Book Review: Little & Lion

It has been a while since I’ve come across a novel that focuses so strongly on a variety of mental health and social topics, which is why I’m excited to share about Little & Lion, by Brandy Colbert.

Mental Health Themes

Bipolar Disorder:

One of the main characters, Lionel, has been diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder after a misdiagnosis for ADHD (pretty common.) The author did a great job describing the shifts between hypomania and depressive episodes, which distinguishes Lionel’s condition from the more severe Bipolar I Disorder.

Medication and Therapy:

The gold standard for most mental health conditions is typically a combination of psychiatric services and psychotherapy. In the book, Lionel sees a psychiatrist for medication and a therapist on a regular basis. Common with mood disorders (especially the Bipolar disorders), Lionel quits his medication abruptly against medical advice due to the side effects. This action triggers mood swings, thoughts of death, and impulsive behavior for Lionel, which are real-life risks of stopping a psychotropic medication suddenly.

He told me they were changing his meds. That sometimes people have to try a few different combinations before they get it right. And that he wanted to believe them, but he felt like he was crawling out of his skin—that he would never feel better.

Mental Health Stigma:

The author did a great job portraying the double standard present when responding to mental illness vs. a physical illness; more specifically, one character had a physical condition and was generally accepted whereas Lionel’s bipolar diagnosis often made him the topic of gossip and alienation from his peers.

So people may have come to their own conclusions.” I frown. “Their own conclusions? Like what? That he’s dangerous or something?” That’s what a lot of people think about bipolar disorder. 

People are saying he’s schizo.


It’s no secret that stigma exists for LGBTQ+ people, which often results in high levels of mood symptoms, anxiety, and even PTSD. I appreciate how the author portrayed Suzette, Lionel’s sister, on her journey exploring and accepting her bisexuality. Other topics portrayed in support characters include homosexuality, sexual harassment, and polyamory.

I was tired of all the jokes and assumptions I’d heard about bisexual people: that they’re just being greedy or doing it for attention or trying it on for size “before they cross over to full-on gay.”

Interracial Family & Racism:

As a biracial person myself, I was initially drawn to the book’s cover, which depicts Lionel and Suzette. Suzette and her mother are Black and Lionel and his father are Caucasian. The parents, both once divorced, don’t follow marital norms for their blended family. Oh, and this interracial family is Jewish, so there’s a ton of multicultural intersections that make this book so fascinating.

Relevant to the current climate, the author tackles the microaggressions and direct racism that people of color encounter regularly.

I don’t remember the first time Mom warned me about shopping while Black, but I do remember the first time I noticed we were being followed around a store, even after we’d repeatedly told the sales associate we didn’t need any help.


For a novel intended for a young adult audience, I was very impressed with how the author covered a variety of social issues while still telling a great story. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to my teen and adult clients.

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