Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized. When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

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This book has been pitched as Eleanor and Park meets The Fault in Our Stars and I think that’s a pretty accurate statement. In short, it’s a (frustrating) love story between two best friends, Matthew and Amy. One suffers from mental health issues and the other is physically disabled. Although they face major challenges, they find hope in each other. Told in dual 3rd person point of view, readers are treated to a first-love romance filled with anticipation, confusion, and insecurity. Their relationship is tested time and time again as the pair can never get out the right words to explain their feelings. There is plenty of drama to go around, especially with Amy’s shocking twist. I didn’t feel it was necessary to move the plot forward, and wish McGovern did without it. Overall, a quick new adult read with plenty of drama.

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The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

‘A compassionate, funny, heartwarming story about a band of misfit teens. It’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for the YA set’ – Susin Nielson

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This book came to my attention as a recent recipient of the 2013 Governor General Literacy Award for Children’s Text. This award winning title beautifully captures life for those living with OCD.  Through OCD group therapy, readers learn the many aspects and triggers of OCD.  Their therapist, Chuck encourages them to choose superheroes as alter-egos, and they are referred to by their chosen name the remainder of the book.  There are a few touches of comic book Wham! Pow! type illustrations throughout.

The main character Adam (aka ‘Batman’) identifies his compulsions as ordering, tapping, counting, and magical thinking (threshold issues with entering certain doors).  We watch as Adam gets progressively worse as his family stress begins to take a major toll on him.   Although he falls for fellow group member, Robyn immediately, he painfully recognizes that he is affecting her recovery and breaks it off. His struggles are well documented in his homework lists instructed by Chuck.

Through his councillor Chuck and the group therapy sessions, I learned a lot about OCD.  Toten’s research to portray Adam and mental health issues is evident. Although the right med combination and dosage helps, I can’t imagine daily life for these individuals.  I can only hope that one day, Adam attains his ‘heaven’, “a quiet mind. Quiet. Shh (p.208).”

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