Thursday, April 12, 2012
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.
As much as I love straight-up emotional dramas and the occasional otherworldly adventure, I think my favorite stories will always be the ones that manage to handle serious subjects with both humor and heart, and Lexapros and Cons does just that.
Chuck's narration is initially a bit off-putting because it's of the totally crude teenage boy variety, but once he meets his Potential Girl Amy and his OCD starts getting more out of hand, the crude humor takes a back seat to Chuck's self-deprecation and the genuine hilarity of his awkward actions. Because, really, even when things get serious, like when his OCD worsens, Chuck's actions never stop having a twinge of humor too. Some of the consequences that result from Chuck's illness are just so exaggerated and insane that I couldn't help but stifle a giggle as I realized I probably shouldn't laugh at his problems, but most of the time I'd end up laughing anyway because Chuck freely acknowledges how silly he is being and the extent to which he screws things up. His self-awareness makes his journey with OCD all the more emotional too, because he knows how to try and fix it but always notes the difficulty with even trying.
Just as great as Chuck and his narration are the rest of his friends. Well, not really "friends" because Chuck will be the first to say that his only real friend is his best, Steve. However, Steve on his own is more than enough. He's as funny as Chuck but in a hopeful but totally oblivious way that accompanies Chuck's self-deprecation quite well. However, the best thing about their friendship is that most of the time they can tell each other when the other is being an idiot, which makes their care for each other all the more genuine. Amy, the girl Chuck likes, is a great addition to the story as well. She sometimes seemed a bit too perfect but the way she makes Chuck act results in his genuine growth and some hilarious moments, so I like her anyway. I wish the other minor characters were as well-developed because they were more typical high school stereotypes, like Parker the bully and the Kevin Gnapoor-esque Kanha. Still, at least they added more angst for Chuck, because the book gets more intense and therefore enjoyable as Chuck finds more issues to confront.
Lexapros and Cons features a wonderfully hilarious lead but also manages to be sweet in its love story and smart in its handling of Chuck's OCD.
Book details: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Hardcover/$16.99
Source: sent by publisher for review