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Chappell, Crissa-Jean. Total constant order.

CHAPPELL, Crissa-Jean. Total constant order. HarperCollins. 280p. c2007. 978-0-06-088605-9. $16.99. JS

Obsessive-compulsive behavior seems to be on the rise, or is more recognizable among today's troubled individuals, including teens. They also tend to display "magical thinking," i.e., the belief that their thoughts can affect external events, a feature of schizophrenia. Where do such fears and anxieties come from, and what is it like to be inside the mind of someone who compulsively counts to keep herself from thinking dangerous thoughts? This book tries to answer those questions. Fin is 14, newly transplanted to Florida, reeling from the recent divorce of her parents, her father's disappearance from her life and her mother's subsequent crankiness and eccentricities. One day she thinks, "I wish my father would die." To distance herself from such horrific thoughts, she counts everything from the number of holes in the ceiling tiles to the beats between speakers' words. The result is she's weird and distracted, yet somehow strikes up a friendship with an equally but not similarly distressed schoolmate. A doctor writes her a prescription for Paxil, which creates more problems.

The theme and resolution of this book are muddy. Could one of the themes be that Paxil is evil and teens should help themselves out of the whirl of discordant thinking through self-actualization? Manatees are tossed into the mix as a symbol of strange, misunderstood animals that endure and perhaps prevail. The ending goes on and on, which suggests that maybe there are no perfect answers for Fin. She might have to deal with her obsessions all her life, as her mother does. Or, perhaps, the next medicine, Lithium, will hold the big fix. Or, perhaps the answer lies in accepting that life, like the stars, is beyond her control. Myrna Marler, Assoc. Prof. of English, BYU, Laie, HI

J--Recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.

S--Recommended for senior high school students.
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Author:Marler, Myrna
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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