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Little Willow
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Total Constant Order by Crissa-Jean Chappell

In Crissa-Jean Chappell's debut young adult novel, Total Constant Order, a high school girl named Fin quietly attempts to deal with her growing need for rituals. After her parents split up, Fin finds herself counting things and following certain patterns carefully.

Her mother, not fully attentive, does not completely understand her daughter's struggles and initially shrugs them off. Fin would rather sort out things on her own than scream or beg for her mother to pay attention to her. She would rather hide out in her room or in an abandoned house nearby than have a heart-to-heart with her mother.

Fin has trouble applying herself at school. She finds herself doodling in class and thinking of other things. She is fairly friendless until an older boy named Thayer strikes up a conversation with her. Even though she is not immediately receptive to him, he keeps talking to her. It strikes her as odd that someone could possibly be interested in what she does and what she thinks. After running into Thayer at the doctor's office, she discovers that they have some things in common. For example, both use art as a means of expression. Gradually, Fin begins to warm up to him.

After being diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Fin is prescribed Paxil. The medicine makes her feel out-of-sorts. She does not tell her mother or her doctor about the impact that her diagnosis, her condition, and her medication are having on her body and her mind. Once again, she decides to handle things in her own quiet way.

Crissa-Jean Chappell has created a story that will keep readers interested whether or not they are familiar with OCD. Fin doesn't let the illness didn't define her, and she learns to defy it in slow stages, to control it realistically and on her own terms. Fin also acts her age. She isn't 14 going on 18, nor 14 going on 10. She also does not act out nor try to act like anyone else. She is who she is, as is Thayer. He unapologetically self-medicates with drugs swiped from his own mother, of all people. Please note that I personally do not advocate drug use. However, I do recognize that Crissa is to be commended for the honest portrayal of these two characters.

Total Constant Order by Crissa-Jean Chappell will be released in late October.

Little Willow's Recommendations for Novels About OCD
Total Constant Order by Crissa-Jean Chappell - Of course! - Rated PG - Ages 13 and up
Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser - Based on the author's own experiences - Rated G - Ages 10 and up
Multiple Choice by Janet Tashjian - Though it never says OCD outright, her quest for perfectionism and her issues with decision-making will resonate with those plagued with similar routines and problems - Rated G - Ages 10 and up
Snap by Alison McGhee - This also lacks the OCD term, but the character has repetitive routines, and the title and cover fit the book to a T - Rated G - Ages 10 and up

Please check out my booklist Tough Issues for Teens for additional titles about heavy subject matters, including physical disorders and illnesses.

(Drawing) Along the Same Lines
The main characters in Kelly Parra's debut novel, Graffiti Girl, also use art as expression. Graffiti art is hugely important to that book, since it is all about a teenager discovering the underground graf scene, while graf is more of a supporting player than a main player in TCO.

Additional Reading
Check out my interview with Crissa-Jean Chappell.
Take a peek at Fin's journal.
View Crissa's art piece Levitation, which she created for the Art Saves project I ran for readergirlz.
Tags: books, cybils, reviews
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