It’s World Mental Health Day, the perfect day to check out some great queer fiction revolving around mental health. These books have characters with anxiety, OCD, depression, agoraphobia, PTSD, and more, and of course, for a more extensive list of fiction about mental health or starring main characters who have mental illnesses, check here.
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The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy
Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at and become the BEST at it.
Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge…. But what if he discovers he isn’t the bestat anything?
Funny, charming, and incredibly touching, this is a story about friendship, family, and the courage it takes to live your truth.
If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come by Jen St. Jude
Avery Byrne has secrets. She’s queer; she’s in love with her best friend, Cass; and she’s suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to live: an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.
Trying to spare her family and Cass additional pain, Avery does her best to make it through just nine more days. As time runs out and secrets slowly come to light, Avery would do anything to save the ones she loves. But most importantly, she learns to save herself. Speak her truth. Seek the support she needs. Find hope again in the tomorrows she has left.
If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a celebration of queer love, a gripping speculative narrative, and an urgent, conversation-starting book about depression, mental health, and shame.
Forever is Now by Mariama J. Lockington
I’m safe here.
That’s how Sadie feels, on a perfect summer day, wrapped in her girlfriend’s arms. School is out, and even though she’s been struggling to manage her chronic anxiety, Sadie is hopeful better times are ahead. Or at least, she thought she was safe. When her girlfriend reveals some unexpected news and the two witness a violent incident of police brutality unfold before them, Sadie’s whole world is upended in an instant.
I’m not safe anywhere.
That’s how Sadie feels every day after—vulnerable, uprooted. She retreats inside as the weeks slip by and relies on her phone to stay connected to the outside world. When Sadie’s therapist gives her a diagnosis for her debilitating panic—agoraphobia—she starts on a path of acceptance and healing. Meanwhile, Sadie’s best friend, Evan, updates her on the protests taking place in their city. Sadie wants to be a part of it, to use her voice and affect change. But how do you show up for your community when you can’t even leave your house?
I can build a safe place inside myself.
That’s what Sadie learns over the course of one life-changing summer, with some help from her family, her best friend, an online platform for activists, and a magnetic crush she develops for the new boy next door.
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
Jack once saved August’s life . . . now can August save him?
August is a misfit with a pyro streak and Jack is a golden boy on the varsity rugby team―but their intense friendship goes way back. Jack begins to see increasingly vivid hallucinations that take the form of an elaborate fantasy kingdom creeping into the edges of the real world. With their parents’ unreliable behavior, August decides to help Jack the way he always has―on his own. He accepts the visions as reality, even when Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy.
August and Jack alienate everyone around them as they struggle with their sanity, free falling into the surreal fantasy world that feels made for them. In the end, each one must choose his own truth.
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon
When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.
Tinfoil Crowns by Erin Jones
Seventeen-year-old internet video star Fit is on a mission to become famous at all costs. She shares her life with her fans through countless videos (always sporting some elaborate tinfoil accessory), and they love her for it. If she goes viral, maybe she can get out of her small casino town and the cramped apartment she shares with her brother and grandpa. But there’s one thing Fit’s fans don’t know about her: when Fit was three-years-old, her mother, suffering from postpartum psychosis, tried to kill her.
Now Fit’s mother, River, has been released from prison. Fit is outraged that River is moving in with the family, and it’s not long before Fit’s video followers realize something’s up and uncover her tragic past. But Fit soon realizes that the only thing her audience loves more than tragedy is a heartwarming tale of a family reunion. Is faking a relationship with River the key to all Fit’s dreams coming true?
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
The Larkin family isn’t just lucky—they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.
But wrecks seem to run in the family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.
Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece-the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.
She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.
Epic, funny, and sweepingly romantic, The Last True Poets of the Sea is an astonishing debut about the strength it takes to swim up from a wreck.
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.
Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?
Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.
In the Ring by Sierra Isley
Rose Berman is losing her mind. At least, that’s what everyone at school seems to think. Plagued by panic attacks that started after her mother’s death, Rose is the target of frequent teasing and rumors. But when the star quarterback takes a joke too far, the school’s tattooed, cigarette-smoking time bomb — Elliott King — steps in and punches him in the face. Rose’s therapist recommends she try out a sport to manage her anxiety. She can’t help but think of Elliott – maybe if she could punch like him, she’d feel safer and stronger.
She sticks out like a sore thumb at the boxing gym, but she soon finds power in the sport and a reprieve from her panic attacks. As their worlds intertwine, Rose and Elliott are forced to face their most daunting opponent outside the Ring: their growing feelings for each other.
But Midtown Ring isn’t just a gym. As Rose falls deeper into the world of boxing, she learns Midtown is a front for a late-night, underground fight club where Elliott King is the headliner. Surrounded by violence and destruction, Rose’s anxiety begins to spiral. She starts hallucinating, just like her mother did before her death, leaving her to wonder if everyone at school might be right. If her newfound physical strength can’t keep her grounded in reality, she may be doomed to walk the same path as her mom.
The Quiet and the Loud by Helena Fox
George’s life is loud. On the water, though, with everything hushed above and below, she is steady, silent. Then her estranged dad says he needs to talk, and George’s past begins to wake up, looping around her ankles, trying to drag her under.
But there’s no time to sink. George’s best friend, Tess, is about to become, officially, a teen mom, her friend Laz is in despair about the climate crisis, her gramps would literally misplace his teeth if not for her, and her moms fill the house with fuss and chatter. Before long, heat and smoke join the noise as distant wildfires begin to burn.
George tries to stay steady. When her father tells her his news and the painful memories roar back to life, George turns to Calliope, the girl who has just cartwheeled into her world and shot it through with colors. And it’s here George would stay—quiet and safe—if she could. But then Tess has her baby, and the earth burns hotter, and the past just will not stay put.
