It is such a pleasure to be part of the OCDaniel blog tour, not just because I know Wesley and will happily vouch for him being a pretty fantastic human being, but primarily because this is such a gem of a book. I hope you’ve been visiting the other blogs on this tour, and that you will stop by One Chapter Ahead tomorrow, as Wesley has given some wonderful behind-the-scenes Easter Eggs about this book on these sites. Truly, I think this is a read that middle school/young YA readers need to read, because it talks about something that is so often hidden at these ages: mental health and self-acceptance.
From the author of Incredible Space Raiders from Space! comes a brand-new coming-of-age story about a boy whose life revolves around hiding his obsessive compulsive disorder—until he gets a mysterious note that changes everything.
Daniel is the back-up punter for the Erie Hills Elephants. Which really means he’s the water boy. He spends football practice perfectly arranging water cups—and hoping no one notices. Actually, he spends most of his time hoping no one notices his strange habits—he calls them Zaps: avoiding writing the number four, for example, or flipping a light switch on and off dozens of times over. He hopes no one notices that he’s crazy, especially his best friend Max, and Raya, the prettiest girl in school. His life gets weirder when another girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time. She doesn’t just notice him: she seems to peer through him.
Then Daniel gets a note: “I need your help,” it says, signed, Fellow Star child—whatever that means. And suddenly Daniel, a total no one at school, is swept up in a mystery that might change everything for him.
With great voice and grand adventure, this book is about feeling different and finding those who understand.
Honestly, there aren’t enough words to describe how much I love this book. Mental health and self-acceptance are issues that are rarely discussed at this age level, and to have a book like this come out at a time when so many kids are feeling alone and strange and different is such a gift.
Daniel is, by all accounts, an average guy with a good life. He’s got a best friend named Max, a spot on the school football team (which he hates), and he’s crushing hard on the cute girl, Raya, in his school. His older brother is kind of a jerk, but his younger sister thinks he’s awesome so it all balances out. He has parents who love him, even if his dad is a little too focused on sports instead of Daniel, and he does okay at school What isn’t visible to everyone is what goes on in Daniel’s head – how he has to flick the light switch on and off before he can leave the room, or how much he has hide the fact that he’s exhausted from the relentless Routine he must follow every night before he collapses into bed.
What struck me most about this book was how real Daniel’s turmoil felt to me. I ached for him as he worked through his “Zaps”, unable to stop himself from repeating things over and over, even to the point of tears. I felt his loneliness and his despair that something was ‘wrong’ with him, and that no one would understand what was happening. I felt the initial fear and then the slowly building relief when he realized that “Psycho Sara” was actually just Sara, and that she “got” him, tics and all.
The two main secondary character – Daniel’s friend Max and Sara, the odd-girl-out at school – were extremely well done. Max is the popular kid at school, and Daniel is popular-by-association. While Max knows that something isn’t entirely right with his best friend, he doesn’t exactly know what’s wrong but works hard to help Daniel’s confidence and skills. Sara, a selective mute who owns her own diagnosis with aplomb, sees a kindred spirit in Daniel and enlists his help to solve the mystery of her missing father. Their journey to uncover the truth together leads to the revelation of some hard truths, and it was heartening to see how their friendship allowed them to be there for one another.
I loved how Daniel was able to find a release through writing, as so many kids often can, whether it’s in song writing, poetry or fiction, and how much peace he garnered for himself by writing down his fantasy life on paper (no matter how hard it was to start). The story was allegorical in nature, but put Daniel firmly in charge of the changes going on in his mind (and thus why it was so difficult for him to start). It was great to see Sara begin to play a larger role in the story just as she began to play a larger role in his real life.
Overall, OCDaniel is funny, heartbreaking and a very real look at how appearances can be deceiving. The most average kid in the class may be hiding some very unusual issues, and Daniel is the perfect example. Reading about his difficulties will be tough, especially for anyone who has struggled with anxiety themselves, but Daniel’s sense of humour and genuine emotion will draw readers into the story from the very first chapter.
OCDaniel is published by Simon & Schuster Canada, and a copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. It is available for purchase from Amazon, Indigo and your favourite indie bookseller. ISBN 9781481455312, 304 pages.