Book Review: OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

13326677OCD Love Story
by Corey Ann Haydu
July 23, 2013
Simon Pulse
352 pages
Source: NetGalley–Thanks Simon Pulse:)

Synopsis

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 down…and she might end up breaking her own heart. (Goodreads Summary.)

My Take On It

So here are the catch words I wrote down after finishing OCD Love Story: Intense, harrowing, anxious, stressful, cringe worthy, heart racing, sad, hopeful. I felt ALL of these emotions as I was reading this book. It’s a tough read. Or at least it was for me. It reminded me a bit of Hilary T. Smith’s Wild Awake (read my review HERE), especially the parts of that book where protagonist Kiri is in full-on manic mode. The difference is that in OCD Love Story, protagonist Bea is pretty much ALWAYS like that. Always full of anxiety. Always compulsing and obsessing over things and people in her life. It was hard to read because I rarely had time to catch my breath. It just kept going on and on. Which is probably why I had to take a step back from the book as I was reading it. I think I put it down for almost a month before picking it back up again and finishing it.

Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I didn’t walk away from the book because it’s bad, because it’s not. In fact it is extremely well written. Corey Ann Haydu definitely has her writing chops in check. I walked away because of the intensity. It was HARD to be in Bea’s mind for long periods of time. It was exhausting. I felt super stressed out as I was reading. And I’m betting that that is exactly what Haydu was going for when she wrote this book.

My personal experience with OCD and other anxiety disorders is pretty limited. I do have a distant family member who has been diagnosed with compulsion issues and I can tell you it is not easy being around him.  It’s the same with Bea and Beck in this book. Both these kids were to me VERY likable characters. And very sympathetic characters. The thing about Bea is she KNOWS how out of hand her behavior can get. When she is in the middle of a full blown anxiety attack, or when she is in the middle of acting completely erratically and, let’s just say it because Bea does, CRAZY, she knows it. At the beginning of the book, Bea does have some denial issues when her therapist Dr. Pat (who is SUCH a great character, one of my fave’s in the book) wants to start treating her for anxiety disorder. But by the half way point, Bea fully comprehends just how bad her illness has become.

So, like I said, because of this it’s very easy to like Bea and want to see her get better. It’s easy to want to cheer her on and watch her overcome her illness. Even when her disorder causes her to do things that will absolutely make you CRINGE in embarrassment. In fact, especially then, because Bea is almost like an outsider looking in–her disorder just takes over and even though she knows she REALLY shouldn’t be saying certain things or doing certain things, she is HELPLESS to stop it.

There are all sorts of things that trigger anxiety in Bea. Sharp objects: she’s obsessed with the fact that anyone, even her, especially her, could pick up a pair of scissors or something and hurt someone. Driving: Bea can barely make it from point A to B because she is so worried she will accidentally hit something or someone. In fact, she often has to turn around again and again to double back and make sure that she really didn’t just hit that kid on the tricycle. It’s like when you run back inside your house to make sure your turned off the curling iron or locked the back door times 1,000.

And then there is Bea’s most disturbing fixation on a couple who are also patients of Dr. Pat’s that she begins watching. The watching turns to listening in and transcribing their therapy sessions, which then leads to her following them home which then leads to full on stalking. And why? Because she fears something will happen to them if she doesn’t keep watch over them.  It’s this kind of erratic behavior that makes up the ‘OCD’ part of OCD Love Story. 

So what about the ‘Love Story’ part? It’s there. In the beginning of the book, Bea meets Beck at a school dance. The lights have gone out in the gym, and Bea senses that a nearby boy is having a panic attack. Turns out it’s Beck. When she runs into him a few days later at her first group therapy session a friendship forms.

Beck has got a lot of issues as well. He’s a compulsive hand washer. He’s obsessed with the number 8. And he compulsively works out. To the point that his body gives out on him. As a result he looks pretty menacing–but Beck is a very fragile, broken guy on the inside. I really did love the romance that develops between these two. But again, it was HARD to read. I loved that they both turned to each other and tried to help each other with their disorders, but it’s not a really conventional romance. Part of me felt like they really were in no way ready to enter into an emotional or physical relationship–they both had SO MANY PROBLEMS. But on the other hand, I think the benefits of them finding each other and working on having some kind of normal relationship outweighed the negative aspects.

I mentioned how much I liked Dr. Pat, Bea and Beck’s therapist. She was great. But there was also a character that I had a lot of negative feelings about and that was Bea’s best friend Lisha. I won’t go into details but Lisha is an enabler and while I can understand how that happens, Lisha does some things in this book that really bothered me.

I know this review might be all over the place, and that is probably a good indicator of how I felt as I was reading. But in the end I liked this book a lot. It was tough, but I liked getting this inside view of what it is like to live with anxiety and compulsion disorders. I have a new found respect for the people who live with them, as well as their friends and families that deal with it, and the individuals who help treat them.

And remember one of my catch words was HOPE. Because this book does have a lot of that in it too. Bea and Beck do have breakthrough moments, one happens to Bea while she is driving with Dr. Pat, and those are WONDERFUL to read. I walked away from this book feeling like both Bea and Beck, while not magically cured, have reached a turning point, and the future looks brighter for both of them.

So, would I recommend this book to others? Yes. I realize that it may not be a book for everyone–there is no denying that it was an uncomfortable read for me at times, but it exposed me to something that MANY people live with on a day to day basis and I think that is a very, very good thing in the end.  Kudos to Corey Ann Haydu for having the balls to write a book like this. I’ll definitely be watching for more from her in the future.