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Sunday, August 20, 2017

finding PERFECT, written by Elly Swartz. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2017. $19.50 ages 8 and up

"Fewer yeses. That has to mean something. Right? I read on. It says if I have these thoughts, I likely also do the compulsive stuff. I look at that list. Sure, I do some of those things, but not all of them. I mean who doesn't wash their hands? And, how am I supposed to know how much is too much? And is there some site talking about kids who don't wash their hands enough ... "

It's hard being Molly Nathans. She's only twelve, and she is dealing with a lot, not the least of which is her ever-growing obsession with managing her own life. She has always been neat: cleaning and organizing, liking things in order, having spotless hands, and counting. New developments with her family cause her OCD to become more obvious and compelling.

Her mom has taken a job away from home, and she promises will last only one year. It throws the family into chaos, as Molly sees it. She wants to make sure that her mother comes back and is sure she will if only Molly can just win the poetry slam contest, and be even more perfect in the way she takes care of things. Her father is distracted, her sister is angry, and Molly worries about her little brother's health. Her best friend may have to move, and what will she do then?

Most middle graders are focused on their own lives; that is a natural thing. Molly has supportive friends who want to help, but can only do so much. The more Molly worries, the less she can control her obsessive behaviors. The way she thinks about so many things cannot be controlled, and it is creating problems in those relationships. Her bravery in seeking help as she feels herself spinning out of control is a leap of faith that has hopeful results.

Hearing Molly's voice as she shares what is happening is often painful, but also telling. This is a powerful and valid look at OCD. It helps those middle graders who will share this story become more informed and hopefully more compassionate for their friends who are experiencing some of the same feelings and behaviors. As a class read, it offers many opportunities for discussion and understanding.

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