This week’s TTT was such a simple prompt, but it ended up being so much harder than I thought! My first pick was ‘well adjusted YA characters’, but as hard as I tried I couldn’t find one, let alone ten!
Books that feature a main character with a disability, mental illness, or physical handicap was my second pick.
When I was looking for books I came to the realization that M/F romance novels rarely (if ever) showcase main characters with a disability, mental illness, or physical handicap. While it was enlightening, I wasn’t really surprised. Sadly it seems the rules for het romances are more stringent. Maybe this is why I’m less interested.
Can anyone recommend a M/F romance novel that fits my criteria?
If not, why do you think it’s rarely written into het romances?
Anyway, below are my picks from YA and M/M!
Check them out.
1. I’ll Meet You There
by Heather Demetrios
If Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing separating straightedge Skylar from art school is three months of summer… until Skylar’s mother loses her job, and Skylar realizes her dreams may be slipping out of reach.
Josh had a different escape route: the Marines. But after losing his leg in Afghanistan, he returned home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.
What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into a friendship and soon, something deeper.
In I’ll Meet You There Josh suffers from PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan. In addition, he’s a wounded warrior having lost his leg. I think Heather Demetrios does a pretty good job of showing all the different, and at times opposing, emotions that would be felt.
2. Catch a Tiger by the Tail
by Charlie Cochet
Calvin Summers and Ethan Hobbs have been best friends since childhood, but somewhere along the line, their friendship evolved into something more. With the Therian Youth Center bombing, Calvin realizes just how short life can be and no longer keeps his feelings for his best friend a secret. Unfortunately, change is difficult for Ethan; most days he does well to deal with his Selective Mutism and Social Anxiety. Calvin’s confession adds a new struggle for Ethan, one he fears might cost him the friendship that’s been his whole world for as long as he can remember.
As partners and Defense Agents at the THIRDS, being on Destructive Delta is tough at the best of times, but between call-outs and life-threatening situations, Calvin and Ethan not only face traversing the challenges of their job, but also working toward a future as more than friends.
In THIRDS Dex is my favorite character, but I felt the strongest connection to Ethan Hobbs. He suffers from Social and General anxiety, like me, but his is so strong that he also suffers from selective mutism. He’s so strong in his vulnerable.
3. Challenger Deep
by Neal Shusterman
Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn.
Challenger Deep is a story about a teenager suffering from Schizophrenia. The story is part his delusions and part the reality. Neal Shusterman’s has real life experience with the illness, and you can really tell in how intimately the story is written. It’s beautiful.
4. Carry the Ocean
by Heidi Cullinan
Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.
Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.
As Jeremey finds his feet, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism.
I know, I know. I’ve pushed this book so much, but the truth it’s so damn good, you guys. I’m not sure how comfortable I am calling Autism a disability, but as there are lifestyle changes and treatment involved, I’m still including it. Emmett is autistic, and Jeremey suffers from clinical depression. Heidi wrote both with honesty and compassion.
5. Fragile Bones
by Lorna Schultz Nicholson
Meet Harrison and Anna.
One is a fifteen-year-old boy with an uncanny ability to recite every bone in the skeletal system whenever he gets anxious ― and that happens a lot. The meaning of “appropriate behaviour” mystifies him: he doesn’t understand most people and they certainly don’t understand him.
The other is a graduating senior with the world at her feet. Joining the Best Buddies club at her school and pairing up with a boy with high-functioning autism is the perfect addition to her med school applications. Plus, the president of the club is a rather attractive, if mysterious, added attraction.
Told in the alternating voices of Harrison and Anna, Fragile Bones is the story of two teens whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways.
Fragile Bones is also a book with an Autistic character. I thought this book is worth the read because it’s not really a romance novel. It’s about friends, when Anna takes Harrison under her wing at school. It’s another good book contemporary YA read.
