Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review: Lexapros and Cons

Hi, everyone! On tap today is another in our string of book reviews aimed at giving you insight into the male brain. This category includes:
  • Books guys are likely to read
  • Books written in a strong male voice
  • Books that mention Dungeons & Dragons and/or the cyclic rate of an M-16 (any book that mentions both gets a +10 modifier on Firepower rolls)
Today's book is Lexapros & Cons by Aaron Karo.

Summary from Oblong Books:
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.

The main character here is one Chuck Taylor, a brainy, moderately foul-mouthed high school student with a heady crush on the new girl, Amy (whose name is one of only ten officially sanctioned YA crush names along with Autumn, Beth, Madison, Payton, Piper, Paige, Rachel, Skyler and, presaging a new Thai trend in YA, Thaksincha - you read it here first).

Chuck also has a best friend, Steve, who has a crush of his own on Chuck's younger sister, Beth (see what I mean?), a popular, social media maven who was created by God as a daily reminder of how socially awkward Chuck is.

Chuck's awkwardness stems in part from his OCD. And when I say OCD, I'm not talking about the kind of OCD some people pretend to have in order to excuse their obsessive need to arrange their bookshelves in spine-color order or re-tweet everything @billgates says. The former doesn't make you a decorating genius and the latter doesn't make you a billionaire humanitarian. And neither makes you OCD.

Chuck suffers from real OCD, clinically described here in a way that gave me a sense of what true obsessive compulsiveness might look like. At one point, Karo describes Chuck's need to check the stove one last time to make sure the burners are off as an itch that must be scratched. It was a brilliant way of showing that, while Chuck has some control over his behaviors, it would be maddening not to do them.

Quick side note (that's a tiny bit SPOILER-Y and NSFW, so stop reading now if you don't want minor plot points revealed and/or you want to remain employed in your current job).

Okay, so let's talk OCD and masturbation.

Oh my, it's that kind of review...
The opening line of the book tells us exactly how many times Chuck masturbated last year, a count he keeps with tally marks on Post-It Notes (which I am positive 3M never intended for their flagship product).

About halfway through the book, I realized that chapter numbers were shown as, waaaait for it, tally marks on a Post-It Note! Eww, right? Because the numbers just keep climbing the more you read!

But here's the totally freaky part. I was reading the book on my Kindle. And the Kindle denotes chapter breaks with tiny lines on a bar at the bottom of the page. If there are a lot of chapter breaks (like there are in Lexapros), then the bar at the bottom of the page looks like a centipede made completely of TALLY MARKS!!

It was like seeing a visual representation of just how much Chuck was milking the one-uddered cow.
The exact count is 1 Shit Ton
Okay, whatever, I thought it was totally meta.

Anywho, I really enjoyed Lexapros and Cons. Chuck was interesting and funny and his relationship with Steve felt very real because it was at once bitingly funny and incredibly close. When Chuck's behavior becomes increasingly careless, Steve doesn't let his bestie hide behind his OCD. Steve knows what is ascribable to the condition and what is just Chuck being a douchebag.

I also really liked Amy and thought she was a great love interest. She's charming and beautiful and possessed of a deep capacity for love coupled with the burden of vulnerability. Those two mix like beer and wine and it's heartbreaking when she tells Chuck "I'm more think than you hurt I am!"

The other characters behave in a manner consistent with their personalities, like the aforementioned Beth. Every time I thought she was going to bring it down a notch and treat her brother with a modicum of respect, she spat in his Cheerios. Not literally (although if I were Chuck, I'd eat my Cheerios out of one of those single-portion boxes that you can pour milk into). Chuck's parents seem just as well-meaning (and thus completely maddening) as most parents, with all the attendant difficulty in addressing touchy subjects (like the medicine in the title).

I am happy to be able to recommend this book because it puts the lie to the idea that books guys might enjoy have to have explosions and sex and dinosaurs and explosive dinosaur sex. Yes, those books definitely sell better to the estrogen-challenged demo (and to paleontologists who like to get they freak on!). But this isn't a story where anyone saves the earth, battles the undead or transmogrifies into the mythical King of the Hipsters (who used to be totally cool until, you know, he was coronated and then everyone was into him and they just ruined it). It's a story about a kid coming to terms with himself, his family and his friend while trying to be worthy of the girl he's falling for.

Nothing fancy, just life. And totally worth reading!

Have you read it? Give us your thoughts in the comments!

Keep your own tally of Copil's non sequiturs by following him on Twitter (@copil).


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