Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #163: OCD Love Story by Cory Ann Haydu

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Please, be aware that OCD Love Story is not your typical YA fare. Haydu’s characters aren’t the lovably quirky folk that people with psychiatric disorders are often turned into by lesser writers; Bea and Beck are screwed up, and OCD Love Story is about them coming to terms with that fact, each of them assisting the other in no one’s idea of a romantic courtship. Reading it, I was reminded of Neil Hilborn’s performance, which was posted on Pajiba not too long ago.

OCD Love Story is like if Hilborn had fallen for the rough female equivalent of himself, if the two of them were even deeper down that rabbit hole called OCD, yet resistant to accepting the reality of the neuroses that threaten to cripple them mentally and barrel roughshod through their already precarious lives.

These are not characters your average person can sympathize with; unless you’ve gone through it yourself, it’s difficult to get a grasp on how tough it is for Bea to help herself, and to help herself. This isn’t a story of fucked up girl meets fucked up boy, they fall in love, and, huzzah, they’re cured, seemingly overnight.

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OCD Love Story is more like this final season of Eastbound & Down. Bea, like Kenny Powers, is destined to take a golden opportunity (for her, meeting Beck) and turn it into a storm of shit set to rain down directly upon her own head. No one is better equipped for the act of self-sabotage than they are, and it’s often cringe-inducing to watch each out-of-control free fall from grace, largely because you know it was brought on entirely by themselves.

Except, Bea has an excuse; Kenny may well be afflicted with his own flavor of psychiatric disorder, but unlike Bea he’s never been officially diagnosed. If he were, though, I imagine he’d take to it no differently than Bea took to her own forced therapy, that is if he would even show up. Furthermore, Bea has conscience enough to stare in disbelief at her wrongs, whereas Kenny is too blissfully unaware of the damage he’s causing to find himself subject to that same level of self-awareness.

It’s this quality, her ability to gawk along with us in horror at her actions, that keeps OCD Love Story from being the virtually joyless doom spiral that is Eastbound & Down season four. You could say Bea is actually more Stevie than Kenny, that her OCD is her Kenny, drudging back up her worst qualities at the worst possible times.

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Kenny brings out out the Kenny in Stevie, a schmuck who really just wants to belong, but doesn’t know how, and Bea’s OCD does the same for her. She wants to be loved, yet she shoots herself down faster and more effectively than any guy could. It’s only when she finds Beck, someone who shares her plight, that she can begin to work towards fixing this fundamental flaw, and it’s partly due to Beck showing her what it looks like from an outsider’s perspective.

Beck, compared to Bea, a repeat offender when it comes to stalking, this time a married man at the same time as she’s dating Beck, seems tame by comparison, since his compulsions are, as Bea repeatedly mentions, sort of healthy… when done in moderation, which is what Beck has trouble with. He washes his hands till they’re raw, he works out to the point that he’s ejected from the gym for his own health, but at least he’s not compromising others’ privacy and feelings of safety.

I almost wanted Beck to see her for what she was, at least at first, which is not a positive influence; as Bea realizes over time, she’s holding him back in a sense. Despite that, if the two of them couldn’t get better for one another, I doubted that anyone or anything else could make it happen, and so I rooted for them.

Now, what you’ll make of OCD Love Story, I haven’t the faintest clue, but I urge you to read it because it’s not often that an author speaks in such frank and raw terms about psychiatric disorders, especially in her debut work. OCD Love Story felt so real to me that I was surprised to find it hadn’t come from an equally real place, like Jonathan Green’sThe Fault in Our Stars. It wouldn’t surprise me if you were put off, no differently than the characters surrounding Bea and Beck are put off by them; however, you should at least read it to get an idea of what life for people like them is like, so instead of looking at them as just another crazy, you can sympathize because you know that, for them, every day, every hour, every minute, every second is a struggle. Haydu does a great job of portraying that and I cannot wait for her sophomore effort, Life by Committee, due out next year.

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