Stars in Your Eyes by Kacen Callender
Logan Gray is the stereotypical bad boy of Hollywood—a talented but troubled actor who the public loves to hate. Mattie Cole is an up‑and‑coming golden boy, adored by all but plagued by insecurities.
When Mattie is cast as the love interest in Logan’s newest film, the two are persuaded into a fake‑dating scheme to bring positive publicity to the project. But as the two actors get to know their new characters, real feelings start to develop. And while both need the movie to be a success for their own reasons, neither thought opposites would really attract.
But as the public scrutiny intensifies and old wounds resurface, will they have the courage to chase their own happily ever after?
Everyone in this Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R. Austin
Gilda, a twenty-something, atheist, animal-loving lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.
In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.
Cursebreakers by Madeleine Nakamura
Adrien Desfourneaux, professor of magic and disgraced ex-physician, has discovered a conspiracy. Someone is inflicting magical comas on the inhabitants of the massive city of Astrum, and no one knows how or why. Caught between a faction of scheming magical academics and an explosive schism in the ranks of the Astrum’s power-hungry military, Adrien is swallowed by the growing chaos. Alongside Gennady, an unruly, damaged young soldier, and Malise, a brilliant healer and Adrien’s best friend, Adrien searches for a way to stop the spreading curse before the city implodes. He must survive his own bipolar disorder, his self-destructive tendencies, and his entanglement with the man who doesn’t love him back.
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra
Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness on their own and with each other.
Buy it: Amazon
A Shot in the Dark by Victoria Lee
Elisheva Cohen has just returned to Brooklyn after almost a decade. The wounds of abandoning the Orthodox community that raised her, then shunned her because of her substance abuse, are still painful. But when she gets an amazing opportunity to study photography with art legend Wyatt Cole, Ely is willing to take the leap.
On her first night back in town, Ely goes out to the infamous queer club Revel for a celebratory night of dancing. Ely is swept off her feet and into bed by a gorgeous man who looks like James Dean, but with a thick Carolina accent. The next morning, Ely wakes up alone and rushes off to attend her first photography class, reminiscing on the best one-night stand of her life. She doesn’t even know his name. That is, until Wyatt Cole shows up for class—and Ely realizes that the man she just spent an intimate and steamy night with is her teacher.
Everyone in the art world is obsessed with Wyatt Cole. He’s immensely talented and his notoriously reclusive personal life makes him all the more compelling. But there’s a reason why his past is hard for him to publicize. After coming out as transgender, Wyatt was dishonorably discharged from the military and disowned by his family. From then on he committed to sobriety and channeled his pain into his flourishing art career. While Ely and Wyatt’s relationship started out on a physical level, their similar struggles spark a much deeper connection. The chemistry is undeniable, but their new relationship as teacher and student means desperately wanting what they can’t have.
The No-Girlfriend Rule by Christen Randall (March 5, 2024)
Hollis Beckwith isn’t trying to get a girl—she’s just trying to get by. For a fat, broke girl with anxiety, the start of senior year brings enough to worry about. And besides, she already has a boyfriend: Chris. Their relationship isn’t particularly exciting, but it’s comfortable and familiar, and Hollis wants it to survive beyond senior year. To prove she’s a girlfriend worth keeping, Hollis decides to learn Chris’s favorite tabletop roleplaying game, Secrets & Sorcery—but his unfortunate “No Girlfriends at the Table” rule means she’ll need to find her own group if she wants in.
Enter: Gloria Castañeda and her all-girls game of S&S! Crowded at the table in Gloria’s cozy Ohio apartment, the six girls battle twisted magic in-game and become fast friends outside it. With her character as armor, Hollis starts to believe that maybe she can be more than just fat, anxious, and a little lost.
But then an in-game crush develops between Hollis’s character and the bard played by charismatic Aini Amin-Shaw, whose wide, cocky grin makes Hollis’s stomach flutter. As their gentle flirting sparks into something deeper, Hollis is no longer sure what she wants…or if she’s content to just play pretend.
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon
Ariel Crashes a Train by Olivia A. Cole (March 12, 2024)
Ariel is afraid of her own mind. She already feels like she is too big, too queer, too rough to live up to her parents’ exacting expectations, or to fit into what the world expects of a “good girl.” And as violent fantasies she can’t control take over every aspect of her life, she is convinced something much deeper is wrong with her. Ever since her older sister escaped to college, Ariel isn’t sure if her careful rituals and practiced distance will be enough to keep those around her safe anymore.
Then a summer job at a carnival brings new friends into Ariel’s fractured world , and she finds herself questioning her desire to keep everyone out—of her head and her heart. But if they knew what she was really thinking, they would run in the other direction—right? Instead, with help and support, Ariel discovers a future where she can be at home in her mind and body, and for the first time learns there’s a name for what she struggles with—Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—and that she’s not broken, and not alone.
Asking for a Friend by Ronnie Riley (June 4, 2024)
Why go through the stress of making friends when you can just pretend? It works for Eden and their social anxiety… until their mom announces she’s throwing them a birthday party and all their friends are invited.
Eden’s “friends,” Duke, Ramona, and Tabitha, are all real kids from school… but Eden’s never actually spoken to them before. Now Eden will do whatever it takes to convince them to be their friends–at least until the party is over.
When things start to go better than Eden expects, and the group starts to bond, Eden finds themselves trapped in a lie that gets worse the longer they keep it up. What happens if their now sort-of-real friends discover that Eden hasn’t been honest with them from the very beginning?
Author Ronnie Riley creates a world full of queer joy and all the ups and downs of true friendship.
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon