Lexapros and Consby Aaron Karo
Chuck Taylor's OCD has rendered him a high school outcast. His endless routines and habitual hand washing threaten to scare away both his closest friend and the amazing new girl in town. Sure he happens to share the name of the icon behind the coolest sneakers in the world, but even Chuck knows his bizarre system of wearing different color "Cons" depending on his
Chuck Taylor's OCD has rendered him a high school outcast. His endless routines and habitual hand washing threaten to scare away both his closest friend and the amazing new girl in town. Sure he happens to share the name of the icon behind the coolest sneakers in the world, but even Chuck knows his bizarre system of wearing different color "Cons" depending on his mood is completely crazy.
In this hilariously candid debut novel from comedian Aaron Karo—who grew up with a few obsessions and compulsions of his own—very bad things are going to happen to Chuck. But maybe that's a good thing. Because with graduation looming, Chuck finds himself with one last chance to face his inner demons, defend his best friend, and win over the girl of his dreams. No matter what happens, though, he'll have to get his hands dirty.
“A madcap coming-of-age first novel . . . Chuck's agreeably foul-mouthed narrative voice rings totally true: Everything from his laugh-out-loud repartee with Steve to his inner longing and lusting for Amy feels fully fleshed and real. Short chapters and clever pacing help Karo's plot move quickly. Karo is definitely an author to watch.” Kirkus Reviews
“Adult author Karo's background as a comedian is evident in his bawdy yet affecting YA debut, about a 17-year-old boy with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Karo offers a solid primer to OCD, including its treatments . . . Chuck is a funny, honest narrator. Readers will be impressed with Chuck's bravery in working to solve his problems.” Publishers Weekly
“The way Chuck describes the people he meets, situations he finds himself in, and strange thoughts he has will leave you in stitches! You'll love it if you're looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud. Chuck's one-liners and odd behaviors will make you completely appreciate Aaron Karo's ability to shed a humorous light on a serious issue.” Seventeen
“Aaron Karo, who is best known for his stand-up comedy and for his "Ruminations" series of humorous columns, takes a light-hearted approach to his debut YA novel. Chuck's first-person narration, not to mention his banter with best friend Steve, is hilariously raunchy, and the situations in which he finds himself are sometimes outright absurd. But as funny as Karo's writing is, his approach to dealing with an anxiety disorder like OCD is actually pretty serious. Karo talks about OCD candidly and accurately, and Chuck's psychiatrist leads him through the various options for dealing with his disorder. Even if kids reading Lexapros and Cons don't suffer from Chuck's condition, they're likely to relate to his feelings of frustration about not being able to engage with the world in the way he'd like to. Chuck's story can illustrate how to cope with these disorders with hope, heart, and hilarity.” TeenReads.com
“Karo's . . . novel has some interesting high notes: Chuck's changing relationship with his psychiatrist and the prescription drug she suggests, his romantic dreams sparked--and befuddled--by the beautiful new girl at school, and the well-rendered emotional lives of his friends and enemies. Karo's use of "real guy" motifs is noteworthy; one of Chuck's obsessions is making a pencil tally on paper every time he masturbates, and he invents a shoe color code to reflect his moods (the shoes, of course, being Converse Chuck Taylors) . . . Offers a humorous hook for guys who would normally shy away from the romance angle.” Booklist
“The strength here is the easygoing relationship between Chuck and his nerdy best friends, portrayed in honest, credible dialogue that effectively conveys their affectionate closeness. Readers with OCD may find inspiration here to get help . . . and readers without the disorder will develop a greater level of understanding.” Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“High school senior Chuck Taylor becomes likable early on. With its satisfying conclusion, the book is suitable for secondary school and public libraries; its absurdities and age-appropriate expletives may appeal to reluctant male readers.” Voice of Youth Advocates
“Karo captures the frustration of someone with OCD and its impact on friends and family . . . Characters such as the bumbling psychiatrist and obnoxious bully provide some targets for humor. The author's success in making Chuck's character ‘bizarre and profane,' plus his celebrity status and previous books for adults, will generate interest in the title.” School Library Journal
Read an Excerpt
Lexapros and Cons
By Aaron Karo
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2012 Aaron Karo
All rights reserved.
In the past year, I masturbated exactly 468 times. That's an average of 9 times a week and 1.28 per day. I'm not sure what impresses me more, though — the fact that I jerk off so much, or the fact that I actually kept a running tally for an entire year. But I did. On a growing stack of Post-its in the drawer of my nightstand. Jerk off, make a note of it, go to sleep, routine.
The thing is, routines make up a huge part of my life. Okay, well, maybe "routines" isn't the right word. I know the right word now, but for a while I didn't. Basically what happened was that on January 1st of last year, I jerked off. For some unknown, unexplainable reason, I thought to myself, I wonder how many times I do this in a year? Of course, the proper thought process for a typical, red-blooded teenager would be, I should get a girlfriend, that way I won't have to jerk off so much. But for whatever reason that's not the first thought that popped into my head.
My problem wasn't January 1st, though, it was January 2nd, when I jerked off again, and then made a note of it. Once I start doing something, no matter how idiotic, I can't stop. It's all I can think about. I tried to halt the tally in mid-March but then I couldn't sleep in that post-wank, pre-checkmark state, thinking, Why not just keep the list going? You've made it so far! Then I would make the tally, feel better, and then get up to pee. I also pee a lot.
The weird thing about all my "routines" is that I'm acutely aware of how crazy they are. It's not normal to get up to pee fifteen times before going to bed. I know I just peed, there could not possibly be any more urine in my bladder. I'm not gonna piss the bed; everything will be fine. But then I start to think about it until I can't help jumping out of bed and going to the bathroom. It's like if you start thinking about swallowing or breathing or blinking. Then that becomes the only thing you can think about. But eventually you forget. That's like me and peeing, except I never forget and it happens every single night. So I pee a lot.
I've got a few other bad "habits." The stove — well, the stove is a fucking nightmare. If I don't check the burner thingies, I'm convinced the house is gonna burn down with me, my sister, and my parents inside. When the stove is on, a little light goes on to alert you. But what if the light breaks? There are four burner thingies; you could theoretically walk past the stove and not realize that one of the knobs wasn't set to Off. Then, let's say a dish towel fell off the refrigerator handle (which is all the way across the kitchen, but let's just say), it landed on the burner, caught fire, and the entire Taylor family died in a horrible burner-thingy accident. I'm consumed by this thought. So I check the burners and the knobs by hand. Over and over. Several times a day. My parents barely even use the stove. I masturbate more than they cook.
The thing that really got me, though, was the hand washing. That's when I started to think, Man, maybe you have a problem. If my hands are dirty, I absolutely have to wash them. But my definition of dirty and your definition of dirty are probably very different. You probably wash your hands after you eat chicken wings or take a shit. I must wash my hands after touching animals, small children, public mailboxes, elevator buttons, money (especially coins), other people's hands, all food (plus salt, pepper, and condiments), and anything I consider "natural" (grass, dirt, wood, etc.). I wash my hands a lot. Sometimes it's the only thing I can think about.
Like I said, the hand washing is what first got me. If you Google "I keep track of how often I masturbate," you're not gonna get a lot of hits. Well, you'll get a boatload of hits — just not anything relevant or appropriate to be displayed in a high school computer lab. But if you Google "I can't stop washing my hands," it's a whole different story. Most of the results will point to one thing. What I do are not "routines." They're compulsions. You know when you read something and you're just like, Fuck, that's me! Well once I read this thing, I knew I had it.
My name is Chuck. I'm seventeen years old. And according to Wikipedia, I have OCD.CHAPTER 2
My name isn't actually Chuck. It's Charles. Why anyone would ever name a baby Charles I've never figured out. It's like my parents were living in nineteenth-century England or something. I'm named after my mom's grandfather, who she claims was a real intimidating guy. He died way before I was born, so we never met, but how badass can you be if your name is Charles? Fortunately, no one actually calls me Charles. I go by Chuck. That's what everyone at school calls me. Though, I guess "everyone" is relative. I'm pretty much invisible at school. Let's just say that's what my teachers and my one friend call me. Whatever. It's better than Charles.
