Things a Lot of People Have [and yet strangely never show up in books]


We humans are a diverse lot. And there are a lot of strange little things that plague us. And yet, a lot of these things almost never show up in books. And I wonder why that is?

Because often, part of the reason why you like a character so much is because you identify with that character. And yes, maybe you identify with their family life or their childhood or their way of thinking or even their way of living, but what if you could identify with other things?

Depression has recently starting appearing a lot in YA, with books like All the Bright Places, My Heart and Other Black Holes, Falling Into Place, and The Program. And there are books that have characters with depression, even if the books aren’t about depression themselves, books like Paper Towns (Margo), The Blood of Olympus (Nice and probably Rayna), Vampire Academy (Lissa), and even Harry Potter (Sirius). And that is great, it’s great that teenagers with depression can identify with these characters, and know that they’re not alone in feeling this way. But what about other mental illnesses that are as often represented? What about other disorders or illness or just little things that often make daily life kind of a struggle?

Here is a list of some of those things, which I hope, I really really hope, we see more of in YA.


Anxiety is one of the most common (if not the most common) mental illnesses out there, especially among teenagers. And yet, it often gets shunted aside in YA to focus on depression. And don’t get me wrong, depression is horrible, but anxiety is, too. And it tends to be misrepresented when it does pop up.

Books about/dealing with anxiety:

Fangirl | The Perks of Being a Wallflower |


I deal with both of these on a pretty common basis; it runs in the family. It’s a range, too, from ‘this headache is kind of annoying me” to “oh my gosh I’m going to throw up from pain and if I see even a sliver of light it sends bolts of agony straight into my eyes”. I even have to take blood tests every couple of years to make sure that my liver and kidneys are still functioning correctly from all the medication I took and still often take.

And these are pretty common things. And yet I’ve only ever seen it twice in YA fiction. Why is that?

Books that deal with headaches/migraines:

Legend |Β  Undertow


Insomnia is also an extremely common thing, and yet also very rare to see in YA novels, despite the fact it often comes along hand-in-hand with both depression and anxiety. And it is often misrepresented, too, because I know several people who thought they had insomnia just because they liked to stay up late at night. It’s something that needs to be talked about more.

Books about/that deal with Insomnia:

Sinner |


From what I’ve heard about it, OCD is a brutal mental illness to have, and yet people always seem to get it wrong. It’s one of the most joked about mental illnesses as well, and it’s not uncommon to hear someone jokingly say “I have OCD!” while they put their pencils in a straight line on their desk.

Books that are about/deal with OCD

The Rest of Us Just Live Here | The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B |


Before anyone gets mad, I know that bisexuality isn’t a problem. However, is is horribly underrepresented in YA novels. The number of novels with LGBT+ characters is growing, and yet it is a struggle to find a book with a bisexual character, let alone one that actually says their bisexual (TV has an equally bad problem with this, if not worse.)

Books with bisexual characters:

Fans of the Impossible Life | The Scorpion Rules | Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda


I only recently learned that a friend of mine was struggling from an eating disorder, and told hardly anyone. This was so heartbreaking to me; not because I wasn’t told (I completely understand that), but that she even went through it in the first place. Teenagers, and girls especially, are pressured to fit into this neat little box, and sometimes the way they try to fit into this box is by developing an eating disorder. And this is horrible, and heartbreaking, and it can end in death if not treated soon enough. And people often struggle with eating disorders their whole lives.

Books about/dealing with eating disorders

Wintergirls | Tiny Pretty Things


I want to see a YA book about a teenager who lost their leg in a car crash, about a boy or girl who was effected by thalidomide, about spina bifida, and the several thousand other ways someone might struggle because of a physical disability. And yet, I have read only a few.

Books that have characters with a physical disability

The Running Dream | I’ll Meet You There


It’s getting more and more common to see a characters with autism or ADHD, but what about characters with cerebral palsy or epilepsy or dyscalculia or down syndrome? And not only do these things make daily life harder to function, but people with this disabilities tend to be discriminated against, which isn’t okay.

Books that have characters with a mental disability

Percy Jackson | Isla and the Happily Ever After | Out of My Mind |


This is a brain disorder that not a lot of people understand, and if there were more books about it, it might help people understand a little bit more. Especially because this isn’t a mental illness that ever goes away; taking medication will hopefully make it better, but it will never go away completely, and there’s a chance it will just keep getting worse.

Books that have characters with schizophrenia

Made You Up | Challenger Deep

Now, because the internet is a touchy place, I’m going to add two disclaimers; 1) this is not a full list. I could keep going forever on everything that books need more of. What about JRA? Or bipolar disorder? Or one of the several thousand others?THIS LIST IS NOWHERE NEAR COMPLETE. It is a small list of the many disorders and mental illnesses that plague humanity. Ad what about the things that aren’t illnesses or disorders? What about books with transgender or genderfluid characters? Before YA can really be called “diverse”, it has a long way to go.

And 2) I don’t want books that romanticize anything. That’s why I left Finding Aubrey off the list on anxiety. I want books that show the gritty truth, as painful as it might be to hear.

So, tell me blogglings, what other things do you think should be added to this list?

Happy Sunday (and happy Mother’s Day!)


25 thoughts on “Things a Lot of People Have [and yet strangely never show up in books]

  1. This is a great post! I’m always excited to read a book that features diverse characters because I have often overheard youth in the Teen section at my store complaining that they can’t find anything that represents them in literature. I love being able to suggest books for them. It’s honestly the best part of my job.

