Twin Cities Teen Lit Con 2017: Mental Health in YA Literature Presentation

I spent this past Saturday at Twin Cities Teen Lit Con at Henry Sibley High School in lovely Mendota Heights, Minnesota. If you’re not familiar with Teen Lit Con, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a convention for teen lit. It’s an amazing day and we’re so lucky to have this wonderful convention happen here. Shout out to everyone at MELSA, the Teen Lit Con team, the many volunteers, and Sibley High for hosting. Smashing job, everyone. Thank you for having me.

Last year, I presented on new and forthcoming YA books and you can read more about that presentation and last year’s conference here. I had a blast and was delighted to be asked back for this year’s event.

This year, I presented on mental health in young adult literature. I have presented on this topic before at NerdCon: Stories and for the International Bipolar Foundation (that webinar is archived and available in the link). Since 2016, we at Teen Librarian Toolbox have been running a Mental Health in YA Literature project (#MHYALit). This link will take you to the hub for our project, which so far has had well over 100 guest posts from authors, bloggers, librarians, and other teen advocates, often about our own mental health struggles and successes. This topic is one of my main interests and I never tire of talking about it.

I pulled a few relevant slides from my presentation to post here. I did a lot of talking about my pet peeves, with examples; the reasons why good, accurate, and compassionate mental health depiction in young adult literature is so vitally important; the staggering statistics about teen mental health; and about some of the books I recommend. I also made a handout (because I love handouts) with roughly 60 recent YA titles that deal with mental health. That is available here: Teen Lit Con 2017 handouts MHYALit. Schools and libraries, please feel free to reproduce this and share this, but please leave my credit at the bottom of the second page.




The above slide is already outdated; suicide is now the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24.




I was in a room set up with 35 desks. They quickly filled up, before my session, and before long people were settling themselves on the floor in the front of the room. More and more people kept arriving through the first many minutes of my talk, and before I knew it, we had packed over 100 people into that room. This is what happened at NerdCon, too: my room held 90 and we had 150 people in there before we were told we had to cut people off because we were becoming a fire hazard. What this all tells me is that this topic is vitally important to be talking about. There are so many who want to listen and who want to talk. There are so many who are so relieved to not feel alone. It was a wonderful session full of attentive listeners. So many attendees stopped by afterwards to thank me for speaking about this topic. There were some teary eyes and some hugs. We’re not alone in this fight. The reminder is so powerful.

The rest of the day was also fantastic. We listened to Meg Medina, Box Brown, Jeff Zentner, and Jay Asher answer a bunch of great and silly questions during the kickoff panel. We checked out the gym full of activities and freebies. We attended Box Brown’s session and Callum was psyched to get his Andre the Giant book signed later on that afternoon. I was glad to see so many familiar faces and meet people I’ve only so far interacted with via social media. The Minnesota YA community is awesome and I’m so glad to know so many smart, interesting people in it.

Here’s what the full schedule for the day was (screenshot from the Teen Lit Con website). What a full day of great presentations! 


Callum and I had an excellent time and are already looking forward to Teen Lit Con 2018! Hope we see you there!