The Unlikely Hero of Room 13 B, by Teresa Toten (2013)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Level: 14-18
Unlikely Hero of Room 13BFirst loves are a roller coaster ride of emotions, terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Add in the complication of obsessive compulsion disorder and an author with a strong hand and superb sense of humour, and I’m hooked. This was a delightful discovery, thanks to an advance reading copy from NetGalley. Fourteen-year-old Adam’s life is complicated – his mother is a hoarder, so inviting friends home is not an option. His father gave up long ago, divorced and remarried and is now also father to four-year-old Wendell (known as Sweetie), who worships his half-brother. Adam feels building pressure to protect his mother and remain a hero to his little brother, while at the same time being there for his friends. Adam relies on meds, a few lies, counting (“even numbers are bitch”) and rituals as a way of keeping the monsters at bay. Mistakes in the rituals mean he has to start over, or something bad will happen and it will be his fault. Not surprisingly, Adam is in therapy, and it’s at a support group for OCD teens that Adam meets and falls head over heels for Robyn. Toten uses comedy and poignancy to explore Adam’s first experience with love, one that serves to add to the pressures in his life. Toten has twice been nominated for a Governor-General’s Award for her writing, but this is my first time reading her work. Adam’s voice is so authentically written that I kept forgetting this book is written by a woman. She has done her homework on OCD and delivers beautifully on the reality of what drives these obsessions, but it’s her keen understanding of teen lives and teen voices that make this one of the best Canadian YA novels I’ve read a while.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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