Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes (Hardcover)
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Channeling their own experiences, sixteen exceptional authors subvert mental health stereotypes in a powerful and uplifting collection of fiction.
A teen activist wrestles with protest-related anxiety and PTSD. A socially anxious vampire learns he has to save his town by (gulp) working with people. As part of her teshuvah, a girl writes letters to the ex-boyfriend she still loves, revealing that her struggle with angry outbursts is related to PMDD. A boy sheds uncontrollable tears but finds that in doing so he’s helping to enable another’s healing. In this inspiring, unflinching, and hope-filled mixed-genre collection, sixteen diverse and notable authors draw on their own lived experiences with mental health conditions to create stunning works of fiction that will uplift and empower you, break your heart and stitch it back together stronger than before. Through powerful prose, verse, and graphics, the characters in this anthology defy stereotypes as they remind readers that living with a mental health condition doesn’t mean that you’re defined by it. Each story is followed by a note from its author to the reader, and comprehensive back matter includes bios for the contributors as well as a collection of relevant resources.
With contributions by:
Mercedes Acosta * Karen Jialu Bao * James Bird * Rocky Callen * Nora Shalaway Carpenter * Alechia Dow * Patrick Downes * Anna Drury * Nikki Grimes * Val Howlett * Jonathan Lenore Kastin * Sonia Patel * Marcella Pixley * Isabel Quintero * Ebony Stewart * Francisco X. Stork
About the Author
Nora Shalaway Carpenter is the author of The Edge of Anything, a Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book of the Year and Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year. She is the contributing editor of the acclaimed anthology Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America, which was named an NPR Best Book of the Year and a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, among numerous other honors. Nora Shalaway Carpenter lives in North Carolina.
Rocky Callen is the author of the YA novel A Breath Too Late, which was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book of the Year and a Chicago Public Library Best Book and was featured in The Mujerista’s 2020 list of the ten best young adult books by Latinx authors. A former behavioral coach and a passionate mental health advocate, she founded the HoldOn2Hope Project, which unites creatives in suicide prevention. Rocky Callen lives outside of Washington, DC.
In this anthology examining living with mental illness, authors tackle the subject through short stories, verse, graphic narrative, and a play script, all of which reflect their lived experiences. The collection’s greatest strength is its impressive diversity in contributors and subject matter. . . The book’s main lessons include the messages that you are not alone and should reach out for help. . . necessary.
In this uniquely informed collection, sixteen authors with personal experiences with mental health conditions and struggles offer short fiction that challenges stereotypes of what it means to be “normal” in an unforgiving world that still stigmatizes people. . . There is remarkable diversity within and beyond that shared theme: gender identity, sexuality, race, cultural identity, diagnoses and treatment, and varying access to support and resources . . . Vulnerable, personal author notes after each story, a compelling and urgent introduction, and a sturdy list of mental health resources provide context and support.
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
A timely fiction anthology about teens living with mental health challenges. . . Covering topics such as anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and PMDD, this sensitive work authentically portrays its teen characters as complex beings whose positive relationships—with friends and family, and with their own mental health—exude hope.
All of the contributors have lived experiences with mental health, and a short blurb from each writer discusses these experiences. This collection will appeal to readers who are struggling with or interested in mental health, and prefer fiction that is written by someone who has been there.
The range of writing styles and techniques employed by notable authors about mental health makes this a strong addition to the shelves.
—School Library Journal
Through short stories, poetry, a graphic novel, and even a one-act play, the diverse characters demonstrate that life can still be lived beyond the struggles imposed by mental health conditions. . . characters address their situations in honest ways that will be relatable to readers.
—School Library Connection
Ab(solutely) Normal is a beautiful, funny, honest, heart-aching, heart-affirming read, one I know I’ll go back to again and again. Sixteen extraordinary authors with one powerful message: you are enough, you are seen, you are not alone. Dear readers everywhere, you need this book!
—Jennifer Niven, #1 New York Times best-selling author of All the Bright Places
Ab(solutley) Normal is a vital resource for young people and their caregivers. This book opens the conversation and crushes the stigma—a compassionate and beautiful exploration of the reality of our country’s mental health. I highly recommend it.
—A.S. King, author of the Michael L. Printz Award winner Dig
Ab(solutely) Normal does exactly what it promises: it smashes mental health stereotypes. Not only that—it smashes stereotypes with a thoughtfully curated selection of stories that will make readers laugh, cry, and, most importantly, think. This book should be required reading for all teens and their parents and teachers. Teens with mental health issues will feel seen, while those without them will learn empathy and kindness. Oh, how I wish this book had been around when I was in high school!
—Tanya Guerrero, award-winning author of How to Make Friends with the Sea, All You Knead Is Love, and Adrift
The sixteen fierce and radiant stories in Ab(solutely) Normal provide powerful affirmation for young people everywhere seeking to overcome stereotypes of what it means to live—and thrive—with a mental health condition. Editors Carpenter and Callen have pulled off the miraculous here, exploding taboos about mental health while assembling an anthology that’s as entertaining to read as it is poignant and life-affirming. By turns cathartic, inspiring, authentic, and deeply felt, this is easily the most essential book of the year for teen readers. Don’t miss it!
—Rob Costello, author of The Dancing Bears: Queer Fables for the End Times and contributing editor of Queer Beasties: 15 Weird & Wondrous Monster Tales
Ab(solutely) Normal is absolutely extraordinary and necessary. We need these stories.
—Rita Williams-Garcia, award-winning author of A Sitting in St. James