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Book Review: Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo

Chuck Taylor’s OCD has rendered him a high school outcast. His endless routines and habitual hand washing threaten to scare away both his closest friend and the amazing new girl in town. Sure he happens to share the name of the icon behind the coolest sneakers in the world, but even Chuck knows his bizarre system of wearing different color “Cons” depending on his mood is completely crazy.

In this hilariously candid debut novel from comedian Aaron Karo—who grew up with a few obsessions and compulsions of his own—very bad things are going to happen to Chuck. But maybe that’s a good thing. Because with graduation looming, Chuck finds himself with one last chance to face his inner demons, defend his best friend, and win over the girl of his dreams. No matter what happens, though, he’ll have to get his hands dirty.

Let me just tell you…I freaking love Chuck Taylor.  This was one male protagonist that I could immediately jump up and down and point my finger and scream “Yes…Karo got it right!  This is the perfect male voice!!!”  Why?  Because the first page of the book immediately dives into what 99% of the male brain is wired for when they are in their teens: masturbation.  It’s not a gross reference and in fact, it is a hilarious intro into a book that I might have otherwise passed over.  Chuck figures out that he is OCD because for an entire year, he keeps up with how many times he masturbates on a post-it note. 

Because of this whacker tally (ha, ya see what I did there?) and an extensive search on the internet in means to self-diagnose himself, he has come to the ultimate conclusion of being OCD.  His parents decide to help him with his disorder and arrange for him to start seeing a psychiatrist, which he reluctantly agrees to.  And of course, all changes in Chuck’s life when a new transfer, Amy, stirs a longing to ‘get better’ so that Amy will see him differently.  

Lexapros and Cons tackles several tough topics: 1) OCD, 2) psychiatrist visits, 3) first love, 4) masturbation, 5) outcast relationships in high school, and 6) becoming yourself.  All with a male main character that could be any random teen boy you see today.  This is possibly the most refreshing male voice that I’ve read since The Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  Not only is Aaron Karo brave enough to tackle the hard topics, he does so with a hilarious voice and creates a character that, while flawed and at times annoying, you cannot help but love and laugh out loud.  

A perfect book for reluctant teen readers…one chapter had a high school class rolling on the floor when I read it aloud.  Sample first and then push it hard because you’ll love it. (Stephanie Wilkes)

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison for another look at a main character with OCD.

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