OCD in Young Adult Literature: Background information when reading History Is All You Left Me

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History Is All You Left Me

by Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera X
History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2018, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Bradley Sides

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About this Book

OCD in Young Adult Literature

This article relates to History Is All You Left Me

Print Review

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) impacts the lives of many Americans, including young adults and children. According to a 2013 article in American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, OCD "is seen in as many as 1 in 200 children and adolescents." Labeling exact characteristics of the disorder is difficult because, as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes, the disorder "appears in different ways, and not every person has the same symptoms; many people have combinations of various OCD symptoms." The organization does offer a generalized summary of the disorder, though, stating, "Those who have OCD suffer from unwanted and intrusive thoughts that they can't seem to get out of their heads (obsessions), often compelling them to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and routines (compulsions) to try and ease their anxiety." Living with this kind of mental intrusion would be difficult for anyone, but it is especially difficult for young people.

OCD is an ongoing ailment for Griffin, the teenage protagonist at the heart of Adam Silvera's novel, History is All You Left Me. The novel follows Griffin's fun and youthful experiences with first-time love up until tragedy strikes – Theo, Griffin's boyfriend, dies in a drowning accident. As Griffin struggles to grasp the reality that Theo is gone, his OCD becomes increasingly bothersome. He becomes more and more focused on even numbers, and he has difficulty in being on anyone's right side. His compulsions nearly take over his life.

Here are three other recent young adult (YA) novels that feature young people with OCD. By spotlighting these stories, hopefully a young reader with obsessive-compulsive disorder will feel less alone in the world:

Say What You WillCammie McGovern's Say What You Will:

One of the most touching YA books of recent memory is Cammie McGovern's 2014 novel Say What You Will. The story follows the lives of two teens: Amy, who battles cerebral palsy, and Matthew, who must learn to deal with his OCD, which, for him, shows itself in his constant need to wash his hands and in making sure that no one is hurt. Amy and Matthew seem like two unlikely allies, but when Matthew agrees to be Amy's aide, their two worlds collide into something that's really beautiful. For readers looking for some empathy in their OCD-inspired read, Say What You Will is the perfect choice.

Lexapros and ConsAaron Karo's Lexapros and Cons:

Seventeen-year-old Chuck Taylor is the protagonist of Aaron Karo's hilarious YA debut, Lexapros and Cons, and Chuck suffers from OCD. Chuck's OCD is bad, too – really bad. He has a habit of constantly washing his hands, picking the color of his shoes by his mood, and keeping a paper tally for every time he – well, you'll have to read it to find out. The story is super-fast paced, and it's a fun, wild read. Lexapros and Cons will be especially appealing to teenage boys who are looking for some fun in an OCD-based story.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13BTeresa Toten's The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B:

Be warned: if you read Teresa Toten's The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, you will likely have a new favorite character in YA literature. Adam Ross is an awesome dude – really, he is. He's kindhearted, meek, and is always trying to help people. One thing stands in his path to being a real-life superhero, and that's his OCD. Adam's affliction shows itself in his constant desire to tap and count. When a new girl named Robyn shows up at his OCD support group, Adam decides that he has to do whatever he can to help Robyn overcome her disorder. Toten's book is among the very best of recent realistic YA releases.

OCD can be difficult to live with, but there's comfort in knowing that you're not alone. These three books can provide at least some of that companionship. (For information about OCD's close cousin, Obsessive Personality Disorder, check out the Beyond the Book for The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl.)

This "beyond the book article" relates to History Is All You Left Me. It originally ran in February 2017 and has been updated for the February 2018 paperback edition.

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