I Heart Characters! is a weekly meme hosted by Dani @ Perspective of a Writer to showcase our book blogger lover for characters! Each week she’ll supply a topic and you’ll supply the character. Post on whatever day suits you, about characters from whatever media you love (books, movies, K-dramas, television, manga, anime, webtoons, whatever!) and link up on Thursday so YOU and others can blog hop and share the character love.
This week Dani asked us to speak about mentally ill characters and once again I was lost!
First problem: what does mental illness entail exactly?
Is autism a mental illness or a handicap or …? When in doubt google it!
According to the Mayo clinic (you know that clinic where the rich and famous flock to treat their problems behind closed doors): “Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.
Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.”
Another source offered some examples of mental illness also called mental disorders:
Obsessive compulsive disorder
Post traumatic stress disorder
First one : Clinical depression
I got help from my friend Malene : Alara from Unveiling the Sky by Jeannine Allison.
Here is some of what Malene wrote : “First I have to say I loved these characters. They were so real and human. Alara was a fantastic character. I wanted to understand her struggle with depression and how she viewed herself and peoples reaction to her. She wasn’t weak. She was strong in her acknowledging how the disease affected her and her friends. Her struggle was described beautifully. It definitely struck a chord with me. ” You can read her whole review HERE.
Second one : Anxiety disorder
Lochan in Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Lochan suffers from social anxiety. He has difficulties to speak in school. Not because he is impaired or has a physical handicap but because he is burried under stress. His father left the family and his mother is unreliable leaving him and his sister Maya to care for their younger sibblings. Lochan was a sensitive and tormented soul. Utterly selfless he is one character I will never forget.
Well this one is tougher but I think I found the perfect character: Essie from Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel.
Here is what I wrote about her : Essie is a 17 years old girl afflicted by the Wickerton curse. That’s how puzzled doctors have named the unusul madness plaguing many members of that family for generations. Poor Essie. She does not know what is real and what is imagined in all the things she sees. When she laughs pink bubbles escape her mouth. Not real. Her doctor has a forked tongue. Not real but…
She is so lonely as no one wants to befriend someone as weird as her. She tries to be as small a burden to her aunt as she can.
“A group of teen girls pass by, bent toward each other, giggling at something. It’s been years since I’d attended school. One ugly “episode” that scared some parents and teachers ended my public-school experience. Now, Aunt Bel homeschools me with the help of tutors. I look away from the girls with a pang of longing. For friends. For a sense of belonging. For that underrated state of ordinary.”
Honestly you can’t help loving Essie. I double dog dare you!
Summer in The Chase by Elle Kennedy. She had ADHD and reminded me so much of my son and his struggle to learn! Summer is embarrassed and feels insecure as she has a harder time to learn. Everyone learns at his own rhythme and sometimes medication does not work or is not the best answer! “Loving yourself is hard enough. Silencing the inner critic borders on impossible.”
Blue/Evans in No Tomorrow by Carian Cole.
What I wrote about him: Blue he is a very complex and restless character.
Carian writes some of the most beautiful flawed male characters that I’ve read about. Vandal and Tyler are two of these broken characters. Yet Blue is by far the most complex, tortured yet so so lovable.
Of course I wanted to let him go as he hurt Piper so many times yet I couldn’t help understand Piper. I have what is commonly called “the savior complex” and would have been unable to turn my back on Blue. Exactly like Piper who found her soul mate and wanted to love and help him so bad!
“As much as I love the sound of the rain, the moody grey clouds and the rainbows, the storms trap me. I can’t stand the thunder and lightning and all the wind. That’s when I need you the most. You’re like my own little sunbeam.” A weak smile touches his lips. “You chase the storm away.”
Obsessive compulsive disorder
Shelly in Beard in Mind by Penny Reid
Shelly has moved to Tennessee in hopes of getting the help she needs to manage her OCD. Her OCD has become so bad that she has closed herself off from her family. She did not want to subject her beloved to her weird behavior. She is not able to initiate physical contact with anyone as she is then overcome by an overwhelming fear that the person will be in danger. She would then cut herself to help relieve the anxiety.
I have read lots of books with fantastic characters suffering from autism but my last and favorite one was Stella from The Kiss Quotient!
Stella is a touching female character. Stella is Asperger and it means that as much as she is brilliant with numbers and econometrics she really is socially awkward. She wants to do good but she does not get the clues most people get so effortlessly and react poorly in many situations. She has to constantly plan and monitor what she’ll say not to hurt other people. What is fun for us like going out and dance in a club, shopping to buy clothes is a real hardship for her. She is oversensitive to noises, smells, lights and touch. I already knew this about autistic people but not the small details like seams scratching your skin.
