Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review: Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis

A couple of times in the last few months, I've been offered review copies of OCD related books to read and potentially review. I'm not good at being critical, so if I don't like a book, I just don't review it at all.

But recently I read one I liked, so here I go. Zelah Green: Queen of Clean is a young adult novel by Vanessa Curtis. It was released in England a while back, but it's coming to the U.S. this fall. Zelah Green, 14, has OCD of the germ, symmetry and "good numbers" variety. She's sent to a residential treatment facility by her evil stepmother. It's not an OCD-based facility so she meets other teens with varying mental health issues, including self-harm, depression and anorexia. The other characters are developed to varying degrees and we grow to care about them, too. (I have to add that frankly, if this were the real world, I might consider the place a little sketchy, but since it's not, we'll call it charming.) Zelah is treated with exposure and response prevention, so that's good news. The ERP's not quite perfect- at several points her therapist actually promises her that nothing bad will happen if she does her exposures- but it's sure better than talk therapy.

For good or bad, this book is part of series. Book two is already published. What this means, unfortunately, is that Zelah can't get too well in book one, or what would we have to talk about in the remaining books? So when she leaves the facility, she's done some exposures, but she still exists in a world full of compulsions and rituals.

The good: The characters are well developed and likable (or unlikable, as needed). The OCD is presented in a fairly realistic way. The treatment scenes, while not perfect, are pretty good. It's just plain well written, with some turns of phrase that were so nice that I highlighted them on my computer screen. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I plan to read the next one soon.

The bad: To some extent the supporting characters are more interesting than Zelah herself, partly because we only get some of their stories and are left wanting more. I don't know if the book is being "translated" from the British English to American, but there were a few words in there that even I, a longtime reader of British chicklit, had never come across before. plimsolls? stroppy? And my most important complaint, of course, that the ERP isn't implemented as well as I'd like. But heck, that reflects real life, right?

So, I'd recommend it. It's aimed at teens and is fairly short and a quick read but fine for adults I'd say. It features some graphic scenes of the residents' issues, cutting in particular. So not for young kids. You can find the book at


  1. sounds like a good book to know about OCD! thanks!

  2. If this helps with any "translation" issues, plimsolls are pumps/plain, flat shoes commonly worn in school sports and PE lessons. Stroppy means snappy and moody :P