OCD in YA books

January 18th 2017

There’s something ever so comforting about reading a book, particularly when a protagonist falls close to your heart, and for sufferers with OCD, it can be warming to see the disorder portrayed correctly and honestly by an author within a character. I’ve noticed recently that a number of authors have been highlighting the intrusive thought and obsessional aspects of OCD, and so I thought I would share 5 books that I found to be comforting as a sufferer of OCD, but could also be helpful for friends/family of sufferers to truly get their heads around this gripping illness.

  1. “Am I Normal Yet?” – Holly Bourne

All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

Evie has OCD and anxiety, and this novel portrays that there is no set standard of “normal”, as she suffers a relapse into her OCD. The way this novel is structured conveys CBT techniques used in treating OCD, and also gives helpful advice to help anyone going through treatment, whilst also showing the impact the disorder has on Evie in her thought patterns and subsequently her relationships. The first book in the Spinster Club Series, I cannot recommend this enough for anyone struggling to accept medication, treatment, or feels alienated by OCD.

2. “Because We Are Bad” – Lily Bailey

As a child, Lily Bailey knew she was bad. By the age of 13, she had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease, and ogled the bodies of other children.

Only by performing an exhausting series of secret routines could she correct her wrongdoing. But it was never enough.

She had a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and it came with a bizarre twist.

If I were to pick a favourite book from these 5, I would 110% choose this one. A non-fictional novel depicting life with OCD from a young age that I related to on a deep, deep level. It was reading Lily Bailey’s struggles and certain obsessions that resonated within me that my intrusive thoughts are not me, nor are they a representation of myself. Just thoughts. An ideal, true-life novel for anyone struggling to accept an OCD diagnosis or the nature of their intrusive thoughts.

3. “Every Last Word” – Tamara Ireland Stone

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off… Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large…

I picked this novel up in 2015 at Indigo Books and Music in Toronto, Canada, when I was on holiday, and I have never regretted it since then. A beautiful tale of OCD in high school student Sam on how it affects friendships, confidence, and even your perception of reality. This is most definitely recommended to anyone looking to smile at the end, and all lovers of poetry. My copy is battered and worn, but most importantly, it is loved.

4. “Mad Girl” – Bryony Gordon 

Bryony Gordon has OCD. It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it.

Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

Another non-fiction novel, I loved this. A humour filled tale from columnist Bryony Gordon, conveying the impact of OCD from a young age, and the co-diagnoses it can bring. There were multiple times I wanted to scream at past Bryony, tell her not to spiral into x, y, or z, give her a hug, or hit her with a hardback Harry Potter book. Without a doubt, though, I finished the book with a smile on my face, and some tears at just how majestic this piece is. A realistic portrayal of the hardships of life, relapse, and recovery.

5. “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” – Patrick Ness

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Although not solely based on OCD, I thought this was an important book to include. Ness’ protagonist, Mikey, has OCD. Ness portrays a realistic account of OCD whilst highlighting one important thing: there is more to Mikey than the disorder. I believe this book is incredible because Ness has such a vivid and engaging writing style, but also because it taught me one thing: OCD is not you, it is a sub-plot to your own story.

Needless to say I haven’t read every single book ever that includes OCD, and there are a few lingering on my To-Be-Read list waiting to get picked up, such as “Goldfish Boy”, but these are just 5 that have made an impact in my life. If you read some or have done so in the past, hearing your opinion on them would be great! Or, are there more essential must-reads you have to suggest? You can always comment, or have a chat in our forum!]

Take care,


*Do note that these novels are not self-help books, and may contain explicit language/vivid imagery of obsessions.

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