Chaos Theory – Nic Stone | Powerful YA Fiction About Mental Health, Loss, And Falling In Love

I’m very open about my mental health journey, and I always appreciate seeing mental health tackled in a positive way. Books about this topic are always important, but YA fiction about mental health is especially important given that mental health is such a big element of young people’s lives. That’s why I jumped at the chance to review Chaos Theory by Nic Stone – I work with young people with mental health issues in my day job so feel particularly strongly about explorations of their struggles. And this is exactly what the author has done, choosing to dive head first into the topic rather than sugar-coat it.

***AD: This post features press samples – all thoughts are my own***

Title image for Chaos Theory by Nic Stone - YA fiction about mental health - blue book featuring two teenagers looking at each other on oil slick-style coloured background
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: YA contemporary/romance
Published: 28th February 2023


The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin, delivers a gripping romance about two teens: a certified genius living with bipolar disorder and a politician’s son who is running from his own addiction and grief. Don’t miss this gut punch of a novel about mental illness, loss, and discovering you are worthy of love.

Scars exist to remind us of what we’ve survived.

Since Shelbi enrolled at Windward Academy as a senior and won’t be there very long, she hasn’t bothered making friends. What her classmates don’t know about her can’t be used to hurt her–you know, like it did at her last school.

Andy Criddle is not okay. At all.
He’s had far too much to drink.
Again. Which is bad.
And things are about to get worse.

When Shelbi sees Andy at his lowest, she can relate. So she doesn’t resist reaching out. And there’s no doubt their connection has them both seeing stars . . . but the closer they get, the more the past threatens to pull their universes apart.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone delivers a tour de force about living with grief, prioritizing mental health, and finding love amid the chaos.
(Taken from Goodreads)

My Review

YA fiction is primarily for young adults, however I really enjoy it as a (not so young) adult! Of the YA fiction I’ve read, it is generally easy to read whilst tackling poignant and pertinent issues. Chaos Theory certainly fits this description, offering an engrossing and casual reading style with some really quite heavy topics. Topics that need to be discussed, and author Nic Stone has approached them in exactly the right way here.

Chaos Theory is, in a nutshell, YA fiction about mental health, but it also explores love, loss, and grief. Our two main characters, Shelbi and Andy, encounter each other purely by chance. As their relationship develops, our understanding of their fragile mental health does as well. Both of them are going through a lot, and there is much they need to face up to.

Stone includes a trigger warning at the beginning describing the book as one that essentially does not disguise the struggles of those with atypical mental health but presents all sides to it, from the good to the bad to the very bad. I appreciate that she included this warning, and also that she wrote the book in this way. It’s too easy to be overly-cautious around a topic that is still unnecessarily stigmatised, and we need the opposite of this if we are going to see change.

The story itself is quite gripping, and I felt that both Shelbi and Andy were highly relatable and multi-faceted. They have clear strengths and flaws and it’s fascinating watching them navigate these together. Mental health is a key part of the book but we also witness love, grief, betrayal, and addiction through their story, and this all serves to show just how complex the mind can be.

Aerial view of Chaos Theory by Nic Stone with blue cover and two teenagers looking into each others' eyes featuring multi-coloured material background similar to oil slick

One of my favourite things about Chaos Theory is Stone’s writing style, which is just so effortless. She writes in the third person from both Shelbi’s and Andy’s perspectives, including various text exchanges between the two. Once I’d read the first page I couldn’t put it down (and I finished it within a day!).

I can find it difficult to read books with distractions around me, however this one was absorbing enough that I managed to completely block out three long bus journeys, so that’s testament as to how captivated I was by it! This ease of reading makes it so much easier to process the difficult subject matter. I was genuinely holding back tears on several occasions – the story is powerful and raw, and just feels so real. The author draws from her own experiences and this is partly what makes it such a gripping read. I was so invested in Shelbi and Andy, and felt their laughter and pain as their stories evolved.

It’s not just about them, either. We learn of the journeys of multiple supporting characters, all of whom feel there for a reason. Stone balances these with the main story well, weaving them together intricately. So much is explored, and I imagine most, if not all, readers will find something to relate to. There are characters who are Black, LGBTQ+, addicted to substances, and more – all of these contribute to the story in such an authentic way.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have a negative thing to say about Chaos Theory. It was an entrancing read from start to finish and exactly what I want from YA fiction about mental health. It encompasses all perspectives, presenting what we want but also what we need. I completely fell in love with the story, and was so sad when it ended!

I think this is a key read, not just for those with mental health issues but also those that perhaps don’t get it. Those that don’t understand the complexity of mental health, or why the focus should be here. Stone’s combination of compassion and sincerity delivers a powerful exploration of mental health and its impact, and its so validating for those of us that can personally relate. A strong recommendation from me – you won’t be able to put it down!

Author Bio

Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.

Stone lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @getnicced or on her website
(Taken from Goodreads)

What YA fiction about mental health have you read that you enjoyed? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and pin! You can read some other YA reviews I have written here:

Specter by Katie Gallagher – YA Mystery Novel With A Paranormal Twist

Catalyst by Tracy Richardson – YA Environmental Fiction With A Vital Message

Book of Panacea by Tineke Peeters – Intriguing YA Story Focused Around The Greek Gods

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