Contemporary young adult fiction tackles every serious issue you could possibly think of, whether it’s drug abuse or abusive relationships, or eating disorders and not having enough money to eat. The issues are examined in serious and darkly comic novels, through pictures and verse and collections of texts and e-mails. These eight novels follow teens dealing with depression and show their friends and family coping with the sometimes tragic consequences.
1. Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Told in flashbacks and painful present moments in the aftermath of popular high school junior Liz Emerson’s suicide attempt, this novel pieces together how Liz ended up broken and barely alive in a crowded hospital. This beautifully written novel features a surprising narrator reminiscent of The Book Thief (though it isn’t death).
2. Forgive Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
It’s hard to pull off humor while balancing a serious subject matter, but Matthew Quick does in his story of a teenager determined to kill himself and his former best friend on his birthday. With an extremely original style that includes footnotes and letters from the future, Leonard Peacock is a completely charming and heartbreaking narrator.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky
The film adaptation of this classic ’90s YA is great (Ezra Miller should just be in everything) but even if you’ve seen the movie, the book, told in the form of letters to Charlie’s mysterious friend, is worth checking out.
4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why is a slowly unfurling mystery that’s compelling because of the suspense and the obvious pain of Hannah Baker, a girl who left behind thirteen tapes slowly revealing the thirteen reasons why she chose to commit suicide.
5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Cadence Sinclair Eastman has known for a long time that her perfect life, full of privilege and wealth, wasn’t actually perfect at all. But she always had the summer with her two cousins and their friend Gat. Two summers ago Cadence had an accident that she remembers almost nothing about, that left her with debilitating headaches that make her wonder if life is worth it. For the first time since that summer she’s going back to the family estate to be reunited with her friends, and she finally gets to ask them what happened that night.
6. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which was made into a movie starring Zack Galifianakis and Emma Roberts, in 2010, focuses on a teenager’s stay in a metal hospital after he attempts to commit suicide. The book’s author, Ned Vizzini, tragically took his own life in 2013.
7. By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
Daelyn is so tired of the bullying she has to deal with at her high school she’s decided to kill herself. Through a website that seems to find her through magic, Daelyn has found a community of other people like her, who are sure the time has come for it to be all over.
8. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
Told through a combination of prose and verse, And We Stay follows Emily Beam as she tries to make sense of her boyfriend’s violent suicide and the part she played in his decision. Emily’s poems are a beautiful way to express her grief and confusion.