When reading this blog entry, I would like for you to have in mind that all opinions stated here are my personal ones. I completely respect that others might feel differently, and I would absolutely love to hear your point of view in the comment sections. You might have thought of something I have not.
I would also like to warn you about a few spoilers I will be bringing up from the stories of ‘All the Bright Places’, and ‘When We Collided’.
Do not continue reading unless you don’t mind spoilers.
When reading Young Adult-themed books, mental health and illness is often a reoccurring subject, and often the characters portrayed are struggling with their daily life. Every so often the characters are not portrayed as anything but their illness, taking their own personality traits away from them.
I would like to mention to those reading, that if you struggle with mental illness it does not define you as a person, you are so much more, and you are just as valuable as everyone else.
This is a repeating issue I encountered while reading ‘All the Bright Places’. While others love this book and finds it to be a great story about mental illness, I found it to be the complete opposite.
Theodore Finch and Violet Markey both struggle with mental illness, but that is all they are. There is nothing more to them at all, and the story ends exactly how you think it would.
We encounter three people who are suicidal in this book, in which two of them comes out of it alive because they admit they have some issues that needs to be sorted out.
Theodore Finch, on the other hand, he refuses to get proper help. He hates the idea of “labels” and medication, and… he ends up drowning himself after convincing Violet that life is worth living.
“Violet learns to live from a boy who wants to die”.
I find this to be a horrible idea for struggling teenagers that might read this book. Suicide is not funny, it’s not quirky, and it is not romantic. It is a permanent solution to a temporary situation. It leaves a non-healing wound in the soul of those left behind. I’ve seen it happen, and it was nothing romantic about the aftermath. Sitting at her funeral was awful, and I am now older than she was when she ended her life.
“Labels” should not be considered a dreadful thing. It helps you put your problems into words, which makes it easier to find solutions on how to improve your daily life. If you don’t know what parts of you that needs tuning, you’ll be grasping around in the dark.
Getting professional help, which is often frowned upon in YA-books, it’s in fact the opposite. Admitting there is a problem and deciding to seek help for it shows great strength. I dislike YA-books that portrays otherwise.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, your mental illness, or label if you wish, does not define you as a person. It’s merely a tool to help you understand your illness better.
The author of ‘All the Bright Places’ experienced suicide by finding the boy she loved, and yet this is how she chose to go with this ending. She had a terrific opportunity to turn a horrible situation around and convince others to get help. It is a fact that many troubled teens end up committing suicide because of the romanticizing through books, movies, and TV-series.
In ‘When We Collided’ we meet Vivi and Jonah. Vivi struggles with bipolarity, and she’s taking medication to help her through her days. During the story she stops taking her medication, and Jonah experiences how her moods swing and sometimes makes her impulsive to the point of it becoming damaging to her physical health. At the end of the story, Jonah still loves her, and Vivi comes to terms with the fact that she needs medication.
To me this is wonderful. People who struggle are way too often labeled as unworthy of the affection of others, but this is as far away from the truth as it can come. Jonah acknowledges that Vivi is a troubled spirit, and it doesn’t make him care any less for her. This displays a positive message to the readers of this book.
Medication is often considered unnecessary, or again… another weakness… by a lot of characters in YA-books, and I constantly hear a lot of people around me saying that medication is not a good thing, that others should stop taking them.
So, let me stop you right there. While Theodore and Vivi are fictional characters, they portray actual illnesses that real people are struggling with. Vivi realized her medication helps her, and this could have saved Theodore, but as we all know by now, he is dead.
Never, never tell someone to stop taking their medication or that they are unnecessary! If you have found another way of dealing with your mental health, then I am so incredibly happy for you, that is fantastic, and I am proud of you.
However, your way of solving your problem might not be the right choice for others and putting stigma around medication and seeking help creates a lot of problems for the struggling audience.
Authors who write YA have an audience consisting of exactly that, not everyone of course, but there is a lot. At this stage in life where there is a lot of confusion and emotions going around, I think portraying mental illness as a weakness hits a lot of young adults the wrong way. Adopting the point of views from your favorite characters happens way easier than one would think. It can often lead to devaluing feelings towards yourself, and for anyone struggling this can be challenging.
I often feel like authors of this genre puts a lot of the stigma onto mental illness, when it easily could have been avoided. They reach a lot of people with their stories, so why not put this into beneficial use and help end the stigma instead?
Not everything in stories can be perfect or helpful, of course, but I think there could be another way to encounter this issue.
As Uncle Ben said; with great power comes great responsibility.
I find this to be true when you have others looking up to you and what you do.
When all of this is said, if you yourself are struggling with anything and want to talk, feel free to message me. I am also struggling, and I’ve got not one, but multiple diagnosis’ that makes my daily life a living hell quite often. I might be slow at replying quite often because I am exhausted 24/7, but at least know that you are not alone.
Thank you so much for reading, please leave your own opinion in the comment section, and I’ll see you next time!