If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.
Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.
Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.
Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.
I am so so glad I read this book. It is bold and beautifully written. It stayed with me even when I wasn’t reading it. For me that is the sign of a great book! I am not even sure I can write a review to do it justice, but I’m going to try.
This is one of those books that I think every young woman should read. Actually mothers of young women should read this also. Even if you don’t have OCD, there is something about this story that will connect with you. I know that being in junior high and high school is difficult, but with social media it seems like it is even more difficult and intense. I can’t even image it, but this book puts it in perfect perspective.
From the very beginning we get to see just how difficult it is for Sam to hide her OCD from her friends. On her first day of school, she meets Carolina at her locker, and a friendship begins that Sam fights to keep until the very end.
I loved Carolina. I loved the way she pushed Sam and changed her perspective towards her OCD issues. Carolina introduces Sam to a group of very special and talented people who meet under the stage to share poetry.
One person stands out. AJ Olsen. He is from Sam’s past, that she should remember but doesn’t. Not without Carolina’s help. He is my favorite character for sure. Who doesn’t love a guy who writes poetry and plays guitar?
“In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m well aware of the fact that my little brother’s a lot cooler and much better-looking than I am.” He points at a close-up of his brother in a case-point sort of way and then grins at me. There’s that dimple again. I look at a photo of Kyle. He doesn’t have one of those. “I’ll probably need therapy someday.”
I try not to take therapy comment personally. “Hey, don’t knock it. You might enjoy paying someone to listen to you talk about your problems.”
“I wasn’t knocking it at all.”
I roll my eyes. “Besides, I doubt you’d need it. You seem pretty well adjusted.”
He steps closer and leans in, like he’s telling me a secret, and the sudden gesture of familiarity takes me aback. He seems taller now that he’s this close. He looks cute in his button-down shirt. And he smells good, like boy deodorant. “Everyone’s got something.”
“Of course they do. Some people are just better actors than others.”
He leans back in his seat and I steal a glance at him. He’s watching me with an inquisitive look in his eye. “It’s interesting. Usually, after people read a few times, they start to make sense to me, but every time you read, I find myself….” He pauses, searching for the right words. “More curious about you.”
“Good. Then we’re even,” I say.
“We are?” he asks.
“I’ve been curious about you for months now.” I’m not sure where this boldness is coming from, but it feels pretty natural. I look over at him. “Sorry. That was your fault.”
“Mine?” He laughs. “How so?”
“Blurting.” I take a left at the light and merge into traffic, picking up speed. “I’ve been practicing.”
“And how’s it going for you?”
“Not so great. I probably took it too far today.”
He raises his eyebrows. “How so?”
“Kaitlyn isn’t speaking to me because she told me my hair looked ridiculous like this.” I point to the braided, twisty thing I did this morning. I wanted to try something new. “And instead of heading off to the bathroom to change it like I normally would, I told her that her blush was too heavy and she looked like a mime.”
“Well, if she looked like a mime, it make perfect sense that she’s not speaking to you,” he says.
That cracks me up.
As Sam spends more time with Caroline, AJ and the Poet’s corner, she starts feel stronger, more “normal”. You can see it when Sam stops counting everything, when she spends less time with “the crazy eights”, her childhood friends that don’t really know her anymore and when she uses her free time to swim more. Then the story takes a surprise turn that I did not see coming, but should have. I literally could not stop reading after that point.
I think what I loved most about this story is that while Sam chooses an unconventional way of coping with her past, it didn’t seem so strange by the end. Though I will admit that it brought tears to my eyes. I love that AJ doesn’t give up on Sam, and her family, especially her mother, is amazing. Actually all of the secondary characters definitely stood out and didn’t feel like fillers. There just wasn’t anything about this book that I didn’t love. Even the title and cover is perfect!
You will see this book again on my favorite book list for this year. It is that good!! The author spent an insane amount of time researching OCD and Pure-O disorder, and dedication is touching. You can tell that she wrote this book in certain way to reflect what it could really be like to live with this kind of disorder.
Vance Joy “Your Mess is Mine.”
I give this book 5 outstandingly written and executed stars, and put it on my “books that own me” and “top shelf outstanding reads” shelves on Goodreads.
***I was given an ARC from Netgalley and Disney Hyperion for an honest review. The excerpts are from that copy.***