Cara Delevingne is currently on tour promoting her new young adult novel, Mirror, Mirror, and the actress and model is relishing the chance to explore her literary side while also addressing an issue that affects many teens: depression.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the 25-year-old actress discussed her book out Tuesday — a suspenseful story of three teenage friends who cope with the mysterious disappearance of their bandmate — and how her own pain as a teen helped guide the narrative.
“Promoting this book has been something I’ve been dreaming of my whole life,” she says. “Honestly, I just did the book signing and it was the sweetest thing in the world … It was so nice to meet everyone and actually see people get this book.”
While the title is reminiscent of fairy tales, the story is one of painful discovery.
In Mirror, Mirror, Naomi’s bandmates are tortured by her disappearance. Red (the protagonist), Leo, and Rose are left to unravel the mystery as they continue to deal with their individual struggles (absent parents, a father in prison, and the reliance on alcohol and sex for distraction).
“To be honest, there are elements of all of me in each of these characters,” Delevingne says, but explains that the book isn’t autobiographical. “Obviously, Red is the protagonist but she’s not more like me than any of the others.”
In a recent interview with Net-a-Porter, Delevingne discussed her own problems as a teen. She was 15 years old when she was eventually taken out of school to receive treatment for depression.
“I hated myself for being depressed, I hated feeling depressed, I hated feeling,” she told the outlet. “I was very good at disassociating from emotion completely. And all the time I was second-guessing myself, saying something and then hating myself for saying it. I didn’t understand what was happening apart from the fact that I didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
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Delevingne tells PEOPLE “I think it’s really important that in this book, and generally, that mental illness is talked about. I think my depression came from a mixture of things, whether it was from pressure from, not only myself, but … to do well in school, from my parents to get good grades, and to be someone I thought I was that I wasn’t.”
She adds, “You bottle so much up, you end up going mad. When you bottle emotions up that’s when it leads to [your] downfall.”
While the parents in her book struggle with multiple issues, Delevingne says the parent-child relationships in the book aren’t reflective of her relationship with her own parents. (In February, Delevingne and her two sisters talked with Glamour about their mother’s addiction to heroin.)
“I love [my parents] deeply and I wouldn’t be who I am without them,” she told Net-a-Porter. “Maybe because of things I experienced or saw, I knew my childhood was slightly different to other kids. [But] parents, unless they’re really, really bad, love their children, and that is what I am trying to portray in my book.”
Delevingne added: “Of course when you grow up with any alcoholic or depressive there is going to be darkness, but I wanted to show the inner workings of it. The thing about alcoholism, addiction and depression is, you can’t hate the person for being who they are, you can hate the disease behind it.”
In Mirror, Mirror she reveals just how painful growing up can be.
“There’s so much pressure on young people to be perfect,” she writes in the Q&A section of Mirror, Mirror, “but I wanted to show that whoever you are, if you are happy with yourself then you are perfect.”
For Delevingne, there is one lesson that she wishes she knew as a teenager that she made sure to convey in her book.
“I wish I knew how important it was to reach out to people, to talk to people about how I felt,” she tells PEOPLE. “[To] talk about my emotions more and not run away from myself… To open up and not hide my feelings. Create more, learn more, take everything in because every moment is magic.”
Mirror, Mirror is on sale now.