Compulsion Review

By Heidi Ayarbe

Compulsion. Ten letters. Ten plus zero equals 10. Damn! Not good.

If you’re wondering what I’m raving about, wait until you dive into Compulsion and into the very chaotic head of seventeen-year-old Jake Martin, star soccer player and OCD sufferer.

Jake’s held prisoner by his compulsions – needing the time, or people’s words, or french fries or his steps and just about anything else countable to end up in a prime number. Having to do everything exactly the same every single day to keep the spiders from gnawing at his brain.

I’m a happy ending type of gal, but only when it warrants it. This didn’t warrant it. Mental illness is a complex problem that can’t be happy ended easily. Yet, I wanted Jake to have a happy ending so badly that I think I held my breath the last 20 pages of the book, hoping against hope he would.

I know, I know this is total opposite of how I felt with Leverage. And God only knows the characters in Leverage went through enough to deserve their pat ending. Still, Jake’s story is heart-wrenching. I needed him to catch a break.

This story could have easily been from the perspective of a kid who chooses to lurk in the shadows because of their disorder. You’d almost expect that since the compulsions are so intense, the assumption would be everyone would notice just how odd this kid is.

But Jake is the star soccer player on whose shoulders winning the team’s third championship in a row rests. He’s popular by sheer force of his athletic prowess. So hiding his OCD is an exhausting routine. I was tired right along with him by book’s end.

Although Compulsion attempts to tag a trigger to Jake’s disorder, the reality is it’s clearly genetic. Jake’s mom exhibits severe symptoms of mental illness and his sister slightly so. All the more reason Jake is a very sympathetic character.

He started out in a deficit thanks to his mother, making the odds of him catching that break I mentioned slim.

It’s complex stuff. But Ayarbe pulls the reader into Jake’s head. She doesn’t get into any clinical detail about mental illness or OCD. Instead, she forces the reader to experience the all-out hell it is when you can’t control your impulses and the effects on your mind and body both when you give in to them and when you can’t. It’s a hellish version of a Catch-22.

Readers who don’t mind dipping into the depths of the brain’s darkside will enjoy Compulsion. As an aside, although I don’t believe Jake was, many of the book’s other central characters were of Latino-descent. It threw me, at first, because there wasn’t any particular reason there should have been so many Latino characters – other than Ayarbe lives in Colombia and is clearly influenced by the culture. Still, I welcomed the diversity.

2 thoughts on “Compulsion Review

  1. I’m going to have to read this book. I have OCD and I still vividly remember the first time I read a book that dealt with it.

  2. Dear Editor:
    I was “delighted” to find your web site and to browse all of the titles you have published. Just in time too… for I will be appearing on KDKA TV a pittsburgh television station affilicate of CBS for Black History Month in February. I will be presenting notable books for Black children by black authors and illustrators and can now also mention your exclusive publication company. This is in connection with the 4th volume of my book: Black Authors and Illustrators of Books for Children and Young Adults.
    (Google: Barbara Thrash Murphy)
    I would like to request the following review books to be used in my presentation: JUMPING THE BROOM by Sonia W. Black; FLOWER GIRL BUTTERFLIES by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard abd
    PET WASH by Gwendolyn Hooks.

    Most sincerely,
    Dr. Barbara C. Murphy

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