Saturday, March 15, 2014

OCD Love Story, by Corey Ann Haydu

An unusual romance about what happens when two teens who both suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder fall in love.  It's an easy mental disease to make fun of, but, while there are certainly some very funny parts of this book,  the overriding sense of this story is respect for what the condition puts its sufferers through.

Bea's illness manifests itself through obsessions with tracking other people.  Constantly afraid that the objects of her concern are in danger, she needs to "check up" on them.  Given the repetitive nature of her anxiety, the behavior is easily misconstrued as stalking, and it lands her in all sorts of legal problems.  Beck's obsession lies with hygiene and fitness.  He literally works out at the gym to the point of exhaustion and then rubs his skin clean off trying to wash up afterwards.

To the extent that it is possible between these two colorful young people, the romance follows the traditional pattern of acquaintance, misunderstanding, and forgiveness.  What is different is how their disorders affect their everyday lives and how they complicate each other's already-complex routines.

At times, this is a hard book to get through.  The nature of the disorder is exhausting in itself and one is tempted to simply wring some necks, but overall impression I found the book fascinating.  Haydu's accomplishment is creating a sympathetic and nuanced portrait of such unusual young people, and bringing them truly to life.  Mental illness is hard to get right in a book and she does an impressive job here.

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