What is deeply touching and that I could related was Stella’s wish to be known for herself. Not seen as someone with Asperger but as Stella. Unique charming smart and awkward Stella.
Post traumatic stress disorder
Hermione in Exit, Pursed by a Bear by EK Johnston
Hermione has been drugged and raped. The whole book is about her “coping” with what happened to her.
This story broaches a very delicate topic in an unconventional way. The writer focuses everything around Hermione’s recovery and does not wallow in self-pity or pits of despair. The result is an inspiring story, a story of hope for all victims. It also shows that everyone has its own way to cope and if Hermione chose the “detached” way, other would follow different paths to cope and it would be right because no one can tell a victim how she should behave or what she should do.
”For the first time, I feel like a victim without hating myself for it.”
”You’re not acting like a person who was raped. You’re acting like a person whose close friend was raped. At some point, if your memories resurface, you’ll break. That doesn’t make you weak. That’s just how it goes”
That’s it! That’s my long list!
So are books about mental illness “hype”? I believe it is not because people love drama but simply because these illnesses affect many people and we want and have to read about what feels close to our heart. Just know that I asked for book titles today on our facebook Group and answers were flying by proof that mental illness is something dear to many readers!
Now do give me your recommendations!
Thanks for reading.
Great post! I haven’t read any of these books but they look good. Except the beard one…the cover freaks me out a little
Great post Sophie…very inspiring!
Well Dani I hope you’ll get to read some of them as they are just fantastic 😉
I really do enjoy reading about characters that deal with many forms of mental illness. Since most people struggle with some form of it. And what a great list you have. I loved The Kiss Quotient and The Madness of Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley is another great book with a hero who deals with Autism. 🙂 Great post darling. Happy Weekend.
You are the second person to recommend the Madness of Ian Mackenzie! I will have to add it to my TBR 😉 Thank you <3
Such a great list. I think character’s are more genuine and we connect more fully with them if they have the same foibles as real people.
Exactly Laura! Make them perfect and we can’t really relate…
The Kiss Quotient and Exit, Pursued by a Bear are two favorites of mine. Fantastic! I read State of Grace, which is a YA own voices book with an ASD character. It was really wonderful. Perks of Being a Wallflower and It’s Kind of a Funny Story are two classics, and Turtles All the Way Down had amazing OCD rep and was also own voices. I read a lot of mental health books, as that is a huge part of my world, and there are so many good books out there.
Do you work with people suffering from mental health problems Sam? And The Perks of …is on my TBR!!! I agree with you that we have many excellent books featuring this topic now!
This is a fantastic list Sophie. Actually if you look at it, some or the other character is always suffering from something, and mostly I feel like its either because you need the reader to sympathise with the character or because you can’t wrote stories about normal people with normals lives. Or maybe I’m just too cynical. But I love your list❤
Hahaha Ari but being normal is overrated that’s maybe why LOL
I think these books help people understand more about mental illness in general, and also how people with specific mental illness might feel. I say might, because surely two people with OCD won’t feel 100% the same way about everything.
I have not read these exact books, but save a few for future reference. 🙂
You are so right Norrie as people having the same mental illness won’t feel 100% de same way! Some will deal and accept others will revolt and be ashamed…
Great list, Sophie! I enjoyed books about mental illness. I’ve read Forbidden, The Chase and The Kiss Quotient and really like them. 🙂 I’ll definitely check out the other books you’ve mentioned. 🙂 I recommend Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. The book precisely captured Schizophrenia.
Oh thank you for the recommendation Beatrice!!! <3
I enjoyed reading about what a mental illness is before getting to characters you picked.
I have seen people reading The Kiss Quotient but I never paid much mind to it until this post. I think it would be interesting to read a romance book with a character that has autism.
Thank you Jamsu! And I love romance books with autism 🙂 So if you need any more recs …
I’ve heard of The Kiss Quotient but have never read it, and now I want to. Not only for the autism perspective, but for the romance perspective, as well. I also want to get into Beard in Mind, even though it’ll probably destroy me. lol
Well Danielle I hope you’ll love The Kiss Quotient as it was simply fabulous!
WOW!!! What a freakin list Sophie!? And I had no idea that romance had as many mental health books as YA genre does!! I certainly have Forbidden on my list to read and I’m so glad to hear it gets your recommendation… And I ADORED Keeper of the Bees. LOVED it! And would have featured Emmie but I’m saving a character from that book for October 😉 And there were a couple of the romance that I loved the sound of… Beard in Mind and the Kiss Quotient both sound like books I’d love. ❤️