He checks himself into a psychiatric hospital, where he unexpectedly finds friendship, humor, wisdom, and a possible romance among his quirky fellow patients. While depression is realistically, vividly, and respectfully portrayed in this ultimately hopeful novel, it's actually more than just "kind of" a funny story -- at points, it's hilarious.

Breathless, by Jessica Warman (Walker) Realistic Fiction. For Olympic-hopeful swimmer Katie Kitrell, sometimes the water is the only place where she feels at home. Her father is distant; her mother, an artist, has a problem with alcohol; and even though she is very close to her schizophrenic brother, Will, his behavior has recently become dangerous. When Katie's father sends her off to an elite boarding school, she's surprised by how quickly the in-crowd accepts her .. .and she tells her new friends that her brother is dead to avoid dealing with the truth. If you like Breathless' complex relationships, you might also want to read Ann Dee Ellis'Everything is Fine or Adele Griffin's Where I Want to Be.

Lowboy, by John Wray (Farrar Straus and Giroux) Fiction. Sixteen-year-old paranoid schizophrenic Will Heller believes that the world is facing imminent destruction via global warming -- and that he's the only one who can prevent it. Off his meds, Will rides the Manhattan subway system in a desperate search for his ex-girlfriend, who's a crucial component of his plan. Narrating in addition to the brilliant if delusional teen are the two adults searching for him--his troubled mother, Violet, and a missing-persons detective named Ali Lateef. For their own reasons, none of the three is a particularly reliable narrator, but together they create a story that is dark, suspenseful, and gives readers a vivid picture of the unique way that Will's mind works.

No comments:

Post a Comment