/ Courage / LGBTQ / Mental Health / Middle Grade Books


Sometimes the best way to approach and engage with a serious topic is through stories. Genre fiction does this particularly well. For instance, consider A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, or The Ghost Collector, by Allison Mills, both of which tackle grief and loss with stories that draw the reader in. Moonflower, a middle grade book by Kacen Callender, works in a similar way, approaching the topic of depression with unique insights.

The author Kacen Callender notes that this book was written as a gift for their younger self, so that "readers will feel how worthy of unconditional love and acceptance they are." We can see some of their experiences reflected in the main character Moon, a Black non-binary youth who is dealing with depression. When they sleep, Moon travels to the spirit realm and hopes they never have to return to the waking world again. Eventually the spirit realm is threatened, and with the guidance of mentors Moon faces themself and their depression, and goes on a journey of love and acceptance.

This is heavy content to be sure. Moon's depression weighs on them and the character not wanting to be in the waking world is distressing. However, their journeys through the spiritual realm offer hope, as Moon learns to love and accept themself and chooses to remain in the waking world. Young people who feel a similar weight might feel a connection with this story, which offers both hope and a lesson about self-acceptance.