You know how they say not to judge a book by its cover? Well, I’m definitely guilty–I only picked up OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu because the cover caught my eye. Honestly, I was expecting to be a bit annoyed by it. One of my pet peeves is when people use “OCD” when they really just mean “I clean my room.”
Well, Bea, the protagonist of OCD Love Story, doesn’t want to be called OCD either. Sure, she’s a bit quirky, but she doesn’t belong in Dr. Pat’s support group for teens with OCD. Those kids are crazy, like Jenny who’s pulled almost all of her hair out, and her boyfriend Beck who works out for hours at a time and whose skin is rubbed raw from washing it so much. It’s not OCD if she drives carefully, right? Even if she can only bring herself to drive thirty miles per hour, max? Even if she has to keep doubling back to make sure she didn’t hit anything?
What I liked most about OCD Love Story was Bea’s narration. She’s compulsively honest–“If I don’t say the things that pop into my mind, then they might eat my insides out or I might get condemned to hell for dishonesty, so I can’t really take the risk.” However, that doesn’t mean her account of things matches with the “objective” truth. Throughout the course of the novel as Bea reports on the way her best friend, her parents, and others react to her, the reader gradually realizes that maybe Bea isn’t quite as okay as she thinks she is. Eventually, Bea realizes that, too, and it’s a relief for the reader.
OCD Love Story is a fresh, funny love story. Bea describes her boyfriend Beck, whose OCD compels him to work out for hours a day, like this:
I like how safe and broad and sturdy he is, but I guess I like the hint of weakness too. He could crush me with one arm but he’s distracted easily by shiny objects and errant germs. He’s impenetrable and scared in the same breath. He is that perfect amount of f***ed up.
It’s relatable–I could see myself having a crush on Beck, too, and I definitely rooted for them to be able to overcome their compulsions and be together.
OCD Love Story is also kind of a psychological thriller. Watching Bea’s compulsions play out is a trainwreck waiting to happen. As readers, we can only cringe as we see Bea’s interest in her chosen targets escalate into riskier activities like following them home and pretending to live in their apartment building. We know that Bea has already had an unofficial restraining order placed against her by one of her ex-boyfriends–what could this escalate to? As readers, we might empathize with Bea’s friend Trish when she asks:
“You make up all your own rules, right? So, like, why can’t the new rule of stalking then be that two hours of internet trolling is equally as valid as driving by their apartment building?”
But Haydu also makes us feel Bea’s pain as she realizes her best friend doesn’t really understand her illness. Hadyu’s genius as an author is to let the reader simultaneously understand Bea’s point of view as well as the perspective of the neurotypical people around her. Reading OCD Love Story will definitely make you think twice about casually using “OCD” as a synonym for “clean,” but that’s just an added perk for reading this unique love story.
Reviewed by: teen librarian Renata
Recommended for: Fans of realistic romances like Sarah Dessen and/or books with realistic depictions of mental illness like Laurie Halse Anderson