Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Wesley King
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is commonly misunderstood, and Daniel doesn’t even know he has it. Although Daniel recognizes his strange tendencies—the “Zaps” that force him to repeat actions like tapping and stepping on cracks, the intensive “Routine” every night—he feels powerless to overcome them. Unexpectedly, a fellow student named Sara, with oddities of her own, enlists Daniel’s help to track down her missing father. When they break into a suspect’s home to search for clues, one of Daniel’s Zaps almost gets them caught. But Daniel and Sara persist in their investigation and discover that Sara’s dad had overdosed on medication, and Sara learns that her father battled depression just like she does. Meanwhile, Sara lends Daniel a book about OCD that helps him realize that his issues have a name, and he builds the courage to attend a support group for teenagers dealing with mental illnesses.
Author Wesley King writes from the heart, because he personally confronts OCD. His keen insight on the disorder guides the novel as it teeters between insightful and shocking. Readers quickly begin to sympathize with the suffering that Daniel bravely endures alone. Despite the heavy tones of mental illness and suicide, the book contains many humorous and lighthearted scenes. For example, Daniel writes fun science fiction to help him avoid the Zaps, and he gets some funny dating advice from his older brother. Touchingly, Daniel finds in Sara—someone he previously misunderstood—the hope and support he needs, while she reciprocally receives the same. Teachers looking to help students build understanding about mental illness, as well as parents whose children deal with mental illness themselves, could employ this book in their efforts.