Madeleine Kuderick’s top 10 books that explore mental health issues

It can be easier to talk about tough topics from the safety of a fictional character. Here are 10 of the best teen ‘parachutes in disguise’ reads chosen by Madeleine Kuderick, author of Kiss of Broken Glass which is based on her daughter’s experience of self-harm.

I think books are parachutes in disguise. Once you read them, you can tiptoe out onto the ledge, open your mouth, and leap into the scariest, deepest, I-can’t-even-see-the-bottom kinds of conversations.

And the reason you can take that plunge is because it’s easier to talk about tough topics from the safety of a fictional character. You can do it without fear, without flinching, without ever having to reveal that character might actually be you. This is how young adult books save lives. They open mouths, hearts and minds and let readers share the stories they’ve been aching to tell – stories about mental illness, suicide, self-harm, bullying, addiction, abuse, and more. 

And it’s in the telling, that the healing begins. When I was writing Kiss of Broken Glass, a story dealing with self-harm based loosely on my daughter’s experiences, I shared the early drafts of the manuscript with her. Before sharing the manuscript, I’d asked my daughter many times to talk about her struggles, to explain what drew her into cutting, and to help me understand. But she refused to open up, wouldn’t share a single glimpse, and instead kept silent. That is, until she read the manuscript. Then suddenly, she was a waterfall of words, telling me everything she thought might be going on inside the fictional character’s head. As I sat there listening, swallowing back the lump in my throat, I knew I was hearing my daughter’s own experiences – all her pain, anxiety, triggers, and triumphs – spoken honestly and heart wrenchingly for the very first time.

A book did that. Books are doing that every day.

Here are ten powerful, authentic, and fearless titles that are doing that right now:

1. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
2. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
4. These Gentle Wounds by Helene Dunbar
5. Looking for Alaska by John Green
6. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
7. The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
8. Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips
9. Forgive me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
10. Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones

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