    Also, the main character in Every Last Word has OCD. It’s a pretty awesome book if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet. And one of the characters in Mosquitoland has a mental disability. πŸ™‚


    1. It’s just so frustrating trying to find books that deal with mental illnesses; anxiety, especially. Because it tends to be really badly portrayed, all panic attacks and outward worrying, and less obsessing over stupid things you did wrong and little things you do that make you feel “safer”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree 100%. So many people have anxiety and depression, but hardly anyone is able to realistically portray these illnesses because they are so internalized. It’s not something that is obvious from the outside until someone has a complete meltdown.


      2. I think really, authors should only write characters with mental illnesses if they have one themselves or if they have a beta reader or critique partner with one, because I’m tired of it being badly portrayed.


  2. Ooh, good list. I’d love to see bespectacled characters dealing with… well, being bespectacled. I know there are characters with glasses, but I have a soft spot for seeing them handle action scenes in the rain, with mud, in the dust and dirt, sleeping on the ground with no glass case, etc. As a four-eyes myself, I wonder how I can handle running around with my glasses. Harry Potter doesn’t count – they have Reparo for cripesake!


  3. I really want to read Fangirl now, I really liked The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I think the author portrayed OCD very realistically, my younger brother has it, and he washes his hands till their raw sometimes. He has more control of it than Mike did.


    1. I think Patrick Ness handles mental illness really well, and I respect him for that. I mean, even, even with Henna’s off handed comments about her anxiety I totally felt and got. And basically I love the book to bits.


  4. I love this list!! I recommend “Along for the Ride” by Sarah Dessen for books about insomnia. It is the only book I’ve read about insomnia, and considering I have a mild case, it was nice to relate to those characters that way. And it’s just an amazing book, insomnia aside. πŸ’—


    1. I think that’s why we need more books like that, though. So that the readers can see themselves in the characters, instead of it being books full of straight, white, mentally healthy extroverted teenagers. Because everyone deserves to see someone like them in books.


  5. This is so true. I also think it’s important for them to be dealt with in Sic Fi and fantasy settings, rather than them being the entire plot of a book, as they often are in modern YA. Sometimes you’ve got to slay the dragon and recover from an anxiety attack afterwards. It’s just real (fantasy) life.


    1. YES! YES YES YES! We we need more diverse fantasy and sci fi. I’m trying to think of one I’ve read lately that has a character with a mental illness or disability, and the only one I can really think of is Mockingjay, ’cause Katniss has PTSD. And I think it’s sad that I can only think of one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know. We do need more! I’m actually writing a Sci Fi with a lead that has insomnia and anxiety. Sooooo not to pat myself on the back but *pat pat*

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a great list of books, though I’ve heard of a few of them, I’ve yet to read most of them, better get cracking πŸ™‚


  7. Ahhh I SO AGREE. And it actually really pains me that anxiety is not in books a lot, or when it is it’s misrepresented. (I really don’t like Finding Audrey for that reason. I had to DNF it because it was triggering my anxiety with it’s bad representation of it.) Although I’ll add on The Raven Cycle to fitting in the anxiety and bisexual categories! πŸŽ‰ Maggie Stiefvater always seems to do really well having issues in her books without making it an ISSUE BOOK. I love that. :’)
    And I’m also glad you categorised Autism as a mental disability not a mental illness. Eeep. The amount of lists I see where people call it an illness…grrughrhg. I didn’t realise so many people still don’t know much about Autism. We so totally need more books to raise awareness (again…books were autistic characters DO STUFF instead of it just being an issue.) And agreed about the OCD too. :/ It’s so frustrating that people think OCD is just lining things up.
    I feel like if there were MORE BOOKS on these topics, people would more easily learn about them?!
    So yes. Long winded comment to say = I AGREE.


    1. Yeah, she does, and I really like that, too. GIVE ME MORE BOOKS THAT HAVE A CHARACTER WITH ANXIETY THAT’S NOT ACTUALLY ABOUT HAVING ANXIETY. It’s like the whole diverse books not about being diverse thing.


  8. Interesting list and good points! It’s great how far YA goes with a range of sexuality, mental health issues, etc. so it’d be nice to see it continue to grow. I’d love to see more books specifically dealing with anxiety, especially social anxiety ’cause there’s a big difference between the two. It’s something that I go through often (both of them) but it’s hard to find similar characters who aren’t just chalked up to be quiet geniuses or INFJs (my personality type too). πŸ™‚


    1. Yes. I can think of only two books that deal with society anxiety, and one of them was horribly portrayed. People seem to think that generalized anxiety and social anxiety are interchangeable, but they aren’t.


  9. ugh Finding Aubrey was the worst. one of my friends who struggles with social anxiety recommended it to me, so I read it–barely, not a good or accurate depiction of how anxiety works/attacks AT ALL.

    I’d really love to see more books with characters with chronic illnesses–lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lyme disease, whatever. I have fibro, and I’ve never read a book where it’s mentioned in a positive way; it’s always treated like it isn’t a real illness and just people trying to get attention/out of things. I love the awareness that cancer YA books have brought about in the past decade or so, but chronic illness and spoonies definitely deserves the spotlight as well.


    1. It really wasn’t! Especially because it was the whole trope 0f she-finds-a-boyfriend-and-she’s-magically-cured thing. It really frustrated me, and it kind of triggered my anxiety, as well, because of how badly it was protrayed.
      I think characters with all sorts of illnesses and disbilities need to be in novels, without the novel strictly being about them.


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