This is what happened the first time I read a book about someone with OCD: When I was in middle school, I started getting help for OCD. I didn’t read a book about a character with OCD until I was in college, a decade later. It had a huge impact on me. As time went on, I learned that I was more than my mental illness. After meeting a narrator who could relate, I felt so much less alone and ashamed of my mental illness.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects 2.2 million people in the United States, and about 25 percent of them get a diagnosis by the age of 14. One-third of them say they had symptoms in their childhood. When you write young adult books, it’s important to show people with OCD and other mental health problems.
Find out about 12 books with characters who have obsessive-compulsive disorder by reading on. These books can help people with OCD feel less alone and help people who don’t have it understand what it’s like to have this condition. They range from new books that came out in 2019 to well-known classics that have been read many times.
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
The way Samantha McAllister looks from the outside, she looks just like everyone else at her high school. Then, she thinks that none of her friends would be able to understand her struggle with OCD. Sam has a type of OCD called purely-obsessional OCD, which causes her mind to be filled with thoughts and worries all the time. It was only then that Sam met Caroline, a classmate who seemed to know what it was like to be a person with mental health issues. Even more so, when she meets Caroline at their school, she finds a way to express her doubts and worries in a unique way.
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
The Beatles are Melati Ahmad’s favorite band. Many girls in Malaysia in the 1960s were into music, too. But Mel has a dark secret: unless she taps and counts every day, she thinks she will kill her mother. When her city turns into a war zone on the evening of May 16, she and her mother become separated. She is afraid that her worst fears have come true, so she asks a Chinese boy named Vincent to help her find her mother. However, in order to do so, she will have to get rid of both her obsessive thoughts and her own racial prejudices.
History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Griffin’s best friend and ex-boyfriend, Theo, was the only person who could understand his obsession with numbers. Theo started dating someone else after they broke up. Griffin thought they were meant to be together even though Theo was dating someone else. It all changes when Griffin’s best friend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident. This sends Griffin’s depression and OCD into a downward spiral that could end his whole life. After Theo’s funeral, he turns to the only person who could understand his grief and help him pick up the pieces that were left unfinished: Theo’s boyfriend, Jackson.
Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spencer Hesser
People in the mental health field think this book is important because it was one of the first mainstream YA books to show how OCD was diagnosed and treated. She has been afraid since she was a little girl that if she doesn’t do things that take a long time every day, the people she cares about will die. But when she gets to be a teenager, her compulsive behavior goes to a new level that hurts her friends and loved ones to watch. She meets a boy named Sam who helps her put a name to her worries (OCD) and find help. Is she going to be able to get rid of the thoughts that have been bothering her since she was a child?
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
It can sometimes make Aza Holmes feel like she’s being held hostage by herself in her own mind. Because of her obsessive thoughts, it’s very easy for her to get stuck in a never-ending loop. In the middle of all of this, Russel Pickett has gone missing with a $100,000 reward for his safe return. Ada and her friends want to find him and take the prize. People look for things that aren’t what they expect. It could be that a childhood friend’s house. Not only does this search make Aza think about her own past, but it also makes her OCD so bad that she can’t deal with it on her own.
Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu
This YA book is about five teenagers who help each other deal with their mental health problems. Clarissa wants to face her OCD and her overbearing mother once and for all. Andrew wants to get over his eating disorder so that he can follow his dream of becoming a musician and become a singer. People in Mason’s life are having problems, but he is learning that it isn’t just them. Ben is a big movie fan, but he has trouble with depersonalization. He wants to see more of life than just what he sees in movies. And Stella’s depression makes her angry in ways that are hard for her and other people to understand. A wilderness therapy program brings these five together. During the most difficult month of their lives, they work together to deal with their problems and start to grow and learn from each other.
Waiting for Fitz by Spencer Hyde
Addie doesn’t want to leave her mom or her dog Duck, but her OCD has taken over her life. Because of her obsession with rhythms and counting, she knows that she can’t keep going like this. At Seattle Regional Hospital, she starts to get better as an inpatient at their inpatient ward. He has schizophrenia and likes puns and absurdist theater. Fitz and Fitz like the same things that Fitz and Fitz like. There are things in Fitz’s past and in his mind that don’t make him happy. The two people Addie and Fitz are with try to stay together in a world that is full of uncertainty. They try to find the courage to face their inner demons.
OCD, The Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn
Danielle Levine knows that even at her “alternative high school,” she’s not what other people would call a “fit.” The way she talks, the way she looks, and the way she’s obsessed with things make her seem like a misanthrope to other people. She’s decided to live up to this stereotype. It’s only when her English essay is scathing and a little scandalous that the school psychologist calls her in. She’s forced to take a “social skills” class. When she gets to high school, she meets Daniel, a weird classmate who loves The Big Lebowski. He convinces her that she doesn’t have to go through the whole thing alone.
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten
Adam, 15, has a group of people who help him deal with his OCD. Some people would call it “unorthodox.” His counselor wants them to think of themselves as superheroes who are in charge of their own fates and mental health problems, and he wants them to believe that. As soon as a new girl named Robyn joins the group, Adam wants to be Robyn’s Batman. Besides, Adam has a lot more going on in his life than just having a crush. His parents have split up, his mom has hoarding tendencies, and he has his own intrusive thoughts. However, with the help of Robyn and his other friends, he’s able to find something better than normalcy.
Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo
A shoe company named Chuck Taylor shares his name. That’s not even the worst thing that could happen to him, though! His OCD has always been a problem for him, but by high school, it has taken over his life. It scares his friends when he has a lot of complicated hand-washing routines and thoughts that they don’t want to hear. Without more control, he fears that he will never be able to control his mental health again. When Chuck is about to graduate, he wants to deal with his problems head-on, even if it means getting his hands a little dirty.
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis
She leaves her friends in Chicago to live with a father who had never been a part of her life. Her OCD and general anxiety don’t go well with her dad’s strict house rules. They live a life of wealth and luxury that she had never seen before. People don’t seem to understand her grief or her mental health problems until she meets Marcus, the boy next door, and they start to talk. Their friendship grows and helps Tiffany deal with the death of her mother and her OCD.
Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
In addition to her OCD and agoraphobia, Norah is stuck in her home and her head.
The moment she wakes up to the moment she thinks about going to sleep, she’s paralyzed by fears that compulsions can’t help her with. A boy named Luke comes to her door. She tries to convince herself that she’s happy with the glimpses of the outside world she gets from social media until he comes in. Luke knows that Norah is more than her mental illness, and he wants her to see that, too. In the end, Norah finds the courage to face her fears and stop seeing herself as broken through their friendship and then their romance,