In this “raw and well-crafted (Kirkus Reviews)” romance, Bea learns that some things just can’t be controlled.
When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.
But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic…and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.
Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control. But this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down…and she might end up breaking her own heart.
About the Author
Corey Ann Haydu is the author of OCD Love Story, Rules for Stealing Stars, Eventown, and several other critically acclaimed young adult and children’s novels. She currently teaches at the MFA Writing for Children program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter. Learn more at CoreyAnnHaydu.com.
Read an Excerpt
OCD Love Story
LUCKY FOR ME, I DON’T get panicky in small dark spaces or anything. I’m a different breed of crazy.
So when the power goes out, I don’t do much of anything except try to avoid the horny high school guys trying to feel up girls in the dark. I go to dances at Smith-Latin Boys’ Academy two, maybe three times a year, but nothing like this has ever happened before. Electricity must be out all over the town. There is a hit of silence, like a preparatory inhale, and then chaos.
Maybe it’s true what they say about being blind: Your other senses get stronger. ’Cause the second the lights and music cut out I realize how disgusting the smell in the gym is. And for a moment the sounds of classmates cackling and tumbling over each other and screaming in fake fear take over. Then I hear a familiar noise, a rhythm I know well. It’s the strained, superfast pace of a panic attack. It’s coming from somewhere just to my left, so I use that as a kind of lighthouse to find my way out of the thick of the crowd.
The short gasps turn into longer, more strained inhales, and the poor guy having the attack is choking on his own breath. And this is something I know everything about: I’ve just been lucky enough to come up with ways to stop my panic attacks before they happen. So I sit next to the guy gasping for air; I find his ear and whisper into it. Tell him to slow down and take deep breaths, and I reach in the dark for his forehead, where I can fit my hand perfectly. He relaxes on contact and I do it to myself, too, put my free hand on my own forehead. The touch feels good, this intimacy with a total stranger, so I guess I’m kinda loving the power outage. This is something that would never happen under fluorescent lights. I guess that’s true of a lot of things, come to think of it.
“That feels good,” his still-choking but less-panicky voice says. “I don’t know what just happened.”
“Panic attack,” I say. I’m ready to list all the symptoms and causes and give him the same advice Dr. Pat gives me when I get them, but just as I’m taking a breath to start talking again he cuts me off.
“Got it.” I think it’s on purpose, not letting me talk more, but it doesn’t sound like a dismissal, more like an attempt to save me from myself, which I’ve got to appreciate. As a rule it’s best if I quit while I’m ahead when it comes to talking to strangers. Although in the dark I seem to be pretty good at reading people. I shut my mouth. Take two deep breaths. Then let myself try talking again.
“Is this your first panic attack?” I say. I’d ask this in full daylight, but it feels even more natural in the dark. His body is still twitching a little in the aftermath of the rush of anxiety, and his skin has a cooled-off, sweaty texture. I let my arm stay against his. With all the craziness going on around us it’s good to just have something against me. Someone.
“Guess so,” he says. Then nothing.
“I’m Bea,” I say to fill the air. It’s not that it’s quiet: The room is even louder now than it was with the shitty Top 40 jams blasting at full volume. But this guy is quiet and soon the power will go back on and the reality of our visibility will almost certainly make everything more awkward.
“Beck,” he says.
“Yeah, you too.”
I stretch my legs out in front of me. Now the silence between us feels more like an agreement, a pact, and less like a struggle.
It’s funny how my nerves work: pulsing one minute and retreating the next, leaving me totally spent. If the sense of camaraderie I feel with Beck’s heavy breathing and sweaty hands is right, then he must be riding that exact seesaw right now.
“Wanna try to make our way outside?” I say. Nothing’s changing in here. Teachers are trying to talk louder than the students and it sounds like the middle of the gym/dance floor has turned into an impromptu rave. If we were at Greenough Girls’ Academy instead of at Smith-Latin, I’d be able to find my way to the library, where I could hide out until this whole power-outage thing ended. I’d have everything I like at my fingertips: couches, portable book lights, the smell of those century-old rare books that our librarian is obsessed with. I’m hoping Beck knows a similar location at Smith-Latin. I’m hoping his sense of direction isn’t impaired in the dark. I’m hoping most of all that his face matches his voice: low and sweet and a little gravelly. Can faces look like that sound, I wonder? And is this the kind of guy I’ve been looking for, instead of the mass of ugly-faced, beautiful-bodied high school athletes I keep finding myself with?
“I can’t move,” Beck says. I reach for his legs, like maybe he has a cast or brace or a missing limb or something. A moment too late I realize this is a really awkward move to make, but as usual I can’t stop myself. My hand is too far up his thigh and it stays there a moment longer than it should.
Good lord, I’m awkward.
I swear I can feel his legs tense and maybe something else shift as well.
“You seem okay to me.” I slide my hand off his leg.
