Review Blog

Jun 09 2015

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

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Walker Books, 2015. ISBN 9781406362992
(Age: Upper middle school) Highly recommended. Themes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Mental illness, Depression, Heroes, Adolescence, Love, friendship, lies, loyalty, family breakdown.Adam Walker has the same concerns as most 14 year old boys; will he find a girlfriend? Is he going to grow? Should he try out for the school track and field team? All complicated by his obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). At a support group for OCD teens Adam falls instantly in love with new girl, Robyn and vows to pay more attention in the group, get better and to grow so that she might like him. In the group they are asked to choose an alter ego as part of their therapy and almost all choose superhero identities, Robyn chooses to be Robin and Adam becomes Batman, resolving to be her hero and fix all her problems. Their romance blossoms and the group help one another out with their issues as only other sufferers could. Together they investigate whether the rituals and candle lighting at the local Catholic Church have anything positive to offer them. However Adam, who has become central to the wellbeing of others, is increasingly unable to cope with his own issues which manifest themselves in escalating compulsions. Loyalty is important to Adam but he hates lies and it is difficult when he shares his time between his separated parents. His mother makes him promise to keep her hoarding and drinking a secret and when she starts to get threatening letters, which she also wants kept secret, his disorder ramps up. A crisis point is reached which ultimately brings with it hope for the future.
In the same way as the funny and self-deprecating main character of When Mr Dog Bites demystified Tourettes and a range of other mental illnesses, this book gives us some insight on what it must be like to live with OCD. Teresa Toten's believable characters are heroic in the way they strive for normality whilst living with this debilitating condition yet essentially their struggles will resonate with all teens finding their place in the world. Highly recommended for upper middle school boys and girls. A very useful study guide is freely available on the author's website.
Sue Speck

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