Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: OCD, The Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

OCD, the Dude, and MeDescription: 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.

Stats: Debut Young Adult Contemporary, 240 pages, First Published by Dail, March 2013

My Rating: 5 STARS - A Reading-Robyn Favourite!

“You are living far too much in the realms of your head. That is an ugly, mean, scary place to be. I am not just saying your head is nasty, everyone's head is. You need to vacate that premise immediately and start living in your heart. Your heart is a much nicer social venue.” - Page 75

I'll admit that I had a very superficial idea of what I would be getting from a book with a cover and title like OCD, the Dude, and Me. I mean, the girl is holding up a bowling ball over her face and "DUDE" takes up at least a third of the entire cover. All those expectations were very wrong. I almost feel like I should apologize they were so wrong.

What I expected was a book like Sean Griswold's Head. It's cute, it's quirky, it's a contemporary romance that also has an emotional center, but is still comprised of all-american YA fluff. OCD, The Dude, and Me was not that. Instead it was an honest, sometimes heartbreaking look, at what it's like to be inside the mind of a teenage outcast as she hates herself and struggles to understand other people. Danielle is a lot like me. I don't have OCD, but I do have capital A, Anxiety. So reading her journals and assignments it all felt very familiar, which was very much a part of why I loved this book so much.

Danielle is over-weight and socially inept. She hates the color of her hair; She doesn't know how to accept her damaged self. She loves to read, and write, and journal every little bit of her life. However, I, Jessica-Robyn, am also all these things. I was surprised how emotionally connected I became to this book. It's like that one book that speaks directly to you in that weird, person to fictional person, sort of way.

A lot of the book is about emotions and high school. As Danielle experiences her last year of high school primarily though her English class we experience things with her. Danielle goes through a lot of normal high school experiences, like a class trip to England and a school car wash, but through her worry and obsessive nature she finds it difficult to cope among her classmates. She is a wall builder, a with-holder, and she has, as we learn, a pretty good reason to be that way. ... That I can't talk about.

There are so many aspects of the plot I want to discuss and so many things I want to say to try and make a case for this book, but the honest truth is that I can't talk about my favourite moments because it would spoil it. I'm not even willing to use spoiler tags because I know you people, you'll be too tempted.

I don't know how this book is going to fly for other people, but I ended up loving it. Will other people also love it? I really don't know.

So, here I am, between a rock and a hard place. I want to recommend this, but I don't know if I can. So let me just lay it all out there.

I woke up late today at 4PM (yes, PM) because I haven't been sleeping well. When I joined my mother in the living room I sat down and decided to read because nothing good was on TV. It's been a very long time since I read a good book, I didn't expect this one to break the losing streak. But then I started reading OCD, the Dude, and Me, and did not stop until I was finished.

As a word of warning this is written in journal format. There's a lot of emails, Grade 12 English essays, and letters that ramble, meander, and leaves things out. With that said, this is the sort of story that should be written that way. It didn't come across as stiff or withholding, it felt like a very real person was laying all out there in her personal, private, record keeping space, fueled by her OCD, that sometimes crossed over into more public spaces. It made sense for her character and for the characters around her, which made it all work it a strange and wonderful, not patch-worky, sort of way.

I would recommend this book to psychology lovers and people looking for a very "inside-the-mind" coming-of-age story that reveals itself gradually with a lot of humour and a lot of heartbreak. OCD, the Dude, and Me made me feel that contradictory happy/sad that just leaves me wanting to keep this book and not give it back to the library. No seriously, I know there would be a fine, but how much would that really be? ... guys?

Also, note to self, see what this The Big Lebowski is all about.

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