Happy Thursday, Reading Nook readers!
Today, I'm very, very thrilled to review The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B.
It's a quirky and passionately honest book about one young man's struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. It's honest and real, and Teresa does a great job of highlighting how the main character and his support group deals with OCD, and how they empower themselves through their struggles.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: March 10th 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
Author Teresa Toten gives a raw, honest look at one how group of teens cope with their emotional and physical challenges, and their ever-yearning desire to wake up normal, while still making every effort to live life to the very fullest.
Adam Spencer Ross is almost fifteen, and he’s got his hands full confronting the problems that come with having divorced parents and new stepsiblings. Add to that his obsessive-compulsive disorder and it’s just about impossible for him to imagine ever falling in love. Adam’s life changes, however, the instant he meets Robyn Plummer: he is hopelessly, desperately drawn to her. But is it possible to have a normal relationship when your life is anything but?
Filled with moments of deep emotion and unexpected humor, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B explores the complexities of living with OCD and offers the prospect of hope, happiness, and healing.
Well, I shouldn't have worried. Because Teresa Toten has written a charming, soulful and heartbreakingly authentic character in Adam Spencr Ross, and you're going to find it hard to not want to hug Adam close as you read.
We meet the almost fifteen-year-old Adam as he goes to his support group, and encounters new group member Robyn Plummer for the first time. Adam, like most teenaged boys of his age, falls for Robyn quickly. He makes it his personal mission to protect her, which gets complicated considering that he's already struggling with protecting his strides his little brother, mom and family...
I knew very little about the technical aspects of OCD going into The Unlikely Hero, and Teresa Toten does a good job of showing us just how the constant need for certain types of order and practices, could drive the day-to-day life of a teen like Adam.
From his adorably earnest and immediate crush on Robyn, to his compulsions when handling both his mother and his stepbrother Sweetie, we see how Adam struggles with difficult challenges - e.g. his need to perform certain rituals when entering doorways - with very normal teenaged boy interactions, like wanting to get to know Robyn, and feeling jealous that she might prefer someone else.
There's always that internal monologue/struggle that Adam experiences, between wanting to be normal and wanting to give into his compulsions and his urges, and Teresa deftly details just how exhausting and challenging that constant back-and-forth can be for someone of Adam's age, especially when he's asked to protect those who are experiencing even greater challenges than himself.
While I loved all the struggles and the quirks of all of the main characters, I was especially touched by the insight that Teresa gives into Adam's group. After they take on the personas of popular Marvel/DC superheroes - we see how those shields or masked personas helps each of the kids become a little braver, kinder and more honest with one another. Though I can't pretend to understand just what it's like to struggle with something like OCD, I was finding it hard not to tear up, as each of the kids used their personas to come out of their shells a little more.
Without giving spoilers away, I will concede that the ending to The Unlikely Hero... is not the happiest of endings. However, it's an important ending, because it plays on the idea that you sometimes do need to be cruel to be kind. Adam learns ths one the hard way, but I have no doubt that he'll come out stronger for it on the other side - a lesson well worth remembering.
Of special consideration: Throughout the book, Toten is very candid with the fact that an anxiety disorder like OCD is something that can't be fixed permanently. There is no perfect solution, and even those who go into sponteanous remission, might very well relapse in the future. I thought that this was such a honest, genuine lesson to share with readers, along with the reminder that because such relapses may occur, it's vital to live your life to the fullest.
Also, it's also important to add that to some extent, The Unlikely Hero doesn't have a clear and distinct plotlie. And that's what I loved about it. It's such a honest snapshot into how someone with OCD lives daily, I liked that we just got insights into how Adam functioned, without actually worrying about him having a great denoument or eurkea moment in the end.
(Seriously. I need to know how the characters are doing, Teresa!)
While Adam is a young man with many complex personal and external challenges of his own, it's his genuinely good heart and his clear love, and personal strength that makes him a true hero for everyman. He's a strong reminder that there are ordinary heroes in our every day lives, and I'm looking forward to helping many of my fellow readers, make his acquitance.
I highly recommend for everyone, full stop.
About the author:
TERESA TOTEN is well known in her native Canada. She is the author of the acclaimed Blondes series, as well as The Game, The Onlyhouse, and, with Eric Walters, The Taming. Winner of the Governor General’s Award for The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, she has also won or been nominated for numerous other awards. Teresa Toten lives in Toronto.