"...what's perfect? What does it look like? Feel like?"
I think if we asked that question to a room of kids we would get many many answers. As we know, it's different for everyone. It looks different to everyone. It feels different for everyone.
"Aligned. Equal. Even...when everything just feels right."
That sounds like a good answer, doesn't it? Perfect is when everything just feels right. But what if it feels right means counting by 4s to make sure your little brother stays healthy? What if it means lining up your collectables and then using a ruler to make sure each and every one is spaced a perfect inch apart? And it doesn't feel right until then.
That's what it's like inside the head of someone who is living with OCD - obsessive-compulsive disorder. To fight with your mind all the time, and to have your mind win, to do something even though you know with your body it needs to stop. To wonder if something is wrong with you. To wonder if you're not right. Elly Swartz captures the pain and frustration and how confused this makes a young girl. I was very impressed with how right everything felt.
We first meet Molly and learn about what is not going right - her mom has left the family to go to a job in Canada. Her dad is busy with work to be present with the kids. Her best friend may need to move to a different state. And meanwhile, new habits appear. Habits that Molly has no control over. And for a 12 year old girl, it's confusing. So she hides them. But instead of disappearing, they get worse. Until it's hard to keep them inside. Swartz moves the problem along at a perfect pace. At the beginning we see Molly's habits and know while they are not something most kids do, it's kept in control. But then Swartz starts upping the conflict a little bit at a time until we feel how Molly is spiraling out of control. The climax comes at just the right time, right when I couldn't take anymore of Molly's pain. I had a desperate need to jump in the book and help her.
Swartz includes great resources at the end of the book. I like how she separates them - experts consulted and resources consulted.
I hope this is a book that you add to your classroom or library. There is a student that needs to find this story. Thank you for giving it to them.
by Elly Swartz
published by Farrar Straus Giroux
To Molly Nathans, perfect is:
• The number four
• The tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil
• A crisp, white pad of paper
• Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines
What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are often broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with table cloths. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?
But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.