Lexapros and Cons
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is one of those mental illnesses that's often the butt of jokes, dismissed as a harmless quirk, or something that everyone has a "little" of. But, as Chuck Taylor could tell you, full-blown OCD not only can take over your life --- it can ruin it, too.
"Chuck's first-person narration, not to mention his banter with best friend Steve, is hilariously raunchy, and the situations in which he finds himself are sometimes outright absurd. But as funny as Karo's writing is, his approach to dealing with an anxiety disorder like OCD is actually pretty serious."
Chuck Taylor --- yes, that's right, like the Converse All-Star sneakers --- has what his psychiatrist calls a textbook case of OCD. He has to take the same route to each of his classes every day, he must check that the stove burners are off at least a dozen times before he leaves the kitchen, and he even keeps track of exactly how many times he masturbates in a year. When, in classic OCD style, he begins washing his hands or using hand-sanitizing fluid constantly, both he and his parents start to acknowledge that Chuck's obsessive behaviors might be interfering with normal life. For one thing, how can Chuck ever get a girlfriend, especially one like beautiful, smart, funny, new girl Amy, if he can't even stand the thought of touching her without washing his hands right afterwards?
Some of Chuck's obsessions are charming. Inspired by his namesake and his eponymous sneakers, Chuck owns a pair of Converse All-Star high-tops in every color of the rainbow, and has developed a complicated system of tying his shoes to his emotions. If you know the code, you can understand what he is thinking and feeling (blue=excited, yellow=nervous).
Chuck's OCD might seem like just a collection of quirks, but as senior year comes to a close and emotions run high and deep, he discovers that the damage caused by his obsessions and compulsions might go beyond excessive hand washing and inflexibility in his daily routines. Is it possible that by putting so much time and attention into his obsessions, Chuck is neglecting the people who really need him?
Aaron Karo, who is best known for his standup comedy and for his "Ruminations" series of humorous columns, takes a light-hearted approach to his debut YA novel. Chuck's first-person narration, not to mention his banter with best friend Steve, is hilariously raunchy, and the situations in which he finds himself are sometimes outright absurd. But as funny as Karo's writing is, his approach to dealing with an anxiety disorder like OCD is actually pretty serious. Karo talks about OCD candidly and accurately, and Chuck's psychiatrist leads him through the various options for dealing with his disorder --- from anti-anxiety medication to cognitive behavioral therapy.
Even if kids reading LEXAPROS AND CONS don't suffer from Chuck's condition, they're likely to relate to his feelings of frustration about not being able to engage with the world in the way he'd like to. For those who are dealing with anxiety, depression, or a host of other mental illnesses, Chuck's story can illustrate how to cope with these disorders with hope, heart and hilarity.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 27, 2012