Perhaps you've picked up on it by now (but probably you haven't) — my full name is Chuck Taylor. And unlike my great-grandfather, there is a Chuck Taylor in history who definitely was a badass. This Chuck Taylor was a basketball player in the 1920s. He worked for Converse and eventually had their most popular shoe named after him — the super-famous Chuck Taylor All Star. People call them Chucks or Cons and when I first saw a pair I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I mean, it's got my name right on the side! Soon, though, like everything else in my life, Cons became an obsession.
My mom was actually thrilled when I told her I wanted my first pair of Cons a few years ago. I had never really given the sneakers much thought until my best friend Steve found a Chuck Taylor biography in the school library. It only took a few pages for me to realize that I was destined to wear Cons. Chuck Taylor, that dude in Grease, Kurt Cobain, and then Chuck Taylor again. I loved the symmetry. Symmetry makes my brain feel nice.
When my mom found out I wanted $45 sneakers to replace the $85 ones I had worn out, she was more than willing. She actually bought me a few pairs — all high-tops because the low-tops don't have my name on them, and always solid colors because, well, I don't know ... they just seem cleaner looking to me. My mom knew I had a thing for Cons and she encouraged it. Anything I got into, as long as it wasn't drugs (sharing the same pipe with six other people? Please!), she encouraged. There wasn't much. I guess when your only son is a nutcase who touches the stove more than you do, you'll do anything to put a smile on his face. I built a nice little Converse collection out of that pity.
But there's only so many sneakers a kid can have, even at $45 a pop, and Mom stopped buying them for me, so I had to dip into my savings account. I had some money in there from bonds I got when I was born and also from what passes as my weekly allowance. I could buy a pair of Cons every month just from that, and pretty soon I had amassed a mountain of them in my closet — every solid color available. And that's when things got weird.
Here's the thing. I'm not shy, it's just that no one really gives a shit about what I have to say (besides Steve and Mom, who don't count). So I'm quiet. But I'd rather be shy. Shy and quiet are different. Shy means you can't speak up. Quiet means you don't want to. This past summer was especially rough because Steve went away with his parents for like two months. It was just me and my Cons, stuck in Plainville with nothing to do. The only one who ever asked me how I was feeling was Mom, who, again, doesn't count.
Now I've always kept the closet in my bedroom so organized you'd probably hesitate before touching anything in it — like it's a museum (which is sorta the point). However, my method for choosing which Cons to wear was actually quite haphazard — I'd grab whatever pair struck my fancy that day and run out the door. But haphazardness, as you might imagine, is generally not something I can tolerate for long. One morning, I walked in on my younger sister Beth using my laptop — which she knows she's not allowed to do. I yelled at her but she just ignored me and walked out of my room. Beth is brilliant at ignoring me. Worst sister ever. I was angry. I grabbed my red Cons. On my way out the door, Mom asked how I was feeling. I said, "Fine."
Somewhere, deep in my brain, deep down in a synapse, a neuron fired. Angry = red Cons. The next day, I was more tired than anything. The red Cons were still there of course, but I wasn't angry anymore. I chose the orange Cons instead. Tired = orange. And so my system was born. Whatever I was feeling that morning would determine which sneakers I wore that day. The colors themselves didn't make much sense — orange and tired really have no connection — but the connection was made in my head. And just like with the stove-checking or my masturbation tally, once a connection is made in my head, I can't break it. So instead of expressing myself like a normal kid, I began using my Cons as a kind of shorthand. Every day, a different mood, a different color. A little threat-level advisory code of my emotions. Except no one — not even Steve — realized what I was doing.CHAPTER 3
Steve and I hang out a lot in his basement, mostly playing video games.
"Did you see Sensual Moon III last night on Skinemax?" Steve asks.
"There's a Sensual Moon III? I didn't even know there was a Sensual Moon II," I respond.
Steve is really into those softcore porn movies they play on cable late at night. He goes to sleep, then sets an alarm to wake up in three hours and turn on the TV.
"Hell yeah there was a Sensual Moon II; that was the best one!"
Steve loves Skinemax. Even though every guy in the universe uses the Internet for porn, Steve refers to himself as a "masturbatory traditionalist." He likes the production values on Skinemax. Steve is a fucking weirdo. Which is probably why we get along.
I first met him in fourth grade when his family moved to Plainville. Since Steve was new, he didn't have any friends. And even though I had lived here all my life, I didn't either. We've been best friends ever since.
