Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Page Count: 368
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Big Honcho Media
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
OCD is one of those disorders I have heard of, but never met anyone who suffers from it. Sure, I have little quirks and rituals that make me feel better, but nothing I do compares to the life of Samantha McAllister. Samantha's form on OCD focuses more on the obsessive thoughts and less on the compulsive behavior, although she does exhibit those tendencies from time to time as well. To make everything worse, Samantha bottles everything up inside because she doesn't want her Queen Bee BFFs to know that she has a mental illness.
The pressure on Samantha to be the perfect high school student overwhelms her and sends her thoughts spiraling down dark corridors. She works closely with her therapist to create a plan to help her cope with her OCD and the normal stresses and strains of teenage life. High school is difficult enough and I felt bad that Samantha had so much extra strain on her. It was interesting to learn more about OCD and how the disorder can impact those who have it and those around them.
In the beginning as I was learning about Samantha, I wanted to separate her from the OCD, but I found that it was a crucial element to who she was as a person. As the novel progressed, I began to view her in the way her therapist describes as someone whose mind processes the world differently. Her therapist tells her it is a gift, but it takes Samantha awhile to view things from that perspective. I loved watching Samantha morph from the follower who was afraid to speak her mind to the stronger Sam who used words as something powerful and beautiful to forge her own path.
Samantha's group of friends was toxic, in my opinion. Hailey had moments when I thought she was redeemable, but I could have done without Alexis, Kaitlyn, and Olivia. Those girls made me angry on multiple occasions throughout the novel. I just couldn't understand why their friendship seemed so important to Sam, but then again, I'm not a teenager wanting to belong anymore either.
I found myself drawn to the relationships that Samantha has aside from her core friend group - Caroline, AJ, the poets, her family, and her therapist. These are the relationships that will ultimately lead Sam to the life she wants for herself. It was nice to see a positive family relationship in a YA novel. So often in YA, the parents are absent or unaware of the issues facing their teen, but Sam's parents - particularly her mother - are in the trenches with her daily. I also found the romance in this one to be a strength; it felt realistic, supportive, and sweet.
My favorite aspect of this novel was the poetry and the time spent in Poet's Corner. I wish that something like this had existed at my high school. Poetry and words have power. It was nice to see the poets band together and support one another through some pretty rough times. This is what true friendship should look like.
I also must applaud Tamara Ireland Stone for her beautiful use of language. Words are powerful and we should use them wisely.
One Last Gripe: I wish that Kaitlyn had received a comeuppance.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Poet's Corner
First Sentence: I shouldn't be reading the notes.
Favorite Character: AJ, but I also loved Samantha
Least Favorite Character: Kaitlyn
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.