“You should go outside if you want,” Beck says. “I just can’t. I mean, won’t. I’m not going anywhere until the lights are back on, okay?”
“Nothing to be scared of. You know, aside from really horny football players. No offense if that’s what you are. Or are we avoiding someone? Maybe an ugly Greenough girl you hooked up with by accident?” Beck laughs just enough for me to know he doesn’t mind the teasing.
“You’re the only Greenough girl I’ve talked to tonight,” he says, and I’m grinning in the dark like a total loser, like some eight-year-old, which is exactly how I would look if anyone could actually see me. There’s even a space between my front teeth that supposedly gives me a sweet, little-girl smile.
“Well, in that case I better stake my claim,” I say. Things crash around us: people, DJ equipment, school banners. I can’t believe I am so heart-thumpingly into the sound of his voice and the idea of getting him to myself for a few minutes, even though I still don’t know what this guy looks like. I move my other hand from his forehead to his hand, and when our palms find each other, he squeezes. Then again. And again. After a few more squeezes, he exhales. We settle into the hand-holding for a few moments before he starts to panic again. Then he lets go.
“I’m telling you, you’ll feel better with some fresh air,” I say. In the dark I can’t tell if Beck nods his head or anything, but he definitely doesn’t say no, and I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl so I take that to mean he’ll leave with me. I pull him to his feet. It takes some serious effort; he pulls against me in an attempt to stay seated on the floor. I don’t care. “Are you scared to let me see you? Are you superugly?”
I wait for him to laugh but he doesn’t, and it hits me that maybe he is really ugly, and not in some subjective way, but truly disfigured. I have a knack for saying terrible truths to total strangers.
“Um, that was a superawkward thing to say. I’m like that sometimes. Sort of awkward. Or, I like to think quirky. Awkward and quirky.” This right here, this is why I scare guys away.
“So am I,” Beck says. I knew there was a reason I liked him.
The gym is emptying. Teachers are working to herd people out to the parking lot where they can keep a better eye on us. I hear them shouting orders over the chaos. Enough time has passed that most of the other kids are giving in to the request. After all, we’re out of booze for sure and the thrill of touching strangers’ bodies or bumping into your friends in the literal sense has drained from the room.
“Stay quiet and don’t move,” I whisper. I have a feeling that if we are patient we’ll have the whole gym to ourselves. My best friend, Lisha, and I are always trying to find secret spaces where no one will think to look for us. Like a kind of hide-and-seek with the world. When we were little, we decorated the inside of my walk-in closet with glitter paint and pillows and did all our playing and talking and snacking in there. All cozy and ours. I’m thinking staying behind in the dark gym with Beck would be something like that. Lisha, wherever she is in this dark swarm of heavily perfumed teenage bodies, would approve.
I almost call her name, so she can find us, but I know she wouldn’t mind me taking an extra moment alone with the hopefully cute, definitely appealing Smith-Latin boy.
In just a few minutes the gym has gone from mostly crowded to mostly empty and the car lights from the parking lot don’t reach the corner we’ve holed up in. If we stay quiet something great could happen. From the sound of Beck’s sharp inhale, I’m worried he’s starting to panic again (is this kid afraid of the dark or what?) so I find his shoulder and follow the line of his arm down to his hand again. He squeezes.
I consider leaving it at that. At least until I find some way to see a glimpse of his face.
Instead I walk my fingers back up Beck’s arm, wrist to elbow to shoulder to neck until I find his face. And then his lips. And despite the shaky legs holding him up and the heavy ins and outs of his breath, I kiss him. It’s a soft thing that he must get lost in for at least a few seconds, because his body stills against mine. Just as quickly as he relaxed, he tightens right back up again and I let my mouth leave his.
He tasted like wintergreen and cooled-off sweat. Minty. Salty. Perfect.
I really had him, for a second.
“Let’s stay here,” I say. Not sultry, ’cause I giggle on the last syllable. I’m nervous too, just not as amped up as him.
Beck’s feet tap and his breath sounds trapped and he steps back so that he is closer to the wall. He stays glued there.
“I can’t,” Beck says when I take another step toward him. “I should get home. I’m feeling weird. I’m kind of messed up right now.” His voice is a mumble. I can feel the heat of his blush, even from a few inches away. I want to reassure him with a touch, maybe even kiss him again, but as I reach out someone else hurtles into me, full force, knocking me over. I scramble up. Beck has moved away.
“I’m messed up too! I’m totally messed up!” I call out after him, and I think he’s still in the room; I think he’s heard me, but the dark is too heavy for me to see even the slightest movement. I feel for the wall and follow it in the hopes of reaching him, but I don’t come across him in any corner or clinging to any doorframe. He’s left the gym. I guess somehow he’s more scared of me than he is of the dark.
