Daniel is the back-up punter for the Erie Hills Elephants. Which really means he’s the water boy. He spends football practice perfectly arranging water cups—and hoping no one notices. Actually, he spends most of his time hoping no one notices his strange habits—he calls them Zaps: avoiding writing the number four, for example, or flipping a light switch on and off dozens of times over. He hopes no one notices that he’s crazy, especially his best friend Max, and Raya, the prettiest girl in school. His life gets weirder when another girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time. She doesn’t just notice him: she seems to peer through him.
Then Daniel gets a note: “I need your help,” it says, signed, Fellow Star Child—whatever that means. And suddenly Daniel, a total no one at school, is swept up in a mystery that might change everything for him.
OCDaniel is by Wesley King. It is a realistic middle-grade coming of age novel that was published in 2016.
Reasons for Reading:
This book is what I chose as the October read for the Tween Book Club which I host each month at my public library. I picked it because it has lots of buzz-worthy reviews. It was also being talked about in the circles of teachers and librarians that I follow as a great and important middle-grade novel for this generation.
This book does an excellent job of opening a reader’s eyes to what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is and how it manifests itself in a young person. I liked how the author developed Daniel’s character. Daniel was aware of his ‘ticks’ and he would get sudden urges and compulsions to do certain tasks and then he would behave accordingly. He was also aware of his routine, especially at bedtime, which would often last 3-4 hours limiting his sleep each night. But Daniel didn’t realize what these were, or that it was part of a mental health disorder until he developed a friendship with Sara, who has anxiety and depression and is involved in group therapy. So I liked how the author developed the coming-of-age theme as Daniel slowly finding out that his tendencies actually align with behaviours of those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The more aware Daniel became about his mental health and his obsessive-compulsiveness, the more he became comfortable in his own skin. Daniel ended up using his differences to form a real bond with Sara, and I like that portrayal of friendship for youth because I think it is realistic and more common than it is demonstrated in middle grade fiction.
The story also looks at the stereotypical junior-high dynamics. You have the football players, the nerds, and the outsiders (who basically are just anyone who is different). I felt a bit like Daniel may have ostracized himself – using his differences to keep himself outside of the social norms. His best friend Max is the star of the football team, but I think Daniel kept a boundary there. I’m not sure how much his ‘ticks’ and ‘routines’ were actually a problem to anyone else because there wasn’t much mention of it from other characters. Daniel is portrayed as an underdog and you really do see him come out of his shell and grow as a teenager over the course of the novel. He represents youth who do struggle with mental illnesses such as OCD, and shows how young readers how you can learn to manage it and not let it stop you from reaching your potential.
The one aspect of the book I didn’t agree with though was Daniel deciding not to talk to his parents about his obsessive-compulsive tendencies once he becomes aware of them. He goes to group therapy with Sara but isn’t honest about that with his parents. I don’t think that is a good example to set for young readers. Even though Daniel mentions that he knows he could go to his parents at any time, I think that conversation should have been had, either as part of the book, or as an ending where you know as the reader that Daniel will carry on to do that. Ultimately, I would want youth reading this book who can identify with Daniel to not hesitate to talk with their parents about how they are feeling.
My Rating: :star: :star: :star: :star: It’s a well written story and it’s an important and valuable book for today’s youth. I just had a bit of an issue with some of the plot and how Daniel is portrayed to deal with his obsessive-compulsive tendancies.
I’d Recommend This Book If:
- you enjoy realistic middle grade novels that cover important issues facing youth today, such as mental health
- you could identify with a character who has anxiety and obsessive-compulsize tendencies (I don’t say OCD because he is not clinically diagnosed in the novel).
- you might be interested in learning a bit more about OCD, anxiety, and how it manifests in youth
- you enjoy coming of age stories where the protagonists are underdogs