Review: OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

Title: OCD Love Story
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Genre: YA, contemporary, romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Simon Pulse / July 23, 2013
How Did I Get It? Bought it
Format? Paperback

Synopsis from Goodreads: When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic… and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a lot about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.

Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control. But this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down…and she might end up breaking her own heart.

Amazon | Barnes and NobleBook DepositoryGoodreads

I’d actually had this book on my wish list for a while, but never picked it up because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend the money on a hardback when I wasn’t quite sure I’d enjoy the book. But then I saw it in paperback at BN when I was picking up another book, so I added it to my bag – and I’m so glad I did! I actually like having it in paperback; it’s well-bound, and the pages are really soft. While this book isn’t one that I’m adding to my favorites shelf, I truly enjoyed it and I’ll be reading it again in the future. If you’re looking for a good representation of mental illness in YA, this is one for you.

I really do need to take a moment and applaud Haydu for writing so honestly and truthfully about OCD. I’m no psychiatrist, but from what I’ve studied and researched, this was a very faithful portrayal of the disorder. And what’s even better is that Beck and Bea weren’t defined by their compulsions – they were people, not just their diagnoses. But that’s not to say that the OCD was pushed aside; it’s actually one of the focuses of the novel, especially in the second half. It was harrowing, and to be honest a bit disturbing, to get into that mental place with Bea as her compulsions get worse. But if it had been done any other way, it wouldn’t have been true to the reality of the disorder – OCD isn’t just a joke; it can be very serious. And I’m really glad that Bea actually had to face the consequences (serious ones, at that) of her actions.

Obviously, this is a romance. I mean, it’s in the title, so no spoilers there. Beck and Bea’s relationships was a conglomerated mess of healing and regressing and jumping all over the map. Kind of like playing the lava game as a kid: where can I put my foot so I cause the least damage? Or can I even step there at all? Their romance was kind of like that – a tiptoe game as they tried to work past their individual compulsions so that they could be together and just relax. And in their really screwed up loopy-loops of falling in love, it felt so real. It wasn’t magic and fireworks and sudden acknowledgments of mutual affection: it was messy and angry and painful, but also beautiful and healing and supportive.

I’d also like to note one of the themes: mental illness doesn’t just go away. It will always be there, some days more than others. It’s not like Beck or Bea were miraculously “cured” – they just had to learn how to not allow their compulsions to take over their lives. It was more about acceptance of themselves, not erasure of their pasts.

A lot of people on GR note that this isn’t a fluffy story; I actually have to disagree with that. While I won’t be Saturating this book, I’d just like to make note that I feel the brightness of the cover and colors fit this story perfectly. Despite the looming force of the OCD, I ultimately felt that OCD Love Story was quite hopeful and optimistic. It was easy to read, with a unique narrative voice that felt very real, and I sped through the book in a few short hours without needing to take a moment to remove myself for a break. It just made me happy and at ease. I may be the black sheep here, but it was a perfect light read for me after finishing Heir of Fire (which gave me a hangover of epic proportions).

In the end, I recommend this for sure. Not just for the representation in YA aspect (which is really important and deserves recognition), but for the story itself. It’s just a really good book that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend to anyone looking for a quick, entertaining contemporary with a bit of heartfelt romance that gives you the fuzzy feels.

My Final Rating:

Four stars

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Review: Crash Into Me by Albert Borris

Title: Crash Into Me
Author: Albert Borris
Pages: 257
Genre: YA, contemporary
Series? No
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: July 7, 2009

Synopsis from Goodreads: Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: they all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides…and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living–or if there’s no turning back.

Crash Into Me puts readers in the driver’s seat with four teens teetering on the edge of suicide. But will their cross country odyssey push them all the way over? Only the final page turn will tell, in Albert Borris’s finely-crafted tale of friendship forged from a desperate need of connection.

