Tuesday Reads: OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

But if I don’t drive by Austin’s place, he might vanish. Into thin air or a hospital or a foreign country…

If I don’t check on Austin, I might vanish.

Poof.

My job at that #mww13 thing I blogged about was to assist literary agent Victoria Marini. Since she was there, a recently released book from one of her authors was being sold. The title and the cover both grabbed me pretty instantly, and I bought it, but I didn’t actually start reading it until last week. And, review spoiler alert: It was amazing.

Let’s talk about OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu.

OCDLoveStoryI admit I was a little nervous going into this book because here’s the thing: OCD has become kind of a joke in our society. It tends to be seen by those who don’t have real world experience with it as a cute quirk. I know more people than I can count who casually call themselves OCD because they like things clean or because it kind of annoys them when something’s off center. They aren’t experiencing actual obsessions or compulsions, but they say it anyway, because OCD has been generalized into just liking things clean and orderly and kind of being upset if they’re not. It’s like how sociopaths are all serial killers and if someone’s bipolar then clearly they’re just completely crazy.

Only those things aren’t true, and OCD isn’t a cute quirk or joke. I don’t have personal experience but I know enough to know that, so going into a YA book about a girl – Bea – falling for a guy – Beck – I was worried that the book would take the quirky/joke line and make me want to headdesk.

It doesn’t.

OCD Love Story shows the ugliness of the disorder, and it does so beautifully. It would be so easy to blur the line between the disorder and the person, and make the person ugly as well as the disorder, but OCD Love Story doesn’t do that. I love these characters. Even as I watch Beck do things that, in person, would make me feel terribly awkward and embarrassed, going through these obsessions and compulsions that I can never fully comprehend, I love him. Bea’s OCD pushes her repeatedly into stalker behavior that terrifies me, but I love her.

And while the characters have self-deprecating humor about their own issues, their disorders are not a joke. They are horribly, painfully real. Their compulsions and obsessions make them harm themselves even though they don’t really want to be hurting.

The cruelest trick of OCD Love Story is that it makes you feel what they feel. I do not have OCD. I have never had OCD. But I felt Bea’s panic when she couldn’t go through with her compulsions. I felt my pulse race with hers and I felt her need to just pinch her thigh or overshare or check up on the couple she’s stalking. I knew that these compulsions were harming her but I felt her need and I hoped for her to get her release. When she starts having to face her problems and let go of her obsessions, I panicked with her. I hated her therapist with her. I know how destructive her behavior is and I still thought, “No, no, why are you doing this? It makes her feel better. It makes her happy. Don’t take it away from her!” I had to put the book down and breathe and get out of her mind.

That’s both a praise for the author and a caveat for the reader. I don’t suffer from OCD but I do have severe anxiety, and Bea’s own anxiety was written so realistically and graphically that I couldn’t quite put up a wall between her and me. After reading five chapters, I was in love, but I also spent the rest of the day in a state of anxiety. If you’re someone who empathizes heavily with characters – like me – and/or suffers from disorders along the lines of these characters – like me – I suggest you take this book slowly. That is, assuming you can. Once I picked it up the second time, I couldn’t put it down until I was done.

Medium: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5

#mww13

All hail the interns. Photo courtesy of Cathy Day.

All hail the interns. Photo courtesy of Cathy Day.

It has taken me a week to figure out how to blog about the Midwest Writers Workshop. I just didn’t know where to start. Do I talk about my awesome fellow interns/ninjas/redshirts? Or a few of the really awesome people who put it together? Or the visiting literary agents and faculty, with a clear bias on the one I was assisting?

Real talk time: I still have no idea where to start or what to concentrate on.

Maybe there just isn’t a single bead of awesome for me to focus on. Because here’s the thing – there was just too much that was unbelievably beautiful. I met too many amazing people – faculty and guests alike – and was too immersed in too many freaking crazy opportunities.

I got to assist Victoria Marini, a kickass literary agent that made my potentially stressful job really fun. I met Roxane Gay, who I also interviewed before MWW and did a (fingerling) presentation on in my literary citizenship class. I convinced her to join OkCupid. She convinced me that I belong at the University of Alabama creative writing grad program. I got to hang out with a lot of really cool writers and agents. Yeah, the chairs were crazy uncomfortable for fat people but I took some advice from body positivity goddess Ragen Chastain and said, “Hey, maybe we should change that.”

And then I broke down and had a panic attack but even that led me to meeting a beautiful and amazing woman who worked me through it and then ranted with me about how much Moffat sucks.

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Also, I touched Brooks Sherman’s hair.

Like you don't want to touch it. This photo also courtesy of Cathy Day.

Like you don’t want to touch it. This photo also courtesy of Cathy Day.

There was a lot about #mww13 that was the coolest ever. I believe the faculty and agents who say that it’s one of the best writing conferences in the country. If you ever get a chance to register and come, DO IT.

In the meantime, there have been many blog posts about the conference, some of which are linked in this sentence. The super cool Cathy Day also made a Storify for each day of the conference, featuring tweets that exemplified each day. If you want even more, you can still check out the #mww13 hashtag on Twitter. A lot of people were way more informative and less gushy than I was in this post. Go check them out. If you were there, share your experiences!

Because here’s what I took away from #mww13: I am meant to be in this community. I’m working to be a writer and maybe that’s what I’ll be or maybe I’ll be an agent or editor or just an eternal conference attendee. I can’t tell the future. What I can tell you is that last weekend left me feeling the way Alpha always left me feeling – so exhausted and energized and at peace.

It felt like home.

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