When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), he is smitten, drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He's determined to protect and defend her--to play Batman to her Robyn--whatever the cost.
Teresa Toten’s new young-adult novel The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is heart-warming, compassionate and above all believable. The protagonist Adam has his work cut out for him as he faces a wall of worry, some of it existential, some internal. Not only is he trying to understand his OCD, while trying to balance his relationship with his divorced parents, but he’s also trying to navigate through the issues that teenagers normally face, namely the perils of young love. At fourteen, he’s love struck by the older Robyn, and in this amusing tale of young love, Adam becomes all the more adorable as we are taken on the ride through a labyrinth of personal thought as he tries to figure out how he can get her to notice and like him.
In his quest to be “normal” his personal life and diagnosis is stacked against him. He obsesses about the church doors (and understands it’s a bit nuts to think of them as evil). “How can church doors be evil.”? Should he tell his friends from the support group? No he decides, “The shame would shut him down for good. The look on Wolverine’s face alone…”.
But his obsessive-compulsive behavior towards his fear of doorknobs isn’t the only thing that causes him stress. He finds out that his mom has begun to receive threatening letters and doesn’t want to tell anyone or else…! The “why” is what keeps us on the edge of our seats. But this is not all a tale of woe. Teresa Toten manages to keep the story flowing with fun ripples in her writing style: superhero titles for the members of the support group, inclusion of the lists that the therapist gives as homework. And Adam copes with his OCD and the trials in his life, by focusing the happiness he feels when he’s around Robyn.
Ironically, as Adam’s life is continuing to revolve around his obsessive-compulsive actions, his five-year old stepbrother’s life revolves around him. Wendal, affectionately dubbed “Sweetie” thinks Adam truly is The Dark Knight, and like the hero of Detective Comics, there is no problem his older and wiser brother cannot solve. Adam enjoys and thrives with the responsibility of “big brother” on his shoulders, and Teresa Toten manages to give our hero a seemingly “normal” existence and the courage to persevere.
4/5 Sukasa Stars
On sale: August 27, 2013.
On sale: August 27, 2013.