Lexapros & Cons by Aaron Karo (website | twitter)
Upcoming Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Target audience: Young adult
Format read: Paperback ARC from ALA (Thanks!)
Summary: Chuck just has to get through a few more months of high school — a place where he was mostly invisible due to his OCD. As his behaviors begin to worsen, his parents convince him to get help before he leaves for college and he is more on his own. But it takes a bit more than his doctor’s advice to steer him in the right direction.
You know what’s exhausting? Reading so many books back-to-back with female protagonists! I’m a girl; I totally get it. We’re complicated. We’re emotional! This is why reading a book like Curveball or Paper Towns and now, Lexapros and Cons, is like splashing cold water on my face ala a Neutrogena commercial. The boys can be just as insecure and misguided as the gals but their voices are so fresh.
Take Chuck Taylor for example. (Named neither for the basketball player or the shoe. A fan of the shoe, and not the sport.) Senior in high school. Total genius. Brother of popular (younger) sister who still won’t accept his friend request on Facebook. Pretty much invisible to everyone except his best friend Steve. And slave to his OCD. He can’t sleep because he can’t stop feeling like he has to pee and he’s always getting up to quadruple check the stove to make sure it’s off. He can’t walk away from his locker without making sure it’s locked at least 18 times. For a kid who is all set to go away to college in a few months, these are definitely behaviors he needs to be able to control. Even the senior trip – the NO CHAPERONES senior trip he has been looking forward to since freshman year – is an issue. It’s camping. How can a kid with OCD go camping? With bugs and dirt? Chuck’s answer: he can’t.
So you can see how this premise has the potential to equal heavy, serious story (i.e. It’s Kind of a Funny Story) but Lexapros and Cons is aware of life. It doesn’t stop because one serious thing is weighing us down. There are still surprises and hilarious moments and friends with their own shit going on. And that’s why this book is just as awesome as its title. Chuck may have real struggles to work through but he’s hilarious. I dare you not to like him. As a reader, I enjoy a book so much more when a character is open and honest about who they really are. With Chuck, nothing is held back. You know how many times he masturbates but at the same time, how swoony he gets over the new girl, Amy. (He also has a shoe collection some of us might die for.)
Amy! She sounds like the coolest girl on the planet (thanks to Chuck). I mean who could wear a camouflage jacket with ballet flats and always say “right on” and get away with it? (Not me.) She’s just a part of the great team of supporting characters, including best friend Steve who is equally funny in his own geeky way. I will admit to liking Chuck’s “courting” of Amy just as much as his friendship with Steve. It’s also interesting how both of these characters each play a role in being a catalyst in Chuck’s attempts to deal with his OCD.
The book also deals with bullying, friendship, and being honest about who you are. It’s about making your own choices. Choices you need to make for yourself and not for others. I’m glad Karo depicted OCD as a disease that cannot be fixed by pills and doctor visits alone. It takes time, patience, support, and sometimes falling on your face.
You know what? I think it’s time to hang out with the boys. Because they say silly and sweet things, have active sex drives, and have just as much trouble working through their own shit as the next girl in your book pile.