Saturday, November 23, 2013

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

"Because there is nothing, nothing worse than not being able to undo the crazy thoughts. I ask them to leave, but they won't. I try to ignore them, but the only thing that works is giving into them.
Torture: knowing that something makes no sense, doing it anyway."

Bea seems like your average teenage girl. She meets a boy at a dance, comforting him when the lights go out and sharing some kisses. Then she meets him again at her therapy group, a group to help treat OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. Compared to the other kids, Bea and Beck seem normal. One girl is nearly bald, as her compulsion is pulling out her hair. Another boy has scabs all over his face, from compulsively picking at his skin. It turns out that Beck has an obsession with the number 8, with bathing and hand-washing, and he is addicted to the gym. He will text someone, then have to text seven more times. His skin is red and raw from being washed so frequently. He also has a fantastic body, but he will work himself to exhaustion because he can't stop himself.

Bea actually has a couple of compulsions as well. First is driving. She takes hours to get anywhere, often stopping and circling back. She becomes convinced that she hit a dog or a child, so she has to check on them. Over and over and over. Second, she collects articles about murders. Bea fears that she will someday snap and kill someone, so any sharp objects or weapons cause anxiety. Third, when stressed, Bea pinches her thigh. She pinches it so hard that it's marked with a black-and-blue bruise Then there is the really bad one.

There are off-hand comments made about some ex-boyfriend who had to get a restraining order, but we don't get an explanation right away. Bea's new obsession is a couple who also goes to her therapist. They are married and glamorous, and Bea sits in a corner and eavesdrops on their sessions. She writes down details in a secret notebook. One day, she follows them home. She goes back often. Sometimes she tries to stop, but then the fear will come that something bad will happen if she isn't there, and Bea will compulse. Eventually, she has to go further, actually interacting with Austin and Sylvia, and even talking her way into their apartment. It's pretty scary when she acts that way, and a little difficult to read about.

I really loved this book and the glimpse it gave inside the mind of a teenager living with mental illness. It's impossible not to sympathize with Bea through her struggles. At one point in the story, Bea was thinking about how their compulsions can come from a good place. Washing your hands, going to the gym, and cautious driving are good things, but at some point it becomes too much. It's difficult to gauge exactly when the good turns bad. It's a difficult subject matter, but it's approached with great care. The characters are easy to relate to, even if you don't share their affliction. The story contains a lot of drama, but also romance and comedy to balance out the heavy stuff. 

I received my copy of OCD Love Story from Edelweiss, courtesy of Simon Pulse. It's available for purchase now.

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