Booklist: OCD Fiction for Teens

susan wiggs

Like having “an AD(H)D moment,” another phrase that drives me up a wall is when people start saying that they have “a little OCD.” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not just a desire for a bit of order, or getting an urge for spring cleaning. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a disability, one that often gets misdiagnosed and is misunderstood. About 1 in 200 teens have OCD, according to a 2009 study, with as many as 3 in 100 adults having OCD.

Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser was the first OCD fiction book for teens, with an OCD main character, and was published in 1999. However, it’s only been in the last four years, as this hidden disability has been more and more accepted, that there has been an influx of OCD fiction for teens. Below I’ve put together an OCD fiction booklist- if you know of more with OCD teen main characters, please share in the comments!

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu:  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. Simon Pulse, 2013. ISBN: 9781442457324.

OCD, the Dude and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn: With frizzy orange hair, a plus-sized body, sarcastic demeanor, and “unique learning profile,” Danielle Levine doesn’t fit in even at her alternative high school. While navigating her doomed social life, she writes scathing, self-aware, and sometimes downright raunchy essays for English class. As a result of her unfiltered writing style, she is forced to see the school psychologist and enroll in a “social skills” class. But when she meets Daniel, another social misfit who is obsessed with the cult classic film The Big Lebowski, Danielle’s resolve to keep everyone at arm’s length starts to crumble. Penguin Young Reader Group, 2013. ISBN: 9780803738430.

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. HarperCollins, 2014. ISBN: 9780062271105.

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Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone:  Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off. Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist. Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear. Disney-Hyperion, 2015. ISBN: 9781484705278.

Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz:  Fig’s world lies somewhere between reality and fantasy. But as she watches Mama slowly come undone, it becomes hard to tell what is real and what is not, what is fun and what is frightening. To save Mama, Fig begins a fierce battle to bring her back. She knows that her daily sacrifices, like not touching metal one day or avoiding water the next, are the only way to cure Mama. The problem is that in the process of a daily sacrifice, Fig begins to lose herself as well, increasingly isolating herself from her classmates and engaging in self-destructive behavior that only further sets her apart. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015. ISBN: 9781481423588.

Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo: Chuck Taylor’s OCD has rendered him a high school outcast. His endless routines and habitual hand washing threaten to scare away both his closest friend and the amazing new girl in town. Sure he happens to share the name of the icon behind the coolest sneakers in the world, but even Chuck knows his bizarre system of wearing different color “Cons” depending on his mood is completely crazy. With graduation looming, Chuck finds himself with one last chance to face his inner demons, defend his best friend, and win over the girl of his dreams. No matter what happens, though, he’ll have to get his hands dirty. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2012. ISBN: 9780374343965.

Not as Crazy as I Seem by George Harrar: Devon Brown won’t eat in the school caf (a germ swamp). He covers his hands before opening doors, eats things in groups of four (his lucky number), and hangs up his shirts (with all their buttons buttoned) by color. Some kids say Devon’s crazy, but he knows better—these are the tricks that keep bad things from happening, and he can’t imagine giving them up. Devon calls it “controlling things.” His doctor calls it obsessive-compulsive disorder. When Devon starts at a new school, his compulsions start to get him in trouble, and before long he realizes that his only choice is to confront his behaviors and the events that trigger them. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2004. (reprint edition) ISBN: 9780618494804.

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Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten: The instant Adam Spencer Ross meets Robyn Plummer in his Young Adult OCD Support Group, he is hopelessly, desperately drawn to her. Robyn has an hypnotic voice, blue eyes the shade of an angry sky, and ravishing beauty that makes Adam’s insides ache. She’s also just been released from a residential psychiatric program—the kind for the worst, most difficult-to-cure cases; the kind that Adam and his fellow support group members will do anything to avoid joining. Adam immediately knows that he has to save Robyn, must save Robyn, or die trying. But is it really Robyn who needs rescuing? And is it possible to have a normal relationship when your life is anything but? Delacorte Press, 2015. ISBN: 978-0553507867.

Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe:  Saturday will be the third state soccer champion­ship in a row for Jake Martin. Three. A good number.Prime. With Jake on the field, Carson City High can’t lose because Jake has the magic: a self-created protection generated by his obsession with prime numbers. It’s the magic that has every top soccer university recruiting Jake, the magic that keeps his family safe, and the magic that suppresses his anxiety attacks. But the magic is Jake’s prison, because sustaining it means his compulsions take over nearly every aspect of his life. Jake’s convinced the magic will be permanent after Saturday, the perfect day, when every prime has converged. Once the game is over, he won’t have to rely on his sister to concoct excuses for his odd rituals. His dad will stop treating him like he is some freak. Maybe he’ll even make a friend other than Luc. But what if the magic doesn’t stay? What if the numbers never leave? Balzer + Bray, 2011. ISBN: 9780061993862.

A Scene in a Scary Movie by Matt Blackstone: Rene, an obsessive-compulsive fourteen year old, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he’s nervous. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle when the time adds up to thirteen (7:42 is bad luck because 7 + 4 + 2 = 13), or washes his body parts in the wrong order, Rene or someone close to him will break a bone, contract a deadly virus, and/or die a slow and painful death like someone in a scary scene in scary movie. Rene’s new and only friend tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but that’s not as easy as Gio makes it sound. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. ISBN: 9780374364212.

Total Constant Order by Crissa-Jean Chappell: Fin can’t stop counting. She’s always heard a voice inside her head, ordering her to listen, but ever since she’s moved to the Sunshine State and her parents split up, numbers thump like a metronome, rhythmically keeping things in control. When a new doctor introduces terms such as “clinical depression” and “OCD” and offers a prescription for medication, the chemical effects make Fin feel even more messed up. Until she meets Thayer, a doodling, rule-bending skater who buzzes to his own beat—and who might just understand Fin’s hunger to belong, and her struggle for total constant order. Katherine Tagen Books, 2007. ISBN: 9780060886066.

and coming in August

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Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne: All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list… But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love? Usbourne Publishing, August 2015. ISBN:  9781409590309.

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