“I think on some girls falling in love is a kind of weakness, a willingness to give up everything else. But on me, on my shape and body and heart, falling in love is the opposite. It’s the strongest thing I’ve ever done.”
Title: OCD Love Story
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
In this raw and relatable romance, Bea learns that some things just can’t be controlled.
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…
This book was quirky, messed up, and awesome. When I first heard about it, I was REALLY excited/nervous. Excited, because a book about mental illness with a group therapy romance is right up my ally, but nervous, because I wasn’t sure I’d buy the whole stalking-as-compulsion thing.
I’m very happy to say that Corey Ann Haydu met my expectations and then some! She totally sold me on the believability of Bea’s compulsions, and on Bea herself. Having experience with anxiety and OCD myself, I totally related to her and her struggles. Bea is the most honest character I’ve read in a while, and her voice was truly unique and refreshing. I thought it was really interesting and heartbreaking how she prevented herself from being helped for so long because she didn’t want to think of herself as “crazy”. I think that’s a struggle a lot of mentally ill people go through, because rather than seeing it as a sickness, people see mental illness as a character flaw.
I was also intrigued by Bea’s compulsive worry that she would hurt someone because she had something bad inside her. This was probably at least partially related to the fact that she collected so many articles about violence, but also because people see those with mental illness as loose cannons waiting to go off. However, it’s not the mental illness itself that causes violence. You don’t have to be officially depressed to commit suicide, and illnesses like anxiety and schizophrenia rarely cause violence on their own. People link mental illness to violence because it helps them explain why people do terrible things, which then creates a negative stigma that’s hard to come out from under.
Anyway, back to the book.
Another thing Corey Ann Haydu was amazing at was making the reader feel Bea’s anxiety. I imagine this would be uncomfortable for some people, but it’s also useful in helping those without mental illness understand what goes on in the heads of people who have it. I understood and related to Bea’s anxious ramblings, and felt Corey Ann Haydu captured the thought process of a person with anxiety perfectly.
Haydu also explored what it’s like to be friends with a mentally ill person in what I thought was a realistic way. Lisha may not be the best friend Bea could’ve had, but at heart, she really cared about Bea and did her best to help her friend. However, there were a lot of moments with Lisha that I thought were questionable. At the very beginning of the story, Bea mentions how Dr. Pat sees Lisha as an enabler, and I think that a lot of the time, she is. Then, of course, we have the time Bea takes Beck to Lisha’s dance recital and Lisha basically tells them to get lost because they’re being “weird” and embarrassing her. It was like Lisha thought that just by hanging out with Bea and Beck, people would think she was crazy and weird too, and that fear made her say really stupid and insensitive things.
Onto Beck. Oh Beck, you are a classic sick puppy. If I met Beck, I would probably love him as much as Bea does, because I kind of have thing for messed-up men. It’s actually been a bit of a problem in the past. Anyhow, I adored Beck and all his compulsions. I liked how the reasons for his compulsions were gradually revealed, and I hope that will make readers more sympathetic to him and prevent them from writing him off as simply weird or creepy.
On that note, I think it’s important to talk about Bea in terms of being a sympathetic character. A lot of the reviews on Goodreads were negative because the reviewers thought Bea was just creepy, but it seemed like they didn’t do much to try to understand her. They just got the word “stalker” in their heads and couldn’t continue the story with an open mind. You are supposed to sympathize with Bea: she’s not a bad person, and she doesn’t stalk with any sketchy motivation; she just can’t help it. She wants to make sure the people she follows are okay, which is likely linked to her overwhelming fear of hurting someone.
I also loved how the romance with Beck helped Bea grow. I love the quote at the top of this post because I think it’s so true. Some people fall in love because it’s easy and they’re willing to give up everything else about themselves, but for others, it’s a sign of strength because you’re letting someone in. In Bea’s case, I think it’s also true that loving Beck allowed her to begin to love herself. For Bea, loving someone else is a sign of strength in a way I don’t feel it is for most female YA protagonists.
OCD Love Story is just powerful and eye-opening all around. It will propel you into a different world and make you squirm in all the right ways. You will laugh with Bea, cry with Bea, and be really, super anxious with Bea. Corey Ann Haydu is an amazing storyteller and now has a solid place on my auto-buy list.