STARRED REVIEW
March 10, 2015

More than a little complicated

By Teresa Toten
Review by

Almost 15, Adam Ross has outgrown his pants and fallen in love with Robyn Plummer all in the same week. Combine that with navigating his divorced parents, his needy-yet-adorable stepbrother, his mother’s hoarding and his own Obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Adam can hardly imagine what a “normal” high school experience would be like.

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Almost 15, Adam Ross has outgrown his pants and fallen in love with Robyn Plummer all in the same week. Combine that with navigating his divorced parents, his needy-yet-adorable stepbrother, his mother’s hoarding and his own Obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Adam can hardly imagine what a “normal” high school experience would be like. In fact, as all of these things converge, Adam might just be in over his head.

The Governor General's Award-winning novel by Canadian author Teresa Toten is a breathtaking portrayal of the anxiety, confusion and yearning for community that will be familiar to teenage readers—and, for that matter, readers of any age. In this younger, softer Silver Linings Playbook, Adam works hard to be a superhero, protecting his stepbrother and his mother and playing Batman to his newfound love, Robyn. His sheer determination is equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking.

The complex, richly developed teen characters in this novel are all coping with various degrees of OCD, and Toten treats the subject with admirable deftness. At no point is the disorder reduced to a stereotype or to an object of pity. It’s an obstacle and another serious complication in an already-complicated stage of life, but it never defines the characters or becomes the novel’s central focus. Instead, the core of the story is the struggle Adam and his group face to understand themselves and each other, and to navigate their roles in new friendships, evolving families and first loves.

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