Portrayals of mental health in YA fiction
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
I'm currently participating in an Instagram challenge which celebrates Aussie young adult fiction. There's a challenge prompt every day where you get to select an Aussie YA book that fits that prompt. It's a great way to celebrate our wonderful Australian YA authors (let's face it - Aussie YA is the best - not that I'm biased at all! But Aussie YA has its own unique vibe about it - a quirky humour and vivid sense of place).
So back to the topic: the prompt for day 14 was 'mental health done well.'
My pick was Melina Marchetta's 'Saving Francesca.'
Francesca's mother, Mia, is unable to get out of bed, and her family is struggling. Melina Marchetta portrays Mia's illness with a sympathetic touch - but doesn't shy away from the realities of mental illness.
As Mia lies quietly in bed, unable to participate in family activities in the way that she used to, Francesca's voice resonates with the pain of her struggle for a sense of identity in the face of Mia's silence.
There are no easy answers, but I love how, ultimately, Francesca comes to a new understanding of Mia, and realises her mother's internal strength.
Other Australian young adult novels which include effective portrayals of mental health issues are:
- The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim (previously reviewed on my blog).
- The Long Distance Playlist by Tara Eglington (also previously reviewed on my blog.)
- Raw Blue by Kirst Eager
- The Beginners Guide to Living by Lia Hills
- Little Wing by Joanne Horniman
- Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian
- How it Feels to Float by Helena Fox