4 Books that Accurately Describe Mental Illness

Nikita Sasi

Edited by Brooke Thimmig

Books can do a lot for a person.

They can make you cry, laugh, and even fall in love with characters that are not real people. Books can also teach you things that you’ve never even heard of before. However, books aren’t always wonderful, and there’s often a misrepresentation of certain topics and themes within their pages. The subject of mental health, for instance, is one of the most prominent topics that is incorrectly displayed in literature.

Mental illness is romanticized and normalized a great deal nowadays. People barely bat an eyelash at the words “depression” and “anxiety” because of how much they thrown around, and the severity of these words is unfortunately lessening.

It saddens me that inaccurate books can change a person’s opinion or thoughts so quickly, so I did some digging. Here are four books which, more or less, accurately talk about mental illnesses. They’re excellent if you’re facing a few problems yourself and are seeking understanding, or if you just want to learn more about mental health, these books are great for becoming more educated on the subject.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mark Haddon

A novel that stole the hearts of many, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is narrated in the first-person perspective of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy who describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties”.

The reader can immediately recognize that Christopher isn’t an average teenager. His thoughts and behaviors lead readers to believe that he may be on the autism spectrum, which is in fact the case. A major reason for this novel’s popularity is that despite the fact that Christopher has autism, the author never lets it be the deciding factor that describes Christopher. He is more than that; he’s a writer, a mathematician, a son, and a traveler.

The author does confirm that Christopher has Asperger’s syndrome after the release of the book, but he has stated that he didn’t want to label Christopher, as each and every individual is different.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an emotional, frustrating, yet feel good book that shows readers that a person is much more than their disorder or illness.

I’ll Give You the Sun

Jandy Nelson

While the novel doesn’t deal with mental issues, I’ll Give You the Sun revolves largely around self identity, which is a relevant problem that most adolescents face. It doesn’t sugar-coat issues faced by teenagers, and it tells it like it is.

A person’s teenage years expose them to numerous things. Adolescence is a period of retrospection and disasters, where everything is wrong but also right. Being extremely relatable, the story involves two twins, who fall apart as they grow older, and the book describes their battles with sexuality, identity, and the loss of loved ones.

Looking for Alaska

John Green

John Green has a reputation for writing Young Adult novels that don’t shy away from matters related to mental health. Looking for Alaska is undoubtedly one of his darkest novels, despite it being his first. It deals with depression and problems faced by adolescents, and the book even mentions suicide.

The character named Alaska has experienced childhood trauma, and she often turns to alcohol and cigarettes, saying “Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.” Although not specified, it’s clear to the readers that Alaska isn’t in the best mental state. Looking for Alaska is a great read if you’re searching for a coming-of-age novel about life, love, and teenagehood.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson

Stieg Larsson earned the highest acclaims after the release of his book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Touching almost every ‘taboo’ topic known, from violence towards women to mental disorders, Larsson took the plunge no one else dared to do.

Besides its wonderful mystery and thriller aspects, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is unique for its protagonist, Lisbeth Slander. Although not explicitly mentioned, it’s clear to everyone that she lacks social skills, awareness, and can even get extremely violent when provoked.

While she does have extraordinary mental skills, her lack of emotional empathy and connection makes her seemingly hard to love, but that’s exactly what makes her a favorite character- she has flaws.

Although readers conflict with their speculations about the number of illnesses she may have, including PTSD and Antisocial Personality Disorder, everyone can agree that she’s portrayed wonderfully. Larsson also highlights society’s ignorance and discrimination towards mental illnesses, which is a much needed wake up call for human beings.

I highly recommend these 4 books for anyone to read, especially if you are searching for a greater understanding of mental health in society and an accurate portrayal of various mental illnesses. I promise that you will be entertained, moved, and learn more about the human mind and all of its brilliance and faults after reading any of these interesting novels described above.