What People are Saying About This
"Warning: this book could cause obsessive compulsivereading. Funny, honest and real, OCD Love Story stars one of themost likeable narrators in recent YA fiction. Once you start this book, youwill find that, like Bea, you just can't help yourself.
This is one of those books where finding the right thing to say is actually really hard because at first I didn't enjoy the book. But then I really started to feel for Bea and everything that she was feeling and going through, she had all of these emotions, and she didn't know what to do with them. Right off the bat Bea gave me an off feeling. I knew what I was getting into, the title doesn't hide anything about it, but Bea gave me an off feeling the way that she latched onto Beck right away. I think that to go into this book you need to get rid of any pre conceived notions that you may have had. You really need to learn to accept these characters for the crazy flaws that they have otherwise you will never be able to get through the beginning and see what an amazing story this is. Bea was a great character, granted her obsession made my stomach churn at some points, but I felt badly for her that this terrible event happened to her and triggered this response that got her hung up on people. I otherwise found her funny and sweet how she tried so hard to make all of the things in her life fit including her obsession with this man and her relationship with a sweet boy. I felt that the characters were well developed. I kept rooting for her therapist to make a break through and see what Bea was really up to, and I wanted Beck to realize how what he was doing was really hurting them both, and lastly I wanted her best friend to go shove it. I was rooting for each of these characters to grow through the book and grow they did. This was an amazing story of this girl who swam through the river Denial, and managed to survive it. This roller coaster is one that you need to be prepared for, and before you go cry "Instalove!" remember that this is a girl who has a problem with getting attached to people, so before you judge it to harshly, give it a chance.
I love this book SO much! She did such a awesome job of making this book like real OCD. I had such a great time reading this book; I only wish this book was longer. I could not put this book down! Such an emotional and motivating book! I love the characters; they were SO real. <3
One of the best books ive ever read
One of the best depictions of OCD ive ever read. After struggling with it for years, and hating the stima we get from the media, its nice to read a book thats the real thing
For any one that feels an obsession or just enjoys a love story tho is the perfect book to read my friend learned the connection with someone you stalk and someone you love
If I took any "points" off this book, it would be because at times, it was an incredibly difficult read, in the sense that Haydu takes you so far inside the main character's head, and it's not really a pleasant place to be. But I opted not to take points off for the fact that the author did a fantastic job presenting a disorder with which I have no experience. Bea was definitely not the sort of main character I've ever seen before, nor Beck the sort of love interest. But this book really and truly was a love story, about two people who struggle daily with their own minds, with other people's reactions to them, and with incidents in their pasts that have changed their lives, trying to "fix" themselves in order to make space for another person to be in their lives. Particularly fascinating to me was the way each person with OCD in the book was presented as having the common thread of OCD while also being so unique that none could truly understand the other's compulsions. I really loved the backdrop of the therapy group for this reason, and I thought the secondary characters served the story terrifically well. Not a light-hearted read, but one I would definitely recommend.
OCD Love Story takes an in depth look at obsessive compulsive disorder, it doesn't just skim the disease, it shows what I would imagine it is like to have verified OCD. And it is not all fun and games. From the eyes of Bea, we get a girl whose disease is worsening before her eyes, and at first she doesn't really think that anything is wrong, but when she starts going to support group and meets Beck who is in the middle of his first full blown panic attack, which she is familiar with, she begins to see things through a new view. Including herself. We get a healthy dose of humor in this one, and Bea is very self deprecating, making light of things, but that is how she deals, and it also provides a bit of relief for the reader. We see many ways how OCD can work itself out and manifest, and dealing with anxiety myself, I feel for these kids. I see little bits of myself in them and I am so glad that I haven't crossed into that territory (yet and hopefully never). Bea grows as a character in this one, through her friendships, through her trying to be supportive family, her therapist Dr. Pat, and the support group. But it also shows that the battle with OCD isn't something you can take a vacation from. It is part of who you are and while meds and therapy can help, there is no real cure. So, it doesn't give a false view of the mental disorder in that sense, but it does show a sense of hope for the future, and for management. Though of course, Bea has to get to all time lows in order to accept that help, but you expect nothing less from a contemporary novel. Bottom Line: Gritty contemporary that faces mental illness head on with a side of humor.
booksbysteph says "It's Like Being Inside the Head of a Person with OCD" Reading this book is like being inside the head of a person with OCD. I always thought OCD was just anal people who had to have a place for everything and freaked out if you disturbed anything. This book teaches you that there is so much more to the illness than making sure your remote controls are lined up by size. This book takes you through a mental illness. From denial to realization and acceptance. Then fear of people knowing and judging and what therapy is like. Surrendering is torture. There were parts of the book where I felt Bea's fear, anxiety and pain and I cried along with her. I feel this is a good book to give to kids who may have OCD. It shows you do not have to be afraid of it and there is help, if you let people. Until next time, live life one page at a time!