6. Disasterology 101
by Colleen McCullough
Coming out as a gay man at thirty-six is not an easy feat, but Kevin Morrison is determined to be true to his heart. Meeting a man who shares his values, and is good with his children would be a bonus, but when the guy arrives in a uniquely wrapped package, and has very specific handling instructions, Kevin needs to decide if he’s up for that kind of love.
Obsessed with order and symmetry, and a paralyzing fear of germs, Cedric Haughton-Disley has lived with isolation and loneliness as long as he can remember. Desperate to be normal, he makes some much-needed changes hoping he might be able to procure some quality of life… even if finding love and having a relationship are only possible in Cedric’s wildest dreams. When a chance encounter leaves Cedric wishing for more, he decides to take a leap of faith to pursue the guy he wants.
In Disasterology 101 Cedric suffers from OCD and Germaphobia. When I started Disasterology I worried that the mental illness would be glossed over in favor of the romance, that the author would make Kevin a ‘safe’ place for Cedric, like somehow Cedric wouldn’t feel symptoms with Kevin. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Cedric and Kevin had to work hard to make their relationship work. It was well done.
by Han Nolan
Fifteen-year-old Jason has fallen upon bad times—his mother has died and his father has succumbed to mental illness. As he tries to hold his crazy father and their crumbling home together, Jason relies on a host of imaginary friends for guidance as he stumbles along trying not to draw attention to his father’s deteriorating condition.
Both heartbreaking and funny, Crazy lives up to the intense and compelling characters Han Nolan is praised for. As Jason himself teeters on the edge of insanity, Nolan uncovers the clever coping system he develops for himself and throws him a lifeline in the guise of friendship.
Crazy is an apt name for this book. Jason, our MC, secretly takes care of his father who suffers from a mental illness. The toll of hiding his father, for fear of being taken away, causes his own problems making him fear that he’s also going to end up like his dad. I don’t want to talk about what their illnesses are, as that’s an important part of the book. You should just read it. 🙂
8. The Mating of Michael
by Eli Easton
Everyone admires Michael Lamont for being a nurse, but his part-time work as a gay sex surrogate not only raises eyebrows, it’s cost him relationships. Michael is dedicated to working with people who need him, but what he really wants is a love of his own. He spends most of his spare time reading books written by his favorite author and long-time crush, the mysteriously reclusive J.C. Guise.
James Gallway’s life is slowly but inexorably sliding downhill. He wrote a best-selling novel at the tender age of eighteen, while bedridden with complications of polio. By twenty-eight he’s lost his inspiration and his will to live. Sales from his J.C. Guise books have been in decline for years. Wheelchair bound, James has isolated himself, convinced he is unlovable. When he meets Michael Lamont, he can’t believe a guy like Michael could be interested in a man like him.
The Mating of Michael has a main character that is wheelchair bound, and he suffers from depression. That alone was an exceptional aspect of the story, but Michael (our other MC) is also a sex surrogate. Through his job, we’re introduced to many others with a disability. It was a really great romance with remarkable characters.
9. It’s Kind of a Funny Story
by Ned Vizzini
Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.
Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
I think many of us have heard of It’s Kind of a Funny Story. They made a movie out of this one. However, in case you haven’t, it’s about anxiety and borderline personality disorder. In addition to Craig, the other patients at the psychiatric facility are also well developed and worth reading about. Read before watching though, that’s the rule.
10. Dinner at Jack’s
by Rick Reed
Personal chef Beau St. Clair, recently divorced from his cheating husband, returns to the small Ohio River town where he grew up to lick his wounds. Jack Rogers lives with his mother, Maisie, in that same small town, angry at and frightened of the world. Jack has a gap in his memory that hides something he dares not face, and he’s probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Maisie hires Beau to cook for Jack, hoping the change might help bring Jack, once a handsome and vibrant attorney, back to his former self. But can a new face and comfort food compensate for the terror lurking in Jack’s past?
Slowly the two men begin a dance of revelation and healing. Food and compassion build a bridge between Beau and Jack, a bridge that might lead to love.