Thoughts and Rambling

First of all, super thanks to Andi for sending me this one! It was a nice read for my night. I actually finished this one in two hours, and despite the fact that I’m not raving about it, it’s stuck with me for a while now, even before I sat down to write my review. At first I thought it’d be a tearjerker – I mean, did you read the synopsis? But instead I was left feeling melancholy, and a little bit lonely. And I’m not sure why, to be honest. This book hit me right in the chest, and despite the depressing subject matter, the little bit of hope at the end turned my melancholy into a bittersweet smile.

Oh, and there will be spoilers in the plot section, just because in order to fully explain why I felt the way I did, I need to bring up the entire plot and the way everything turned out.
Character Bar

There were actually only four characters in this book, disregarding incidental characters that the four encountered. I was really happy to find that they were all pretty well developed, even though I would have liked to get just a bit more information about their backgrounds before they all met up to make the Suicide Dogs.

Owen: I identified with Owen the most, as far as personality. He’s very introverted, researches strange topics obsessively, and full of facts that he finds interesting but most people find useless and time-wasting. His narration was a bit fractured for me, and a bit lacking in detail, but that’s the kind of person he was. Not entirely there in the moment, but rather stuck in his head and his own memories and how he interprets his surroundings. Out of the four, I think he was the most suited to be the narrator – the most level-headed. Which is ironic, seeing as he’s the one who comes closest to actually committing suicide in the end. But in that attempt, it also showcases how truly central he is to the characters and their journey.

Jin-Ae: I actually liked Jin-Ae the least, but not for any particular reason actually. She just didn’t have the same emotional impact as the other characters did, probably because her main issue was the fact that she couldn’t come out as gay to her parents. Being straight myself, that immediately created a bit of an issue when trying to relate to her. Her personality, however, was the most sunshiny out of all four. She’s a bit wacky, but in an endearing way. If Owen was the head of the four, Jin-Ae’s the heart.

Frank: I’m alternately liking and disliking Frank. Though I think dislike is the wrong word – I felt the most angry at him, because he was destroying himself and his friends in the process with his drinking. He constantly said how his father was an alcoholic and he hated it, but then followed that same path. But in that, I think Frank had some of the best growth out of the four. He made the choice to not be like his father, in the end, and I found myself warming up to him as the book progressed. Frank was like the backbone in the group, making sure they had food and a place to sleep, not to mention doing most of the driving.

Audrey: Audrey actually reminds me a lot of Alaska Young from John Green’s book. She’s the head of most of their crazier plans, and is a compulsive liar to top it off. I think Audrey is the portrait of depression that people most often dismiss: she didn’t have anything horrifically tragic (not compared to Owen at least), but that doesn’t make her depression any less real. And in that I loved her, because when she finally was honest about everything, she was just a person, not a headline about a pedophile stepfather. In that she became the most relatable, and she’s probably my favorite character out of the four. Audrey is the soul that carried all of them through the journey, and forced them to see that there’s a possibility of a future.
Concept and Plot

Concept: Definitely unique, as far as I’ve read in the YA contemporary genre. I’ve found that I really do enjoy these “hard topic” books, because if they’re done the right way they really leave an impression on me. For CIM, I’d say it was halfway there. I liked the final message of the book, but the getting there was a little shaky.

Plot: I liked how it started, but it became a bit convoluted when the characters started taking all their side trips to the locations that weren’t suicide markers or graves. They were important for the development of the four, but I think it could have been spaced a bit better for pacing issues. And the very end came up a bit abrupt for me; I would have liked to see what happened to the four after they decide to live – the repercussions of it all and how they moved on and began to truly live.

