Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mental Illness
Source: E-Galley from publisher via NetGalley
Guys, this book was great. It centered around poetry (which I hate. I really hate poetry) and a girl with OCD. I’m always scared to read about mental illness because I feel like this is a tricky book to do well nowadays. However, Stone did this beautifully and I have a lot to gush about. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:
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.
1. Samantha is your basic popular girl…with one little twist.
This story opens with Samantha having a breakdown involving her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). She has the type of OCD that focuses on internal thoughts and obsessing rather than the outward tics that people are used to seeing on TV shows documenting people with the illness. She has a thought that goes into her head when she and her friends are assembling roses for a school activity. She has a thought that she could just cut her friend’s hair off and just keep cutting. This is how we’re introduced to her OCD. Then, we see her life. She is an athletic swimmer and a super popular girl at school who is a part of the Crazy Eights (her group of friends). The Eights run the school, even though they’re only five now. The Eights are the worst. The absolute worst.
2. One more thing before I get super into what I thought about the book:
Sam has a “thing” with the number 3. All of the chapter titles are three words long. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to figure this out. However, I thought this was insanely clever of Stone and I appreciated that little touch SO much.
3. It’s refreshing to see a main character with a mental illness actually look forward to seeing her therapist.
Shrink-Sue is Sam’s therapist and she loves Wednesdays with her. I think love could be used loosely, but she doesn’t kick and scream about going to her therapist appointments like I’ve seen in other books with mental illness. Sue is a genius. If I had a therapist, I would want her to be Sue. There is a particularly heartbreaking part towards the end (which I won’t tell you about) and Sue is immediately there for Sam, no questions asked, and she even brings Sam to her house after hours so she can make sure she’s okay.
Caroline is a new friend Sam meets on the first day of school who really sets this whole story into motion. When Sam freaks out about a thought, she needs a dark place to collect her thoughts. At school, that place is the theatre. On her first day, she meets Caroline. The next day, Caroline introduces her to Poet’s Corner – a secret poetry club hidden behind the stage. There, Sam meets AJ who seems to be the keyholder of this organization, and Sam doesn’t quite know why AJ hates her so much. When Sam finally figures it out, no wonder. But don’t worry, I won’t tell you.
5. Poet’s Corner.
I hate poetry. I hate writing it and I hate reading it. The poets in this book are so eccentric and wonderful that I found myself falling in love with each character. When they read at Poet’s Corner, they always say where they wrote the poem and when they’re done, they glue their poems on the walls. The walls are covered in different hues of paper all sporting poems of all kinds. Some are funny, some are heartfelt, and some are heartbreaking. Poet’s Corner itself is almost like a character in this book and I really can’t tell you much more about it.
6. The romance is just too much (in a good way).
Maybe it’s because I’ve been super sensitive lately, but the romance in this book is too cute. Sam has a lot of problems, especially when it comes to relationships with other people. Shrink-Sue always tells Sam to get away from the Eights because they’re simply horrible people (she’s right) and is always trying to get her to find more healthy relationships with friends. When she meets Caroline, she feels calm for the first time in a long time. There is none of the harsh judgment as with her other “friends” (who I think are horrible, horrible jerks). The romance, I’m sure you know who it’s with, is so stinking cute, I had tears coming out of my face. Sam hides her OCD from everyone at school, so that is a huge part of this book. She struggles to come to terms with her disease (she calls it her “broken brain”) and she really tries to see it as something special rather than a hindrance.
OVERALL: 4 STARS! I really loved this. I read two books about mental illness (the one before this was Made You Up by Francesca Zappia) in a row. This one involved OCD and I always forget how debilitating it is for people who suffer from this. A lot of people who suffer from OCD have a hard time having friends or being productive because they’re always worried about their obsessions. The author’s note explains that the a friend of hers has a daughter who was diagnosed with OCD when she was seven and that this story was inspired by her. That made even more tears come out of my face. You need this book in your life. It comes out on June 16, so click the link below to preorder!