Dinner at Jacks was such a surprise read. I don’t know why I always anticipate the worst, especially in a romance novel, but it happened to me here too. If a book is going to involve a disability, it needs to be done right. I thought Dinner at Jacks would be too short, and give an unrealistic ending. It didn’t. I thought the author stayed true to Jack’s PTSD and depression, and ended the book perfectly.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!
I’ll be checking out “Carry the Ocean” and “Challenger Deep” ASAP!
They are both so incredible! I hope you love them too!
I always enjoy learning more about disabilities through fiction. I think my favorite so far is Love & First Sight. That one was really eye opening. Great topic today!
I haven’t read Love & First Sight yet, but I’ve been wanting too.
I read Challenger Deep last year, it was one of my favourite reads. So emotional!
My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/top-ten-tuesday-126/
It really was! I cried so hard at the end, but it was almost a cleansing cry.
I don’t usually cry at books but I was very close with that one!
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I like your interpretation of this week’s prompt! I rarely hear of stories with characters suffering from mental illness; it’s something I’m trying to read more of. Thanks for you recommendations!
Thanks. It’s something I find I look for in books, not even on purpose.
This is such a great topic! I wish there was more representation of disabilities in literature. Have you read the Story of Beautiful Girl? It has a character with a developmental delay and a deaf character and it’s great!
I haven’t! I’ll definitely check that one out!
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Great choice. I considered characters with anxiety as there are loads of great books at the moment. A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares and A Quiet Kind of Thunder were both really good.
It tends to be more the physical disabilities that feel underrepresented to me at the moment although I’ve read a couple of romances with blind characters.
I’ve really looked forward to A Quiet Kind of Thunder. I can’t wait to get a copy of it!
I have heard so many amazing things about I’ll Meet You There. I really need to read it. I loved It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Totally cried at the end, because I read it shortly after Vizzini’s death. Other great books featuring MCs with disabilities: Love and First Sight (a M/F romance), You’re Welcome Universe, How to Keep Rolling After a Fall (M/F romance)
Those look amazing too! I love that YA isn’t afraid to dive into stories of people with disabilities. I wish adult M/F romance would do the same.
While it isn’t a romance novel, Kaz and Inej come to mind when I think of a m/f romance that has a character with a disability. Other than that I’m drawing a blank…a shame really!
That’s true, that’s a good pick. I actually find characters with disabilities in YA kind of regularly. It’s adult romance that it’s really lacking. I searched too, because I wanted to round out my list. They just don’t exist.
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I’ll Meet You There sounds quite good!!
Quite good, actually! I was glad I bought it!
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This is a great and thoughtful topic! I have to say I haven’t read that many books where the characters had disabilities… Especially not MCs. But I’m glad to have some cool recs now 🙂
There are some really spectacular reads, honestly. My two favorites are Challenger Deep and Carry the Ocean, but I don’t think you’d go wrong with any of them.
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All of these are actually new to me. I’m eager to check out Challenger Deep and Carry the Ocean.
I think you’d like them both. Particularly Challenger Deep. I have a feeling that book would be one you’d really enjoy. Carry the Ocean is a romance novel, and I know you’re not usually a romance reader but it was an excellent and honest portrayal of autism and depression. Lots of research. For that reason, I still think you’d like it.
I’m not sure if either of these are problematic or not (I haven’t actually read them) but Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Andersen has mentally ill characters and Not if I See You First by Eric Lindstrom has a blind protagonist.
Oh I loved Not if I See You First. I almost included that one in this list, and Five Flavors of Dumb for a deaf protagonist but I just mentioned those books in a past post so I went with something new. I’ll go check out Wintergirls now. Thanks for the rec!
I love this prompt! You’ve got some great titles on this list! I immediately thought of “Out of my Mind” by Sharon Draper and “Counting by 7’s” by Holly Goldberg Sloan. And then of course there’s “Freak the Mighty”, which is one of my all time favorites!
What! How have I not heard of any of these titles! I’m going to check all of them out!
Love this post! Thanks for making it. 🙂
Thanks! I can’t talk about these books more!
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