#BellLetsTalk Day: Recommended Books on Anxiety
Today, January 28th, 2021, is the 11th annual #BellLetsTalk day, which is an initiative that has always been near and dear to my heart. Since I’ve known about it, I’ve always spent time on social media sharing information and having discussions with people around mental health, reducing the stigma, and sharing my experience of being someone who has lost near and dear family members to suicide. Last year, I recommended 10 YA novels that deal with various mental health and wellness issues, which are still relevant if you haven’t read them yet.
I wanted to write something this year, too. However, instead of sharing a list of additional titles that are good portrayals of mental illness representation, I thought I would focus on recommended books with anxiety representation. For many people, I think situational anxiety has become more of an issue due to the fears and uncertainty regarding COVID-19. Some books have good representation of anxiety, and some other books may have poor representation, such as depicting characters who seem to get over their anxiety overnight without therapy, but trust me that each of the books in the list below offer good anxiety rep.
Whether you had a diagnosed anxiety or panic disorder, have experienced situational anxiety due to some personal issue, or have noticed an increased amount of anxiety in your life because of COVID-19, you might find something relatable in one or more of the following books, which I present in no particular order:
- Wrapped Up in You by Talia Hibbert: If you don’t mind reading holiday rom-coms outside of the Christmas period and you’re looking for a steamy romance, then you should definitely pick up this one sooner rather than later. (Yes, this one might not be for teens…just saying.) There is a lot to love about about this short novella, even beyond the positive anxiety rep, but you can check out my review on Bookstagram to learn more about it. For our purposes, I loved how Abbie’s anxiety disorder, the medication she took, and her belief that she needed to go back to therapy were always discussed in a completely nonjudgmental way. Just in case it matters, I will say that there are content warnings for abuse, which I think are handled very sensitively, but if you don’t think you can handle that content at the moment, keep it in mind for later.
- You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson: This book is great for so many reasons. There’s a reason why it is a Stonewall Honor book: it features a Black, queer, teen character who, despite the odds against her, manages to use healthy techniques to overcome her anxiety even when she’s out of her comfort zone and in the spotlight.
- The Opposite of Falling Apart by Micah Good: While You Should See Me in a Crown has had a lot of attention on it since even before it was published in June 2020, this book by debut author Micah Good was a little more quiet, but I thought it does a great job of showcasing both what it’s like to have an anxiety disorder as well as situational anxiety because while Brennan has the former, Jonas has the latter type around driving. In particular, I liked how the author writes about anxiety almost as if it is another character in this dual POV novel, something that is a part of Brennan, but not really who she is.
- The Start of You and Me and The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord: If you’ve never read a book by Emery Lord and you enjoy contemporary YA, then make sure that you add her books to your list in general. However, if you’re interested in books about characters who experience anxiety, then the duology, The Start of You and Me and The Map from Here to There should definitely be on your list. In the first book, Paige is dealing with situational anxiety after her boyfriend died suddenly by drowning. In the second book, she starts to find that other things begin to cause her anxiety as well, and I loved the way that the author dealt with that change.
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: Many of the books on this list are YA novels, but Queenie is about a 25-year-old named Queenie and deals with mature and sexual themes that might make some people uncomfortable or about which they might not be ready to read. That said, I knew I’d be remiss without sharing it here because it was one of the best and most impactful books I read in 2020. In addition, for our purposes, Queenie has panic attacks and over the course of the novel, she decides to go to therapy for them and even, occasionally, reaches out to her therapist in the midst of a really bad one. This book really helped me empathize with Queenie’s experiences and understand why, even if she wasn’t going to be physically harmed in the moment, she would feel a sense of terror at many times in her day-to-day life.
- Paper Girl by Cindy R. Wilson: In many of the other books in the list, the characters have generalized anxiety or situational anxiety. However, Zoe, one of the characters with a POV in Paper Girl, has social anxiety. Before you say that many people have social anxiety, you should know that Zoe’s social anxiety is so debilitating that she hasn’t left the condo she lives in with her family in a year. In the book, she also depicts some coping strategies that she has been using and the book also depicts some really powerful therapy sessions.
- Every Last Word by Tamera Ireland Stone: Of every book on this list, this one is the only one that I haven’t read or re-read within the last year. In fact, I haven’t read it since 2015. However, it’s a book that has never left my mind. Samantha deals with purely obsessional OCD, which causes her to have dark thoughts and worries that she can’t shut off. What you might not know is that OCD is an anxiety disorder, which makes a lot of sense when you see that Samantha has worries that she can’t shut off. Over the course of the book, you might learn that there are other things also going on with Samantha, but we won’t get into that here.
Have you read any of these books yet or have you added one (or several) of them to your TBR now?