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I’ve noticed lately that more and more YA authors are tackling the world-altering, complex topic of schizophrenia. Male and female protagonists, teens and parents—everyone’s fair game. The following books come at this disease from all angles, and from inside and out. Ready to challenge your idea of reality?
Challenger Deep. By Neal Shusterman. Illus. by Brendan Shusterman. 2015. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780061134111). Gr. 9–12.
Caden Bosch thinks somebody at his high school wants to kill him. But that’s not all. There are things happening outside the constraints of space and time that he can’t understand. He slowly drifts away from friends and family, getting deeper and deeper into his own mind until his parents admit him to a mental hospital for further evaluation and treatment. In addition to the grounded-in-reality narrative, Shusterman introduces another world of Caden’s own creation that vividly dramatizes the teen’s fluid sense of reality and the all-encompassing effects of mental illness.
Fig. By Sarah Elizabeth Schantz. 2015. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $17.99 (9781481423588). Gr. 9–12.
When Fig is six, her schizophrenic mother experiences a psychotic break and must be institutionalized after a suicide attempt. Young and scared, Fig believes she’s somehow to blame for her mother’s illness. In order to cope, she begins self-harming and devises a series of ordeals she believes will cure her mother if completed correctly. Fig’s account of her mother’s transformation from loving parent to eerie, mad stranger is both lyrical and heartbreaking. (See our full review in the April 1, 2015, issue of Booklist.)
The Law of Loving Others. By Kate Axelrod. 2015. Penguin/Razorbill, $17.99 (9781595147899). Gr. 9–12.
After discovering her mother is schizophrenic and must be committed, Emma finds her world disintegrating. Anxious about her own mental health, she starts lashing out, casually and carelessly drinking and doing drugs, and recklessly flirting with a boy who seems to understand her better than anyone else. In this candid, affecting portrait of a girl in crisis, debut author Axelrod nonjudgmentally and realistically captures the swirling ups and downs of anxiety, and the frantic, impotent grasp for control in the face of unpredictable, catastrophic change.
Made You Up. By Francesca Zappia. 2015. Greenwillow, $17.99 (9780062290106). Gr. 9–12.
Due to Alex’s schizophrenia, she often sees and hears things that are not there—and now she is starting at a new school. Perhaps her new friends, all members of the “detention club,” can help Alex separate what is real and what is hallucinatory. Debut novelist Zappia presents readers with both a wholly unreliable narrator and a plot rife with twists and turns. Readers will find themselves as unmoored as Alex herself, wondering what—if anything—is real. (See our full review in the April 1, 2015, issue of Booklist.)
Schizo. By Nic Sheff. 2014. Philomel, $17.99 (9780399164378). Gr. 9–12.
Mystery and schizophrenia come together when Miles’ mental breakdown coincides with his little brother’s disappearance. Certain his brother was kidnapped, Miles tries—rather ineptly—to find him, struggling all the while with depression, medicinal side effects, and schizophrenic hallucinations. As a protagonist, he’s a bit of a rag doll, tossed here and there by external forces and guided only by an imagined voice of God. It all begs the question: Is this a mystery novel, or is it all in his head?
The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone. By Adele Griffin. 2014. Soho Teen, $17.99 (9781616953607). Gr. 9–12.
Seventeen-year-old Addison Stone, portraitist and performance artist, has died, having fallen off a scaffold as she tried to place a billboard on the Manhattan Bridge overpass. Was it an accident? Suicide? Murder? Stone’s former teacher decides to write a book about the wild child who took New York by storm. Through character interviews, photos, and artwork, this novel probes the various manifestations of Addison’s emerging schizophrenia, giving a sense of both the artistic temperament and the nature of madness—and the sometimes thin line between them.
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