Six Books That Feature Disease and Disability

Posted July 21, 2015 by Carlisa in Features, Top Ten Tuesday / 10 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday

Let’s be honest. I am a middle-class white girl from Indiana. Nothing about me screams diverse. At least “diverse” in the usual sense. If you look past my whiteness, you’d see a girl who is shy at first but bursting to get out. Seriously, if you let me talk, I have a hard time stopping. You’d see a type-1 diabetic who struggles everyday to keep her body healthy. And you’d see someone just trying to find herself in this big world. And, to me, that’s awesome. There are so many unique things to each person, no matter the race, the sexuality, the religion. And that’s what celebrating diversity is all about. It’s not about emphasizing the differences. It’s about let different voices speak. Letting them stand up and say what they have to say. Which is probably something completely different than what you have to say. Because we’re all different. No one is the same, and that’s amazing. It’s what makes the world go ’round.

There are many different ways I could approach this Top Ten Tuesday Prompt: Books that celebrate diversity. Like, seriously, you could go in a million different directions. So let’s narrow it down. Since I’m diabetic, and that kind of makes me somewhat diverse, let’s talk about six books where the character has a disease. And this isn’t as morbid as it sounds. These types of books are awesome because they spread awareness. And people need to be aware (*cough Where’s the YA book with a t1 diabetic? cough*). So here we go: Six books that feature disease and disability.

 House Rules by Jodi Pichouse rulesoult

I think Jodi Picoult does a really good job about tackling some of the harder or not-so-often discussed topics. In this book, the main character’s son, Jacob, has Asperger’s, a disease commonly misunderstood or not understood at all.

I read this years ago, but still remember it for its raw portrayal of Jacob and his disease, showing that though his brain works differently, it doesn’t make him any lesser than anyone else.

 handle with careHandle with Care by Jodi Picoult

Like I said, Picoult knows how to approach and deliver these topics. In this one, Willow is born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that causes her bones to be extremely brittle and easily breakable. Like basically whenever anything touches her, she’ll probably have broken bones. I can’t even imagine living with something like this. And though it’s not common, people do live with this disease or ones just as hard…and this book does a great job of helping us understand to some extent.

paperweightPaperweight by Meg Haston

This one is a pretty recent release about a girl who has been suffering from an eating disorder. I haven’t read this one yet (but I’m hoping to soon) but from reviews I’ve seen, this book accurately displays the thoughts and hopes and actions of someone with an eating disorder. And it’s not afraid to hold back and sugarcoat the experience. Because it’s not easy and it’s real and it’s happening to people every day, and it’s important for us to see it.

say what you willSay What You Will by Cammie McGovern

The two main characters both struggle with diseases in their lives–cerebral palsy and OCD–and those disabilities are what makes them stronger and what brings them together. Cerebral palsy is something that is rarely seen in YA books…in fact, this is the only YA book I’ve seen with it portrayed so directly. And, again I say, it’s necessary. We need to know about things like this. It would be so hard to be limited to a walker and a voice-machine when your brain is going at normal levels. And it would be so hard to be restricted by compulsions to do things you know aren’t rational…but you still have to do them anyway because that’s how your brain works. And this book, you journey through both of these disabilities and come to a better knowledge of the two.


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I read this book for the first time I think in junior high. And it struck me so hard. Melinda is suffering from depression View Spoiler » She struggles while the entire school makes fun of her and hates on her. And she just sits inside of her own head, not talking to anyone about what happened, and it’s just so sad to read. Sad and powerful.

It honestly really touched my heart when I read it. And now I’m wanting to re-read it even though I know it’s going to break my heart all over again.

finding audreyFinding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

This book explores the mind of Audrey, a girl suffering from severe anxiety. Now this one is a great book if you want to grow awareness, if you want to learn about anxiety or understand it better…and if you don’t want to just feel sad the entire time. Because it’s funny. Kinsella is queen of humor so she brings awareness to this mental illness in a very real while…while still being able to keep a smile on your face. And that’s awesome.



I know I missed many great books and illnesses and disabilities! Let me know what ones you think I should read or what your opinion is on diversity in books. 


  • Alison Doherty

    I’m definitely hoping to read Finding Audrey soon. Great list!

  • I really want to get to Speak this summer! I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet! Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is an amazingly done book on eating disorders that I highly recommend if you haven’t read it already.
    Mallory @
    The Local

  • nerdish

    Speak is SUCH a great book, and it fits in well with this theme!

    My TTT

  • AnneBennett

    I have SAY WHAT YOU WILL on my list, too. It is surprisingly good and enlightening. Anne’s Top Ten

  • Bella

    I rarely see T1 Diabetes in young adult novels, or ANY book for that matter, which makes me sad! I did enjoy Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless, whose main character is diabetic and list-obsessed, as well as The Babysitter’s Club, whose character Stacey is a Type One diabetic, but those are the only two that I can think of at the top of my head. Anyhoo, great list 🙂

  • Nattie @ Book Rambles

    You see I’ve been interested in Say What You Will ever since it was available on NetGalley but I never managed to read it! From what you said it sounds amazing and I think I might quickly order it now haha. You’ve got a great list here!

    Nattie @ Book Rambles

  • Audacious Tori

    Paperweight Looks Awesome and I willl definitely check it out. Great Recs Check out my Top
    Ten Tuesday

  • Nicole Hewitt

    I love what you say about diversity (before your list). You are so right – we’re all diverse in our own ways and we can celebrate the things that make us all the same and the things that make us different!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  • I need to read “Speak” by Anderson. We never read this while I was in school, but it pops up here and there. It seems like a very moving work.

  • Say What You Will and Finding Audrey were both fantastic books, I agree!!! I will have to check out both of those Jodi Picoult books, especially the second one, it sounds interesting… I’ve not read any books where a character with a bone disorder is portrayed! Thanks for the recommendations 🙂