Book Review -Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz

finding-perfectBy Awnali Mills

Molly Nathans has always been particular.  She likes things to be just so.  Lately, though, she’s having to work harder to make sure that things are balanced, in line, perfect.  Her mother has left her and her two siblings with their dad and gone to Canada to work for a year.  It’s hard for Molly to find balance now, since her family is missing an essential piece.  So she lines up her glass animals using a ruler, rolls her socks just so, washes her hands – a lot – and keeps her pencils sharpened with the points aligned.

Now she’s started worrying that something is going to happen to her little brother, Ian.  Her need for perfection and control are mounting, and she’s started counting by fours.

Surely, surely, when her mother comes back everything will be normal again.  She’ll be normal.  Because her world is spiraling out of control, and people are starting to suspect the truth.

Molly is crazy.


Wow.  Just wow.  What an amazing debut novel for Elly Swartz.  Just as Ann Martin’s Rain Reign took us into the mind of an autistic child, Finding Perfect takes us into the mind of a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  This well researched book took thirteen years to write, and does an excellent job of demonstrating the compulsion to find perfection and balance in order to control the uncontrollable.  She also shows that it seems reasonable and crazy at the same time to the person who has OCD.

Molly uses poetry to show herself to people at the same time that she’s working herself to a frazzle to maintain her veneer of normalcy.  Swartz does an excellent job of portraying the dichotomy that people live with all the time.  We want to be known, but we’re sure that if people really knew us they would dislike us (if you don’t believe me, watch Brene Brown’s TED Talk ).  Molly believes that what she is doing is crazy, but also firmly believes that if she stops, her brother will die.  Swartz answers the questions that I didn’t even know to ask, and that children and adults who read the book will be asking, like what are the signs?  How does this happen?  Can you catch this illness?  Is there a cure?

I believe this to be a valuable book for both children and adults.  It’s well told, and gives outsiders an understanding of why a person with OCD can’t “just stop it.” It could also spark conversations about mental illness and how important it is to seek help and be supportive of people and families who are going through it.

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