Ariel Crashes a Train

Random/Labyrinth Rd. Mar. 2024. 464p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593644669.
Gr 9 Up–Ariel must complete a series of rituals including tapping, counting, and chanting to keep her family safe. If she misses a beat or tally, the scaly green crocodile creeps in with horrific intrusive thoughts of stabbing, slicing, crashing, and burning others. A hidden secret even from her bestie, Leah, only Ariel’s sister Mandy knows the truth about the rotting, putrid depravity inside her. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but maybe her brain does. She is grappling with society’s expectations of her size, her parents’ expectation of faith, questioning her gender and sexuality, and thwarting the crocodile tangle into chaos in her mind. Verse is a perfect fit for Ariel’s narrative, as her intrusive thoughts beat a sharp staccato that interrupts her story metaphorically. Although Mandy is away at college, she provides a safe space of sorts for Ariel to talk that neither her parents nor Leah offer. Addressed in a sensitive and clinical but clear way, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is explained by psychology student Mandy in a highly accessible story about the amygdala who sounds the alarm in the brain. Ariel develops new coping skills, so she has the ability to live her life authentically and robustly with hope.
VERDICT This deeply compassionate and sharp-edged dive into OCD is a must for all collections.

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