Sunday, January 12, 2014

OCD, The Dude, and Me

There are books out there that make you laugh, that make you cry, and that do a little of both. But when you find a book that leaves you stunned and speechless, you stand up and take note. Lauren Roedy Vaughn's OCD, The Dude, and Me is a story like no other. 

Danielle doesn't make apologies for the way she is, but that doesn't mean her mother likes it. What's worse than being chunky, having unruly orange hair, and being a general outcast? How about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to top it all off? When Danielle's English teacher encourages her to see the school counselor, Danielle is unhappy, to say the least. But at least in class, she can communicate through her favorite means- by writing. Her English teacher even advises the counselor to let Danielle conduct sessions through letters. She can't be all that bad, right? You would think, but then again, she seems to enjoy ripping apart Danielle's English papers, no matter how witty they are (or snarky). 

When everyone seems to conspire together to ruin her life, they decide to do so through a social skills class for other social rejects like Danielle. Even her parents are gung-ho for her attendance in this class. While Danielle inwardly wants to shrivel up and die before attending, her mother's thinly veiled threats to send her back to legit therapy keep her going. But something interesting happens. Danielle meets Daniel. An unlikely duo, as Daniel seems surly and sullen to Danielle's quirks, they find common ground in their relationships with the world. Both have wildly different reasons for how they relate to people, but the end result is fairly similar: outcast central. 

Oh I just loved this story. Danielle is the perfect blend of kooky, sassy, and snarky all rolled into one. And the best part of this story? For once, we have a really great blend of adults in the life of a student with a learning difference who support but don't shelter the main character. Too often we have overbearing parents who try to do everything for their child or protect them from the world, but that doesn't do anything to prepare them for the eventual time when they have to be independent. Or we get the oblivious, absentee parents who don't care the kind of pain their children are going through. In this book, it first seemed like the English teacher and Danielle's parents were too pushy or unforgiving, but really they were doing what was best for Danielle. It might not have been what Danielle wanted, per se, but it was what was best for her. From making her talk to the counselor, to the social skills class, to even forcing her to go on a class trip to England, everything they did was painful, but it actually helped Danielle. I liked that it took me a little while, especially since the story is told through Danielle's assignments and personal journal, to figure that out. Since she was not thrilled about these endeavors, it took her revelation that they had helped for the reader to have the same revelation. It really put the reader in Danielle's shoes in a marvelous and touching way. In addition, she has an aunt who is just fabulous. Seriously. Totally fabulous! We all need an aunt like this in our lives!

This story was so amazing it took me longer than usual to read because I felt like I had to digest every single word with care. It is so much more than meets the eye. My colleague and friend and co-blogger (if we can ever coax her back here!) left this book for me. I knew I would like it, but I wasn't prepared for just how much I would love it! Vaughn really captured the complexity and inner thoughts of her characters, and did so in a way that takes you through their lives alongside them. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished it, and just like Theresa, you will want to pass it onto someone you know will love it as much as you do!

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