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.
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.
I 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.
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.