OCDaniel by Wesley King is a much needed added addition to Young Adult collections, as it puts a frequently taboo subject (mental illness) at the center of the story. OCDaniel is about a middle school boy suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but he does not quite know what it is. He feels progressively frustrated with his strange obsessions and his inability to let go of things he knows are not reasonable. Enter a strange girl from his school who has her own mental disorders that make daily life miserable. She needs help, and since she recognizes Daniel’s issue, she believes he is one that is able to help him. Together, Daniel learns a little bit what a true friend looks like, and he is able to come to a recognition of the fact that he needs help in overcoming his unique condition.
I really liked Daniel’s unique voice in telling his story. He is a football player who hates football, a good student who manages to be “cool” despite that, and a dedicated friend. Yet, despite the calm and cool demeanor he displays, he feels alienated from his friends and family alike. His growing frustration with his obsessions is written to feel realistic and compelling. Although I struggle with mental illness (depression and anxiety), I am not familiar with OCD and the descriptions made it seem so real. Well, as real as a mental disorder can feel to one who does not feel the torture!
I loved Sara’s influence on him. Because of the senstive and often taboo (not that it should be) nature of mental illnesses, one may not always know how to help. Sara was someone who knew how to help. By reading about Sara in the book, I was given an ideal guidebook for how to help someone who struggles with something similar. The bottom line was that Sara was a friend, and she did not dismiss Daniel because of his illness.
Because of the positive portrayal of dealing with OCD, I overwhelmingly recommend OCDaniel to young teens who may need a positive message about self and friendship while dealing with mental illness or general teenage angst. Those are difficult years to begin with: we can use whatever guidance we can find.
Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review consideration.