Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Oliver, Francisco X. Stork, Sara Zarr, and the other 27 contributors to this anthology are all best-selling, award-winning authors. Yet many admit that their personal essay on mental illness was the hardest piece they’ve ever written. Although a few authors write about friends and family, most reveal their own struggles with anxiety, depression, addiction, OCD, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, body-image issues, and more, with cutting and suicidal thoughts often entering the picture. The contributors explain how the mental illness first manifested itself and eventually took over their lives. Their essays (and one poem) are raw, intense, and poignant. Individually, they show a wide range of experiences; collectively, they show commonalities among sufferers. There are feelings of isolation, shame, being stigmatized, and losing control as “it” or a “monster” seemingly guides their thoughts and actions. Nevertheless, hope and recovery also shine through as the authors reflect on their self-care and coping mechanisms, including therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, sleep, and diet. Just like mental illness itself, the paths to acceptance and recovery take many forms. Who better to raise teens’ awareness of mental illness and health than the YA authors they admire? Their compelling stories will start important discussions and assure readers they’re never alone. — Angela Leeper
– Booklist *STARRED REVIEW*, Feb 1, 2018
Teens may be unlikely to seek out this collection on their own, but it is a valuable read to put in the hands of those who need it. (Memoir/essay. 14-18)
– Kirkus Reviews
Renowned writers of fiction and nonfiction candidly speak out about their experiences with often stigmatized mental illnesses, including agoraphobia, OCD, Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and depression and anxiety, which frequently go hand in hand. Some of the authors focus on what it is like to be in their shoes, such as editor-poet E.K. Anderson, who expresses her experience with bipolar disorder entirely in verse, and Megan Kelley Hall, who details her suffering in her essay “My Depression—A Rock and a Hard Place.” More often than not, however, the aims of the authors—who include Ellen Hopkins, Francisco X. Stork, Maureen Johnson, Sara Zarr, and many others—are to help readers, advising them on where to turn for help and advocating for a society that is more sensitive and informed about mental and emotional health. Author Tara Kelly provides a concrete list of tips ranging from medication to stargazing to help relieve symptoms of acute anxiety. These bold, brave essays will educate the uninformed and inspire hope in those who may feel alone in their suffering.
– Publishers Weekly *STARRED REVIEW, February 26, 2018
In this collection of personal essays, thirty-one authors of children’s and young adult literature (including well-known names such as Hannah Moskowitz, Francisco X. Stork, and Francesca Lia Block) reveal their struggles with anxiety, depression, compulsions to self-harm, suicidal ideations, and other mental conditions and disorders. A few discuss their experiences with close others who are suffering, but most describe in detail what their own good and bad days are like. Some use evocative metaphors and images, while others are quite literal, and nearly all describe the therapies and strategies that they have found effective while highlighting that there are no easy, permanent, or one-size-fits-all solutions. Most of the essays are explicitly directive in encouraging readers to seek help, and comforting in the authors’ insistence that seemingly abnormal mental conditions are in fact more prevalent than one might realize and certainly survivable given proper treatment. The individuality of the approaches does tend to constitute such problems as being entirely intrapsychic, since there’s no talk of wider social conditions that require activist rather than merely therapeutic solutions. For teens who are suffering, though, these authors prove that, with the help of friends, professionals, and/or the right combination of meds, people with mental health issues can flourish, attain success, and help others by sharing their stories, whether personal or creative.
– BCCB, April 2018
From anxiety attacks and depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and drug and alcohol addiction, each of the authors (many of whom teens will recognize) pens an essay describing their experiences with mental illness. Some write of their suicidal tendencies; others share their struggles with ADHD. Authors describe such issues as how they learn to recognize the symptoms that signal a recurrence of their symptoms, and how they employ coping mechanisms that enable them to continue with their lives. These include medication and therapy, yoga, exercise, meditation, and help from health professionals. Other writers describe what it is like to care for a loved one with mental illness: Dan Wells caring for a beloved grandfather with Alzheimer’s, Ellen Hopkins bringing up a grandson damaged by early childhood trauma, and a mother interviewing her sixteen-year-old son in order to show that others who are depressed and have OCD are not alone. Cindy L. Rodriguez writes about cultural issues regarding the Latinx community and the treatment of mental illness.
Importantly, this book emphasizes that many people live with mental health issues and that, despite the ignorance about and negativity toward mental illness, there is nothing of which they should be ashamed. Writers of these essays offer support by demonstrating that they are survivors who are willing to acknowledge and discuss their different illnesses. These are important messages to make available to teens.
– VOYA, April 1, 2018
Gr 9 Up–In this much-needed, enlightening book, 31 young adult authors write candidly about mental health crises, either their own or that of someone very close to them. Ranging from humorous to heartbreaking to hopeful, each story has a uniquely individual approach to the set of circumstances that the writer is dealing with. Many authors address readers in the second person, inviting them to imagine what it’s like to live a day inside their heads. The symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction are frequently discussed. Readers will learn of the many different ways these conditions can be present and in which they often work together. Despite the intense emotional content, teens will warm to the authenticity apparent in every voice. Many, if not most of the essays offer a list of the techniques and treatments that have been successful in handling symptoms, including medication, therapy, exercise, and yoga. The difficulty in recognizing mental health issues, as well as the unfortunate stigma associated with asking for help, is frequently acknowledged and may help teen and adult readers work toward achieving a more open dialogue. Perhaps most importantly, the collection’s overarching sentiment points toward acceptance and the idea that treatment is a journey. As contributor Tara Kelly writes: “If anxiety gets the better of me again, that’s okay. I give myself permission to fall down and get back up.” VERDICT A first purchase for all young adult collections.–Kristy Pasquariello, Wellesley Free Library, MA
– School Library Journal, Starred Review, February 1, 2018