Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe Review

CompulsionCompulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Today has to be perfect.
I look at the clock.
10:14 am.
Ten fourteen. One plus one is two plus four is six plus ten is sixteen minus one is fifteen minus two is thirteen. OK.

I turn from the clock and walk into the hallway. "Ready.”

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 getting 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, Kasey, 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 it doesn’t work?

What if the numbers never go away?

Acclaimed author Heidi Ayarbe has created an honest and riveting portrait of a teen struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder in this courageous and breathtaking novel.

My take: I love that someone wrote a book about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from the POV of the person suffering from it. I loved Monk because 1) it brought OCD some daylight and 2) OCD makes no sense at all except inside the person's head but it can be entertaining to everybody else 3) even a person suffering from OCD. Not that I'd know anything about that. AHEM.

In painstaking detail, the author provides the thinking process of Jacob Martin, a person suffering from OCD all the time. She also provides a peek into Jake's cognitive understanding that he is not normal. He knows he is crazy and he wants to stop but until he can "magically" stop believing in magic (circular, isn't it?), he has to hide his crazy. He walks the tightrope of satisfying his compulsions yet acting reasonably normal. Both of these pulls are extremely strong.

The irony is painful. Jacob does his rituals to satisfy the "safety god" who will keep his sister, Kasey safe. The time must add, subtract, multiply or divide into a prime number. He must count so many times as he takes each step in his routine. He must touch the grandfather clock three times (prime) and a million different rules that, if he messes it up or thinks he might have messed it up, he must start over. Meanwhile, his sister is in mortal danger. But he can't break away until he has done everything "right."

Jacob's mother is also a flaming OCD-ist, manifesting in her obsession that she has hit someone in the car. She will backtrack all night to make sure she didn't cause injury. And, yes, the irony is not lost on the mental health professional or even the person suffering from OCD. The more backtracking a person does, the more possibility she has of hitting a pedestrian, cyclist, or whoever which causes more backtracking. Ultimately, the reader understands that OCD is genetic.

The only disappointments I had were these:

1. The swearing. I would LOVE to use this book to help some of my clients not feel so isolated and weird. However, there is also religious OCD and the "f" word does not fit in that framework. And it is abundant.

2. The author begins with the first step for getting help - admitting the disturbing thoughts or rituals. I would have liked to have it named and provided more direction for help.

Despite my disappointments, I found the thought process of Jacob Martin to be exhausting and classic OCD.

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