Samantha, who prefers to be known as Sam, has OCD. She was diagnosed with a severe case when she was 10. She’s been hiding it from her friends ever since. But, what happens when she discovers an underground poetry club and meets AJ, the boy she used to bully when she was younger? Is there room for redemption, or will Sam always refer to herself as the “crazy” girl.
!Unpopular Opinion Post!
Genre: YA Mental Healthy/Romance
Release Date: June 2015
On My Shelf: No
*Disclaimer: I am about to write out everything I disliked and quite frankly hated about this book. Do not take my thoughts about this book as equivalent to my thoughts about this author. Do I think this book is trash? Yes. Do I think Tamara Ireland Price is trash? Absolutely not. I think she honestly tried her best and wanted to write a book that helped and informed people, but, to me, it just didn’t come off the way she wanted it to. I want it to be clear that my thoughts on this book DO NOT equal my thoughts about Price as a person.*
With that said, here we go. This is going to be a long one.
This book was originally hard for me to rate, because after finishing it I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t really like it. It took much reflection and writing out this review/my thoughts before I realized how toxic this book actually is.
It was hard for me to be objective about this one since OCD is a close topic for me. And, by close, I mean I’m diagnosed with it. And, it’s honestly an exhausting mental disorder and this book wasn’t. It was light and fluffy and romantic. Basically everything OCD isn’t.
I’m going to focus mostly on plot and character development in this review, so I’m just going to get this out of the way right now: The writing was fine – pretty good. Nothing to really complain about, so that didn’t affect my rating. Here’s what did.
The first 100 pages started off, quite frankly, great. This book was on its way to 4 stars. I didn’t really have many complaints. The plot was a little unbelievable, but I suspended my disbelief, especially after the character of Caroline was introduced. She was cool, and our protagonist Sam was bearable, even if her “friends” were far from. I honestly did not like her relationship with her toxic “friends” as a plot point. It was like a bad retelling of Mean Girls. But, it was fine. Whatever. The plot wasn’t super engaging, but I was enjoying the story.
And, towards the beginning, I even felt that Sam’s OCD, though significantly toned down, was fairly accurate. That all changed REALLY quickly, though. I did like that Sam had supportive parents and an awesome shrink. It was great to see some healthy relationships. Although, I can tell you that no mother is going to tell their daughter to hide their mental health from their closest “friends” and put up with, honestly, some pretty serious bullying/abuse for the sake of being part of the popular crowd and having “friends” and “fitting in.” Also, even though Sam’s parents were mentioned frequently in the beginning, they rapidly disappeared into a vague mention here and there after the introduction of the love interest, AJ.
AJ was alright, but incredibly bland. He was a kid with dark shaggy hair who writes poetry and plays guitar. Please excuse me while I choke on this trope. Then, INSA-LOVE. And that’s when this book went down to 3 stars.
Here’s a little more on why else.
As the book went on, Sam’s OCD went from being described as severe to barely making any appearances in the story at all, only coming up when it was convenient to the plot. Sam was diagnosed with severe OCD at the age of 10, and she has been successfully hiding it from everyone since, and, among her “best friends” since forever. I have a mild-to-moderate diagnose of OCD, and I have never been able to hide it very successfully. It always slips out because, shocker, it’s hard to control. It was especially hard to hide when I was young and didn’t fully understand it. There is no way Sam could possibly hide her “severe” OCD from everyone, and especially not from her bitch-tastic best friends who notice literally every little thing down to an out-of-place hair. It’s so unrealistic.
Now back to the insta-love that actually coasts pretty unsettlingly over bullying, which was used as a plot ploy and not to actually discuss the negative effects and consequences of serious bullying. One week Sam meets AJ. the next week she realizes that her and her Mean Girl ring leader friend Kaitlyn made fun of AJ’s stutter so bad in elementary school that he had to switch schools. But, you know, Sam apologized, so naturally AJ has to fall in love with her because she’s insanely in love with him. Oh, also, he’s hot now and doesn’t stutter at all anymore, so he’s perfect and perfect for her now. So, naturally they fall quickly into the throes of passion and cannot get enough of each other. AJ seems to not care that Sam once bullied him, let me repeat, to the point he had to switch schools to get away from her, and he thinks she’s “quirky.”
OCD is many things, but it is not “quirky.” It’s a serious mental disorder that sometimes inhibits people from living their lives fully and joyfully and even in severe cases (like Sam’s so-called “severe” case) from leaving their house. I’m not here to lecture you about it, I’m just here to say we need to stop romanticizing mental illness. When people who are not mentally unstable say they want to be, it baffles me. Like, I can assure you that you don’t want this. I can assure you.
Anyway, so onto the next 100 pages of nothing but poorly written poetry and constant make out scenes. Seriously, all Sam and AJ do is make out. And, if they’re not making out, Sam’s thinking or talking about how much she wants to kiss AJ right this second. I just wanted to be like, “Gurl, you just kissed him literally 2 minutes ago…CHILL.” I don’t even have anything to say about the middle section because all that happened was descriptive make out scenes. This book got weirdly erotic in the center and it was so off-putting. I wanted a book about OCD and not a book about “how hot it was to touch AJ’s abs” and “how good it felt to feel his hips move against hers.” I’m still confused to how this switched gears so quickly.
I was hoping the ending would redeem this book. It didn’t, though. It’s actually the reason this book plummeted to 1 star.
