So this year I’m looking into more books about mental health. Especially the conditions that I have since I want to do some #ownvoices reviews.
This is an #OwnVoices review.
Finding Perfect is about a middle schooler with OCD. Molly Nathans’s life is changing, her mother has left the country for a job and Molly feels like her world is spiraling out of control. She finds peace in her rituals. There are things to her that are perfect:
―The number four
―The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil
―A crisp white pad of paper
―Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines
These things give her a sense of control in a world where she’s not sure if her mom is coming back from leaving the country. Molly hatches a plan to bring her mother back by winning a slam poetry contest at her school. There will be a banquet for the winner’s whole family and her mother can’t miss that. Right?
But soon Molly’s rituals start to take over, things that used to be enough to calm her anxiety about something bad happening to her brother simply don’t work anymore. She finds her rituals encroaching on friends and school, and soon her slam poetry.
Molly knows there is something wrong with her, but doesn’t know what. But she’s starting to worry her friends and family will notice her rituals and figure out her secret, she’s crazy.
Will Molly be able to keep it all together or will she not be able to find perfect after all?
As someone with OCD, it’s not often I find myself represented in pieces of fiction in ways that are realistic. Molly’s story is very much on point with at least my experience of OCD. Swartz perfectly (pun intended) captures the worry of someone with OCD when things don’t go right or along with their rituals.
Things I especially liked:
- The portrayal of Molly’s feelings of knowing she’s doing something that doesn’t make sense but NEEDING to do it anyway.
- The portrayal of the spiral when rituals stop working was very realistic but still portrayed in a way that the average reader could connect with.
- Molly’s rituals were realistic, as is her level of obsession with doing things over and over again. The author captured the feeling of having to get something just right.
- Molly’s fear of discovery but yet at the same time wanting help.
- Molly’s view of the world in general, especially when she tries to tell someone and she feels like the universe is trying to stop her and she shouldn’t tell anyone because of it.
I can’t find online if Swartz herself has OCD but if not her research into it was impeccable. She notes her sources and a psychiatrist she worked with at the end of the book, but either way, she really got inside someone with OCD’s head.
At the end, when Molly goes to therapy, her psychiatrist has a sign that basically says. “I’m a person who happens to have OCD”. While I feel the need for person-first language especially in a book targeted towards young adults the whole book feels like my preference which is condition first language.
For example, I say I’m an autistic person, not a person with autism because autism so defines my experiences as a person I don’t think they can be separated. I don’t think that’s bad I think it simply acknowledges, that recovered or not my condition is interwoven with my personality.
Molly’s experience seems to be she has OCD and it’s a big part of her whether she’s in recovery or not. It’s the thread that goes through her defeats and triumphs and while I get that people don’t like to be defined by their condition, I think taking the condition out of the person is impossible so that’s my only real issue with the book.
But this is a debate within the disability community so I’m not surprised it didn’t get mentioned.
Otherwise, the book is five stars for a good portrayal of the OCD experience.