I did like the finally message of the plot, though, and how it was handled. Life is worth living – no matter how horrid it may seem in this moment. There’s something to live for, no matter how small or how far out and unrealistic it is. Also, even though the end wasn’t climatic or some huge revelation about life, I think it was more realistic. There’s not always an epiphany – it’s just the small realization, that, hey, I want to live. There are still problems and pains and tears to fight through, but the simple fact that you’ve decided to live is all you need sometimes. Not a blown up dramatic moment where everything is suddenly right in the world.
Writing Style

There was a bit of bouncing back and forth in time, in the shape of the IM messages the four sent each other before meeting in real life being interspersed with real time and the road trip. In this case I think it worked, because their plans and personalities were all slowly unwoven as the book progressed. And I really liked the Top Ten lists that they kept creating – they demonstrated the changing mindsets of all four from set on suicide to hopeful for a future. Last Thoughts

No, I’m not raving about this book. There were a few problems, like not feeling there was as much backstory as there could have been, and a slightly meandering plot. But I’m glad I read this nevertheless, because it gave me a lot to think about, and a little bit of hope for myself. Crash Into Me will stick with me for a while, and I recommend it for a quick read, at least once.

My Final Rating: (technically a 3.5)

Three Stars

Find the book at:

Amazon |  Barnes and NobleBook DepositoryGoodreads

Food for thought (sound off in the comments!)

If you’ve read the book: 

  • Who was your favorite out of the four main characters? Do you think Owen was a reliable narrator? Would multiple perspectives work better for this kind of book?
  • Did you think that Audrey was just a faker, or do you think she suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies just as much as the others, even though she had lied about what really happened to her?

If you haven’t:

  • How do you feel about “hard topic” books? Do you think they’re more for the exploitation of headline issues, or do you think YA authors should address them more often?
  • Do you think depression in characters should only be used if they have a traumatic past, or do you think authors should write more characters that struggle with depression even if they haven’t experienced tragedy?

The Program

Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Pages: 405
Genre: Dystopia, romance, YA
Series? Yes – #1 of The Program series
Publisher: Simon Pulse (2013)
Rating: 5/6 – I loved it!

Synopsis from cover: Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone – but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they’ve made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in.

And The Program is coming for them.

My Initial Thoughts/Rambling: I love me some solid dystopia, and I wasn’t disappointed with this one! I heard about it a few weeks ago, and it’s been on the top of my wishlist since then. I finally had the extra cash, so I drove myself to Barnes and Noble, plunked down the $18, and sat at Starbucks for an hour and read half of the book. If you remember my rambling from this post, you’ll know I must have really wanted the book if I bought it in hardback instead of waiting for paperback.

What did I think about the characters? The best part about this book was the fact that James and Sloane were already established as being in a relationship: we didn’t have to waste 100 pages getting to their “I love you” moment. With a pre-established romance, I fell in love with these characters in an instant. They’re perfect complements to each other, but are solid characters on their own as well. Sloane, at times, can be a bit whiny, and cries a lot, but she pulls it together in the second half of the book and actually starts looking past her own issues and looking to help her friends.

And the concept and plot? Concept: A+ on this one! The idea that suicide is an contagious epidemic is intriguing, to say the least. However: if (in this version of society) suicide and depression is a tangible and spreadable illness like a cold (I’m ignoring my personal opinions on this topic and writing as if that fact was true), why can’t they identify what causes it? I mean, they have pills that can target and erase your memories. It’s a bit of a stretch for me to imagine that they can create that, but not identify a trigger for depression and suicide. I would have liked a bit more world-building, because the whole book is confined to the school, The Program, or the river. 

Plot: While it took a different turn than I was expecting, I was along for the ride the whole way! It was fast-paced and thrilling, never slowing or meandering through useless territory. Every page counted, and I enjoyed it from cover to cover.

What about the writing style? One word for you: compelling. Young has a way of sucking you in and gripping you even after the final page is finished. 

Anything else you’d like to add? I think I might have screeched a bit at the cliff-hanger ending. When I bought the book, I had no idea it would be a series, so you can imagine my surprise! And this book just came out in April too… It’s going to be a long wait. I’ll definitely be buying the next one, and probably other books from this author as well!