Saturday, May 24, 2014

Brooklyn Skye: Where are the YA novels About Mental Illness?

by Joyce Lamb)

Brooklyn Skye, author of Fragile Line, joins HEA to share her concerns about young people who are mentally ill and make this point: We need more YA stories "that show the messiness and complexity of mental illness."


It's like a dream that keeps going…

that you can't wake up from…

that makes you feel like you want to die.

It's confusing.

Two years ago I was searching YouTube as I sometimes do in my boredom and came across these words, written by a 16-year-old girl. She was talking about this feeling inside of her … one she didn't understand, one that made her feel like a freak, one that — as much as she struggled to admit — made her want to disappear.

She was also living with a mental illness.

How much

can one person take

before she begins to

fall apart?

A few months later, during Suicide Prevention Week, I came across a 15-year-old boy named Mark who wrote this:

Once upon a time, there was a boy who wanted to die.

And this:

The thoughts didn't go away…



piece of




There's been a lot of chatter lately among the YA community regarding diversity in Young Adult literature. More characters of color, more authors of color, more socioeconomic classes represented, more sexual orientations, more, more, more.

But what about those teens struggling with mental illness?

You see, that 16-year-old girl was living with dissociative identity disorder. And Mark? He's been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 20% of children and adolescents in the United States have an emotional or mental disorder. That's a staggering statistic. So my question to the YA community is this: Where are the books that represent them? Where are the books that will show teens like these the chaos and confusion in their heads isn't all that freakish?

So, yes, we need more. More books that show the messiness and complexity of mental illness. More books that, even in their messiness, can shine a bit of hope into these kids' lives.

Mark's story, you'll be relieved to hear, did have a happy ending. Because on the day he'd decided would be his last, Mark first wanted to finish the book he was reading. So he did. And this is what he wrote:

The love interest died.

He didn't expect that. She was invincible. She smoked and drank and had sex and lived like he never had. In fact, he liked her. A lot. He felt, when he was reading her, like a small portion of his heart beat again.

Because she was him, different as they were. They were depressed. They were scared. They were guilty. They knew what it was like to be alone, surrounded by people.

And she died.

And he cried.

And a small part of him said:






So he told someone.

One boy's thoughts of ending his life turned into the desire to live. One life … saved by a book with a character who was feeling the same as he was.

This is what we need more of.

For Mark's full story, please visit his blog.

Here's the blurb about Fragile Line:

When I'm asleep, I'm afraid someone else might take my place.

It can happen in a flash. One minute she's kissing her boyfriend, the next she's lost in the woods. Sixteen-year-old Ellie Cox is losing time. It started out small…forgetting a drive home or a conversation with a friend. But her blackouts are getting worse, more difficult to disguise as forgetfulness. When Ellie goes missing for three days, waking up in the apartment of a mysterious guy—a guy who is definitely not her boyfriend—her life starts to spiral out of control.

Perched on the edge of insanity, with horrific memories of her childhood leaking in, Ellie struggles to put together the pieces of what she's lost—starting with the name haunting her, Gwen. Heartbreakingly beautiful and intimately drawn, this poignant story follows one girl's harrowing journey to finding out who she really is.

Find out more about Brooklyn and her books at

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