Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Teen/YA Review: OCD Love Story

After reading a couple of serious nonfiction books last month and in the midst of too much coronavirus news, I needed a lighter fictional escape, so I turned to my over-full shelf of middle grade and YA books waiting to be read. I chose OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu, a teen/YA novel that caught my interest when it was first released back in 2013. I'm glad I finally got to it; it is so much more than a teen romance, filled with humor and emotional depth, delving into the details of mental health.

Teenaged Bea has some issues that she tries to hide, but she knows that other kids think she is a little weird. Thank goodness for her best friend, Lisha, who has stuck with her through everything and still loves her just the way she is. Bea is at a school dance when the power goes out, resulting in the kind of noise and chaos you'd expect from a group of teens suddenly plunged into darkness. But Bea hears a familiar sound--short, shallow gasping for breath--and makes her way to the sound in the dark. There she discovers a boy named Beck and ascertains that this is his first panic attack, so she helps to calm him and talk him through it. He leaves, in the dark, before she can even see what he looks like, but they've made a connection. Bea worries when her therapist, Dr. Pat, tells her she has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and suggests group therapy, but when she goes to her first session, she immediately recognizes Beck's voice from the dance. In person, he's really good-looking, if a little bit overly muscled, and the two of them start to get to know each other better, both in group and out. Those other kids, though--wow, they are seriously messed up. Bea is nothing like them; she just likes to take a lot of notes, talks too much, and sometimes, maybe, gets a little overly interested in a random guy. Beck has the kind of compulsions Bea thinks of as common in OCD: hand-washing, counting, and working out all the time. Despite their differences, though, Beck gets Bea in a way that no one else ever has. His support helps as Bea's compulsions grow and she has more and more trouble keeping them secret, until things finally come to a head in a series of crises. Maybe, with the help of Dr. Pat, Beck, and Lisha, Bea can face up to her fears.

I was completely engrossed in this unique novel from beginning to end. I realized that, like Bea, I actually knew very little about OCD and its many variations. Reading this story written from Bea's perspective and experiences (and as she observes Beck's own issues) was fascinating and made this disease come alive to me, as it affects real people. In short, it is pure torture for the person experiencing it, even though it may just look a bit quirky to outsiders. I learned a lot, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the story and its realistic characters. It's impossible not to root for Bea and Beck to face their own demons so that they can care for and support each other. Lest you think this all sounds too dark and depressing, rest assured that Bea's narration is warm and engaging. She has a sense of humor, including about her own issues, that permeates the entire novel and keeps it from feeling too heavy, even as it deals with very serious issues. I enjoyed reading this original and entertaining novel about facing your fears, living with OCD, being a good friend, and ... just maybe, finding love.

341 pages, Simon Pulse

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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  1. I love books like this that take an important topic, inject fun, and make a great story as well as teaching me something.