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Multiple Choice Looks at OCD

June 21, 2009

Multiple Choice by Janet Tashjian
published by Square Fish January 22, 2008

Monica Devon, the protagonist of Multiple Choice, is a very bright, perfectionistic and intense middle-schooler. She is obsessed with details and excels at word games. Looking a little deeper, we find that Monica suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She is enslaved by rigid, tedious rituals and struggles with chronic anxiety. She wants to be able to relax. She wants to be more creative and spontaneous. She wants to be “normal.”

To force some spontaneity on herself, she devises a game called Multiple Choice. In this game, she makes herself do “crazy” things, like coming to school in pajamas. However, the exploits dictated by the game become less harmless, and she loses a beloved friend and endangers another person she loves. In the end, she has no choice but to bring her demons into the light and ask for help.

I didn’t find the complexity and depth of character development in Multiple Choice that I see in other young adult novels, such as Luna. I also didn’t find the breadth of information about OCD offered in books like Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser. However, there were many aspects of Monica’s experience that — as a mom of a bright, wonderful young lady with OCD — I felt rang true. The word games punctuating the book also added interest. This novel would be a good choice for middle and high schoolers interested in OCD or in teenage perfectionism and anxiety. It might also be helpful to older children and teens who have anxiety disorders.

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