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Now more than ever we need to look after our mental health and books can provide a brilliant way of helping children and young people to understand the world around them as well as what’s going on in their heads. Here is our pick of the best books for 12+ year-olds to keep young minds healthy.

Mental Health Awareness Week is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and taking place from 18-24 May, this year’s theme is kindness, the perfect antidote to isolation and stress. Find out more

[See our book lists for 0-5s, 5-8s, and 8-12s]

Fearless! How to be your true, confident self, by Liam Hackett, published by Scholastic

In Fearless!, Liam Hackett aims to help young people be themselves, explaining how they can break free from labels and stereotypes to fear less and truly realise their full potential. Includes interviews with inspirational people such as body positive activists, disability campaigners and those who have defied society’s gender stereotypes.

Liam Hackett is the founder and CEO of Ditch the Label, one of the largest youth charities in the world. In 2018, they reached 3 million young people globally.

Lily’s Just Fine, by Gill Stewart, published by Sweet Cherry

Lily couldn’t have planned life better herself. She lives in the best house in town and she’s dating the most popular boy in school. Everything else she can fix. Mum’s apathy? On it! The stuffy gala committee? Watch this space! Tom has enough on his plate without trying to drag Newton St Cuthbert into the 21st Century. His sister is sick and there’s nothing anyone can do. Not doctors, not his parents, and certainly not Lily Hildebrand.

Beautiful Broken Things, by Sara Barnard, published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

Beautiful Broken Things is a moving story of friendship by Sara Barnard, shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and selected as part of Zoella’s Book Club. 

Break The Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli, published by Hodder Children’s Books

A fiercely told survivor ship novel about one girl’s determination to push her
body to win gold at the Olympics, and the power of uniting as women to speak out.

The only thing seventeen-year-old Audrey Lee dreams about is swinging her way to Olympic glory. Nothing is going to stop her, not even the agony in her back. Every spasm and ache will be worth it once she has that gold medal around her neck. But none of her training prepares her for her coach being led away in handcuffs, accused by a fellow gymnast of the unthinkable. No one knows what, or who to believe and Audrey’s teammates go into meltdown.

As the Olympic torch closes in, Audrey has no idea who to trust, let alone what life holds
after her final dismount. The only thing she can do is hope that in the end, belief in herself
and what’s left of her team, will be enough for gold.

The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King, published by Scholastic

Warm, funny and moving: an affecting novel exploring divorce and the manifestation of depression in both children and adults.

Twelve-year-old budding astronomer Liberty is searching for a way to cope with change. When a meteorite lands in her backyard one night, Liberty senses that the answers to all her problems might be
written in the stars.

Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be, by Gemma Cairney, published by Macmillan Children’s Books

Full of honest and practical advice from Gemma Cairney and a whole host of trained professionals and real people, Open Your Heart is a best friend in a book. From heartbreak and heartache to body image and everything in between, this book will help you learn to love your body, your friends and your family, and tell you what to do if things go wrong.

Includes chapters on: Family; Friendship; Bullying; Love; Heartbreak; Death, grief and loss; Periods; Body image; Exercise; Food; Sex; Gender and sexuality; Sexual health and more!

Body Brilliant: A Teenage Guide to a Positive Body Image by Nicola Morgan, published by Franklin Watts

Written by teenage expert, Nicola Morgan, Body Brilliant will help teenagers to develop or retain a positive body image.

We’re all bombarded with information and images – through the media and our peers – about being too big, too small, being cool, being popular or having the ‘right’ kind of clothes. This book addresses the body issues that nearly everyone worries about at some point in their lives and gives practical and mindful solutions to work through worries, using real-life examples, quotes and anecdotes from young adults interviewed especially for this

Body Brilliant explores psychological pressures that make us see our bodies in certain ways, positively or negatively, as well as considering how adolescent body changes, gender identity and gender expectations, sexuality and sexual orientation affect self image, and looks at issues such as body dysmorphia and eating disorders.

Body Brilliant also encourages you to think about how you view differences in others and understand that variety is a brilliant thing. And that being yourself is much better than being just like everyone else. Learn to celebrate the differences that make every body brilliant!