Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 – Reading Recommendations

File_001 (7)Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought it would be appropriate to recommend a few books which I think address mental health very well. They’re not all books which are centered around mental health, and they don’t all focus on it greatly, but whether it’s an inspiring paragraph or the whole book, it’s here for a reason.

First, to represent agoraphobia and OCD, it has to be Under Rose-Tainted Skies (Louise Gornall). This book is beautiful, honest, moving and I felt like I related to it a lot more than some other books focusing on the same things. Norah is amazing, strong and very similar to me so that was an immediate click for me. You can read my full review (including the blurb) here: Review.

Also representing OCD, it’s Am I Normal Yet? (Holly Bourne) which is a beautiful story following the life of Evie who suffers from strong OCD and shows her struggles and attempts to be ‘normal’. This so well portrays the mindset of someone who thinks they’re weird and wants to fit in, and I found it very easy to relate to. It’s honest and is one of my favourite reads because of this. You can read my full review (including the blurb) here: Review.

I am fully aware that being transgender isn’t a mental disorder or illness, so please don’t shoot me, but I’m putting If I Was Your Girl (Meredith Russo) in here too. This is because the main character is struggling with her identity and through the bullying and misunderstandings, there are points where the narration displays some quite hurtful thoughts about herself. Because of the bullying in the story, she isn’t thinking right and could be experiencing some variation of depression or anxiety. It’s a very touching, very important story that everyone should read and I do think that it belongs here since it does portray some very negative, self-deprecating thoughts that wouldn’t be there otherwise (without the bullying/misunderstandings) as she’s been essentially taught to think this way. You can read my full review (including the blurb) here: Review.

Representing eating disorders/a distorted body image is Only Ever Yours (Louise O’Neill) and it’s the first book I ever decided to review because of how good it is. I think it’s so realistic in a ‘this would never happen’ kind of way. I can see how the patriarchal control in the story replicates the same manipulation in the real world and it’s done so well that I think everyone should have to read this even if it’s just to inspire you to tell the world to f off. You can read my full review (including the blurb) here: Review.

As representation for anxiety, I’ve put in the entire Girl Online series (Zoe Sugg) because I think (at least for me), it’s very accurate and portrays that inner monologue well. I enjoy the story as well as the issues inside it, as there’s no love triangle and the romantic interest isn’t magically a cure for her mental health problems. It’s realistic, and honestly shows the stages of a panic attack, thoughts caused by anxiety and the missed opportunities it can cause. Just because it’s ghost-written for a vlogger doesn’t make it bad. You can read my full review (including the blurb) of the first book here: Review

This last book is a slight stretch since it isn’t entirely focused on mental health, however I do think that it would help someone going through the same situation. It’s No Virgin (Anne Cassidy) which is about a rape. It’s not explicitly mentioned that the main character is experiencing any mental health issues, however I think that through the narrative, it could be assumed that she’s having a lot of negative thoughts, self-blame and guilt which could so easily become depression or anxiety (among other things). PTSD is a common problem which comes after rape, and it could be argued that that is present in this book. I think it depends how you interpret it and how hard-hitting the subject is for you, but I definitely think that this book should be on this list. You can read my full review (including the blurb) here: Review.

Review: Am I Normal Yet? (Holly Bourne)

20161011_141904Title: Am I Normal Yet?

Author: Holly Bourne

Publisher: Usborne

Release: Out now!

Genre: Contemporary, mental health

Which animal is similar to this book? This book, to me, resembles a generic pig. I realise how harsh this sounds, but hear me out! When someone says the word ‘pig’, most people will immediately think of a traditional pot-bellied pig on a farm in a muddy field. These pigs are messy, love to forage and are obviously only kept for the purpose of meat. Other people will think of the less common (but much more common among celebrities!) teacup pig. These are miniature versions of the standard ‘pig’ and are arguably adorable (yes they fit in a teacup when young, and fit in a mixing bowl when adult!). ‘Pigs’ are versatile; even the pot-bellied pig can be used for meat or pig racing! They’re different and all the different breeds have different characteristics, despite being wildly similar. Am I Normal Yet? is a story about a girl with OCD, yet it still covers topics such as feminism, friendship, family issues, boy problems and bullying. It’s very versatile as pigs are and although the main plot is about mental health, the other storylines are also very strong within that.

The blurb says: Normal at 16 = College, Friends who won’t dump you, Parties? Fun? A boyfriend? All Evie wants is to be normal. And now that she’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the-girl-who-went-nuts, there’s only one thing left to tick off her list… But relationships can mess with anyone’s head – something Evie’s new friends Amber and Lottie know only too well. The trouble is, if Evie won’t tell them her secrets, how can they stop her making a huge mistake?

Okay, this book is amazing. Having OCD myself, reading books which claim to talk about it is always tense and I’m waiting for the cliches or the misinterpretations which come from people who don’t have it themselves. However, this book is so accurate. It’s so obvious from just reading it that Holly Bourne did a lot of research to get this 100%. From the feelings, symptoms, needs even to the ways a therapist would help and the diaries/worksheets they would give someone to help them; it’s all fully accurate.

In that sense, it’s very informative for anyone with a friend who is suffering from OCD but doesn’t quite understand it, but it also gives a lot of information about feminism. There are terms used (like ‘benevolent sexism’) which aren’t commonly used in conversation but are so important and should be talked about more. I just loved it, and when Lottie explains those terms to the other two, I was learning alongside them and I feel like that’s something other girls should be able to experience too.

The characters are lovely and I wish I knew them all in real life because that would just be a dream come true! I also read the acknowledgments and I love that the first dating story in the book is based on a date the author actually went on (I also love that she didn’t change his name and isn’t sorry for it!) because when I was reading that, it seemed like a thing which could happen, but almost seemed too impossible to happen in a normal scenario, as opposed to celebrity lives.

I also love that the story is so funny and witty; despite the seriousness of OCD and the problems Evie is facing, there’s often dry or witty humor as well which makes the plot more light-hearted. Saying that, it did make me emotional and I really did feel sorry for Evie, watching her put herself in situations I know I would hate, and yet I unde20160804_163103rstood why she was doing it, and somehow that made it worse.

I know I’m late to the Spinster Club, but I won’t be leaving any time soon! I can’t wait to read the other books (I already bought them because I knew I’d love them!), but I do think Evie will be my favourite overall… We shall see! I definitely give Am I Normal Yet? a very strong 10 out of 10 paw prints! Everyone should read it!