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: No Virgin (Anne Cassidy)

file_000Title: No Virgin

Author: Anne Cassidy

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release: 3rd November 2016

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? Okay, this comparison is going to be out there and difficult to explain, so just bear with me please…For me, this book is a pitbull. It (rape) needs talking about more, victims need more defense and more protection, and victims are often left badly emotionally (and sometimes) physically damaged for life. Pitbulls are commonly used in fighting rings (which is very illegal) and you may have heard horror stories of pitbulls killing chihuahuas or mauling young children. This is never the dog’s fault and can often be traced back to a triggering incident. Take the chihuahua death; a pitbull is a dog sadly bred to fight other dogs. Unfortunately, due to this, many are abused or actually taught to fight. This leaves them with a built-in aggression towards other dogs, hence the dog attack. They are very easily emotionally damaged; after a pitull is attacked by a person wrongfully expecting them to be vicious, they then become wary and will respond with violence. A rape victim is usually very emotionally damaged and shouldn’t be blamed for any of their actions (whether they’re towards their attacker or whether they just want to hide from it all and become more nervous). Another angle is that rape isn’t talked about as a big issue enough; women are taught not to wear short skirts but men aren’t taught not to sexually harass/abuse someone. In the same way, people are happy to accept that pitbull fighting is wrong, but many don’t do anything to prevent it.

The blurb on Netgalley says: My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped. Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. She does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down. This is Stacey’s story.

This book was so good, I read it in less than a day. The way everything was written made it so much more realistic and I felt genuinely connected to Stacey. It’s raw, honest and emotional as hell but despite the rape in the story, it’s a lovely story of friendship. Stacey’s best friend, Patrice, encourages her to write the events leading up to the attack as well as the actual attack so that she can show the sexual assault help line/the police and (quite rightly) she’s disgusted this happens at all.

The story starts with the reader knowing Stacey was raped, but they have to wait to see the story unfold to see who by and how it happens. The suspense is awful though because throughout the story, you will inevitably bond with Stacey and you’ll predict all these bad situations she’s getting into but some play out, whereas some don’t so you’re left stressed for her but also relieved as well as worried for the next situation.

Stacey’s a nice girl, if a little naive, and makes a lot of mistakes during the plot, but obviously nothing she could possibly do would justify the rape. My favourite thing about this story is the way the victim blames herself and is immediately shut down and rational (correct) responses are given. This is realistic and also good to address since most rape victims feel like they are to blame, and often the rapists will use their feelings 20160804_163746to encourage the ‘blame the victim’ idea. This book directly addresses that, and the brutality of rape in unflinching detail which is what makes it so honest and brilliant.

I’m so lucky to have read this from Netgalley, and I’d love to own the hard copy of it when it’s released, so I’d give this 9 out of 10 paw prints! I’d love to see a sequel too!