Next year is my final year of university, and I'll be writing three theses. I'm planning one already, and would like any input you might have. Working title:

 

Prince Charming gave me a Happy Ending: Romanticisation of Suicide and Depression in Young Adult Literature.

I think that it's really important to have characters from all walks of life represented in literature because books can be comforting reminders that we're not alone. As such, I'm normally really protective of books about mental illnesses because they can really inform people who might not know much about them but might be affected themselves or know someone who may be suffering. I'm also a sucker for stories with a romantic subplot. I realised recently that a lot of books that I absolutely love for these reasons, books that address really important topics, end up with main characters having a love interest who saves them, or main characters who are more attractive because of their mental illness.

 

For example:

  • Looking for Alaska by John Green. Alaska is likely depressed, and thus is seen as mysterious and attractive, and Miles wants to fix her.
  • New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. Bella gets depressed when Edward leaves. She performs ridiculously dangerous--possibly suicidal--because when she does so she sees his face. (This isn't a book so much about a depressed character; however, I think it's important due to its popularity and influence.)
  • The Program by Suzanne Young. This features a dystopian society where depression that leads to suicide is a 'disease.' This in a way is makes suicide a trope to create a dystopian world.
  • Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella. Audrey has severe anxiety, which isn't depression. Still, it's a boy who encourages her to come out of her shell and to overcome her challenges.
  • My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. Two teens have a suicide pact, but they end up falling for each other.

 

I'm not saying that love can't help depression a lot, and I'm not saying these books are bad--I adore quite a few books with these tropes. But I think it's important to send a message to young people that help can come from other sources and true healing has to come from within. 

I've read a lot of YA books so I know there are a ton more examples out there, but I have an atrocious memory. There are also a lot of examples of really well done books on the topic (Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson) that don't fall into these holes.

 

I plan to be writing this project by October at the latest, which gives me all of summer to read and reread books that are relevant. I'm not exactly sure where I'm going--I just have a lot of thoughts as of now that are all over the place and possibly incorrect. And I've started compiling my own list, but I trust the lovely BookLikes community to be more insightful than the Amazon bestseller list.

 

As such, I'd love to hear any thoughts any of you have on the topic, any books you think I should look at closely and why (examples that do romanticise depression/suicide or don't, examples that portray mental illness accurately or don't), or anything else you think is relevant to help me. At this stage, I'm brainstorming a lot and any thoughts you have might help :)

Thank you in advance!