Patrick Ness: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions…

So much of YA is the dramatic story about murder and tragedy among the popular kids. Vampires and werewolves and magic trolls in dungeons. This isn’t that story. This is something else, running parallel. This is the story of Emily the Background Slytherin and her friends (OMG KEVIN RUN). Those kids in the background who might actually do the assignments for graduation, whose lives go on no matter what might roam the halls or blow up the school.

But most importantly, this story is about a boy with OCD, a girl with an eating disorder, and  has both racial and LGBTQIA+ representation. Friends of mine who also have similar anxiety to mine insisted that I read this book ASAP because of the discussions that take place and I’m so glad they did. From start to finish, the OCD rep is just so incredible.

Mikey (I sort of cringe at this name because of those old cereal commercials) has severe anxiety/OCD–he gets into obsessive loops where if he doesn’t do a task exactly “right” something horrible will happen. Life becomes catastrophic inside those loops, getting worse and worse, and he becomes stuck.

Even though this is sort of a parody of YA fantasy, Ness does a wonderful job of blending his “Indie Kid” parallel with Mikey’s. The build up to the climax is so subtle that you hardly know it is coming–I sort of skimmed the chapter headings, but I thought they detracted from the actual story line, so I mostly just followed it through the main book.

I loved that Ness gives Mikey such a strong support system–his chosen family–instead of using the “hero comes to save him from his anxiety” trope. There’s a lot of talk about how one of his fears is that he is the least needed person, or no one would miss him if he were gone–I feel that SO HARD. And even though Mikey acknowledges at one point that he KNOWS he is lucky to have so many people who love him, to someone with anxiety, it’s so hard to convince ourselves that this is reality most of the time.

I could go on and on about everything that was amazing about the anxiety/OCD rep in this story. I want to quote the entire psychiatrist appointment to you. But, then you wouldn’t have to read the book, and I really think you probably should go read it. It’s going on my MUST READS list for sure, guys. So, yeah. Do it.

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Louise Gornall: Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.

How do some books just find you at the perfect time? It seems that I’ve read bad book after bad book lately (with one or two exceptions), and then blammo, right when I needed it, this book happened. Two days after I was FINALLY diagnosed with OCD, I pick up Under Rose-Tainted Skies.

I was hooked within the first couple pages. The narrator described her obsessions almost the exact same way I had written about them in my journal the day before my therapist appointment, and I got CHILLS. So much of what she talked about rang true with me. Mine is not near as severe, and I don’t have agoraphobia, but it was incredible to have such representation in a book.

But enough about me and back to the review. There are a lot of similarities between Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything and Under Rose-Tainted Skies. However, Norah doesn’t have to be “fixed” to have a relationship with Luke. Instead, he comes to her. He makes an effort to learn about her disorder. In the process of their relationship, she does heal some, but she isn’t magically better. It’s baby steps, or “new pathways,” as her therapist would call them. Luke helps her grow a bit out of her comfort zone.

This book is going to be triggering for some people. There is a component of self-harm, and a very traumatic scene. Norah also experiences panic attacks throughout the book–those were difficult for me to experience, as they were very vivid. Right on target, but also hard to read through if you are one who has panic attacks yourself. Representation is everything, and amazing…but just proceed with caution if you also suffer from these kinds of mental illness.

I loved this book, I found it so helpful to read about someone like me. We need so many more Own Voices books about people with mental illness in this world. Definitely put this on your list for 2017!

DiversityBingo2017:  MC with an Invisible Disability

NetGalley and Clarion Books provided an ARC for unbiased review. This post does contain affiliate links.

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Perfectionitis

I am a perfectionist.

I got it from my mother, but it manifested in a completely different way from hers. She LOVES to clean, and she always looks fantastic. Me–I am completely OCD about very particular things:  my books are alphabetical by author, then title; I am constantly making lists; my pens are separated by type and quality. I’m even making a list of WHY I’m OCD. Areas of my life are neat and tidy–like my office. Everything has to have it’s exact place or I am thrown completely out of wack.

At work, I obsess. I remember calls for weeks at least. Few names escape me, details are soaked up like a sponge. When people ask me questions or for help, I often either know the answer or where to go for help. I’m not trying to brag there, it’s just because I feel I have to be perfect. I feel very deficient if I don’t know how to solve something. My job is very much about critical thinking and puzzles, and I will agonize over the tough ones or if I think I’ve made a mistake. I also have to have everything complete before I leave at the end of the day. It bugs the crap out of me if I can’t get my work done before I clock out at the end of the day. Open cases drive me crazy.

The big downside to all of this is that I am a perfectionist to the point that if there is something I can’t do perfectly, I won’t do it. This sometimes comes across as laziness, but that isn’t the whole picture. Not really. My introvert nature does enable me to sit still for long periods of time, and I do love to read. But really, I am never satisfied with what I do, and it completely frustrates me. In my head, I should be able to pick up a guitar and play like Jimi Hendrix. Or a paint brush and create a Monet masterpiece. Why does my pen not flow into Rowling billions? My brain knows that these things take years of hard work and practice, but I feel like I should just instantly be perfect.

Even picking up a sponge to clean a bathroom is hard for me sometimes. Why isn’t it instantly spotless? I’ve scrubbed all afternoon and it’s still streaky! It’s why I would rather fold laundry into piles and put them away all at once. It’s a system, so that the shirts and underwear and tanks all go into the drawers in their perfect little piles. I’m sure it’s silly, but it’s what makes sense in my head.

I wish sometimes that I had gained the type of perfectionalism that makes me want to be super healthy and fashionable all the time. Because, actually, I do really want to be those things. I just don’t know how to be that kind of perfect perfectly. And so, I’ll obsess if my books are in the right order and I’ll stack the notebook paper on my desk just one more time so that it lines up just right. And you know all of my work will be done before I clock out. Because that, I can do. Perfectly. Or at least as close as I can get.

It’s just who I am. I am a perfectionist.