*Obligatory PSA before I continue: I want you all to fully understand that hallucinations are NOT a side effect of OCD and they should not be taken lightly or brushed off like they were in this novel. Please seek help if you are experiencing them. They are NOT “quirky” and I don’t want your health to suffer in any way because a teen romance novel depicts them as “cute” and “healthy.” I do not mean any disrespect to anyone who suffers from hallucinations/ing, I just want you to take care of yourself to the best of your ability and be as healthy as is possible for you because I care about you and want the best life has to offer for you.*
(I do not suffer from hallucinations, so if you found the above paragraph inaccurate or insulting in any way, please let me know so I can edit it for the better. I am not trying to offend anyone. If there is better phrasing that could have been used, please let me know.)
So, Sam is talking to AJ one day. And they’re as in love as ever, but she still hasn’t told him about her OCD. I’m sorry, but a relationship cannot be healthy if you don’t let your partner know what’s up with you so they can support, help, and accommodate you to the best of their ability. Trust me, it makes things a heck of a lot less stressful. I’m not saying spill your guts to the person you’re on a second date with, but if you’re furiously exclaiming “I love yous” left and right, your parter should probably know.
But, anyway, back to the story. So, Sam can’t find Caroline one day, and she asks AJ where she’s been, and AJ straight up says, “Sam, Caroline Marsden committed suicide in 2007.” And, of course, that bombshell leads to some major plot development that made very little sense and did not fit in well with the story. And, honestly…
What. A. Cheap. Effing. Shot.
NOTE: I would have been okay with this if this book were marketed as a thriller or something else where the reader is informed ahead of time that the mental illness is used as a plot ploy to create thrills and twists. However, this was not marketed as such nor was there any indication at all throughout the book that there would be such a big twist, and so that’s why this bothered me so much.
I’m not sure if it’s because it was late, or because I had already check out from the story, or if it was solely because of my disorder, but it scared me. Like, actually scared me. Because, at first, it was played off as Sam’s OCD. And, I knew it wasn’t a symptom of OCD. But, let me tell you what is. Basically, a major part of OCD is that the brain latches on to thoughts and obsesses over them. This can happen with any thought, but most often it happens with weird, in between thoughts that everyone has, but a normal brain passes off as irrelevant and improbable. So, it could be something like wow, I could accidentally kill this person by hitting them with my car if they walked out in front of me or if I momentarily lost control of the wheel, but a normal brain says, “It could, but it won’t” and then moves on to the next thought. An OCD brain, on the other hand, latches on to said thought and thinks, “OH MY GOD YOU COULD. YOU COULD ACCIDENTALLY DO THAT. YOU DIDN’T. BUT YOU COULD. THAT COULD HAPPEN. YOU COULD DO THAT. YOU MIGHT ACCIDENTALLY KILL THAT PERSON.” And, it goes on until you break the cycle and convince yourself that you’re not going to kill that person because GOD, WHY WOULD I EVEN THINK THAT? You know that you would never do that, but it’s this weird anxiety that this thought causes you and you can’t stop thinking what if.
So, um, yea, as I said at the beginning of this post, OCD is exhausting. That’s just a glimpse. And way more than this book provides.
So, for me, in this situation, my brain latched on to the idea that I had hallucinated my friends. I have awesome friends. They’re great. They’re wonderful. They’re everything. And I was actually thinking that I had imagined them this whole time because my brain latched on to that absolutely ridiculous thought. I nearly texted them just to make sure they were real. I knew they were, but there was that weird inkling of anxiety that said, but what if they’re not. It was stupid. God, I know it was stupid, but it was also valid.
And, I mean, HOW DARE this book exploit my mental instability for the sake of an unwarranted cheap thrill, for a plot twist that was unnecessary, pointless (in my opinion), and only came about because I feel that Price had written herself into a wall and needed a way out.
Then, on top of it all, we’re given an ending where the insta-love romantic relationship “cures” our protag and her OCD is significantly reduced by the end. But, that’s, I guess, not surprising, since she barely had any to begin with. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t be happier or healthier in a relationship. That’s not what I’m saying at all. If that’s what you want, I wish you all the best, and I hope your partner supports you and makes you feel safe and that you do feel better, truly. However, being in a relationship does not “cure” mental illness. It’s not the same thing. God, I’m so sick of authors correlating romance and cures. It’s not realistic. It’s bullshit.
But, that’s not even the most unrealistic thing about this ending. The worst part is that Sam’s “perfect” shrink says that her hallucinations are healthy and that they helped her to realize who she wanted to be. That’s right. Her. Shrink. Said. It. Was. Healthy. FFS please do not take this to heart. Please try to get better for yourself and the people who love you. I would hate for things to get worse down the road if the hallucinations get worse. And, I have a feeling that’s what any good therapist would want.
It get’s even worse, though! As on the last page, this story ends by Sam hallucinating once again. And that was the happily ever after. THIS BOOK ENDS WITH HALLUCINATIONS AND UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FROM INSTA-LOVE RELATIONSHIP CURES AND THAT’S HAPPILY EVER AFTER.
Anyway, I’ve gone on for way too long and need to wrap this up. I’m sorry for ranting so much, but this book was just so toxic. I was originally going to rate this 2 stars, but after writing this all out, I realized I couldn’t give it any more than 1, because I really didn’t like it in the least.
Don’t read this. I feel it’s insulting to those of us who have OCD. I’m sorry, I honestly do think Price meant for this book to come across in a very different way. I know she meant well. But, we deserve better than cheap shots made at the expense of our mental instability and the cure of insta-love. This review saddened me. I had such high hopes for this book.
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