"No, I didn't see it. Skinemax is usually blocked in my room," I say.
"Oh man, it was great. There's much dirtier stuff online, but Sensual Moon is just classy. Reminds me of —"
"That time you got a hand job?"
"Yeah, that was awesome."
Last summer, when Steve was traveling with his parents to all the biggest national parks in the country, he claims he got a hand job from a girl in California. This supposed hand job is the high point of his life and he does not stop talking about it. I guess I don't blame him. He doesn't have much else to be psyched about. Like me, Steve has a somewhat unusual name — Steve Sludgelacker. But while I have the same name as a famous basketball player, Steve's name happens to rhyme with "fudge packer." The bullies at school tend to remind him of that every day. With their fists. So I never really bug him for the details of the hand job, even though the story seems dubious. He has enough to deal with.
It's winter break and we still have a few days off before heading back for the second half of our senior year. Luckily, me and Steve both got into college Early Decision. High school graduation is only six months away, which means we are that much closer to leaving for college, which means we are that much closer to getting the hell out of Plainville. But it also means we are that much closer to leaving high school as pathetic virgins. I've never had a girlfriend. And Steve, well, I guess Steve has his hand job.
"Damn it. Killed again," Steve says. We're playing this new game where you're the zombies and you get to shoot the soldiers, instead of the other way around. Pretty sweet, unless you keep getting killed like Steve does. "Stupid game," he says as he hits Reset. "So I was at Applebee's last night with my parents. Stacey Simpson was there."
"Oh yeah?" I offer.
Stacey is the hottest girl in our class. It's not even close. "Blonde with cannons" is how Steve describes her. In fact, I'd say she's the source material I used to fantasize about one-third of the tallies on last year's jerk-off list. We were actually partners (not her choosing) in eighth-grade Home Ec, and she watched as I scrubbed my hands any time even a morsel of food touched them. Within a week she asked to switch partners, and never acknowledged my existence again. Luckily, I have plenty of stock footage stored up.
"Chuck, I'm telling you, Stacey's tits grew over winter break. They're like fucking cantaloupes."
"No way," I say.
"Something was different. She is so hot."
"Did you talk to her?"
Steve continues playing without responding to my question. It's not necessary. Of course he didn't talk to her. We aren't the type to talk to hot girls. Or any girls for that matter. Sometimes I wish me and Steve were nerdier. There's a lot of nerds in Plainville — at least we'd have a clique. But the nerds are all really nerdy. They do calculus for fun and play ridiculous role-playing games online for like fifteen hours at a time. So here me and Steve are — stuck in the lonely region between the jocks and the nerds. Sadly, we're neither athletes nor mathletes.
"So when I was in California —"
"Can we talk about something else besides your hand job?"CHAPTER 4
Even though it's freezing outside, I walk home from Steve's because he only lives two blocks away. I step on some of the cracks in the sidewalk as I go. It doesn't bother me. Besides washing your hands, avoiding cracks on the sidewalk seems to be the most common trait they give a character with OCD on television or in a movie. But I don't care about whether or not I step on a crack. That just isn't one of my "things." I have no idea why I'm okay with it. It's almost annoying in a weird way.
I wave hello to our senile old neighbors the Greulichs, who are sitting on their front porch being senile and old, then walk into my house. Mom is cooking, which is unusual. I say a quick hello and make a mental note that there will have to be some extra stove-checking tonight. I go downstairs to the living room where my dad is watching some NBA pregame show on TV. My grandpa Sam, who died last year, was a huge basketball fan. Me: not so much. With Grandpa gone, I don't think Dad has anyone to talk to about sports, and I think he hopes I'll fill that void. Unfortunately, my connection with basketball begins and ends with the fact that the guy whose sneakers I wear played it eighty years ago.
"Big game?" I ask.
"As big a game as there can be at this point in the season," Dad says.
I don't understand, and Dad realizes as much.
"The playoffs don't start until April."
"Oh," I say, "right."
Dad eyes my Cons. They're pink. Before I went to Steve's house, I was pretty bored. Pink happens to mean bored in my system, so I tend to wear pink Cons a lot. This does not sit well with my dad. He never actually says anything, but I suspect that he suspects I'm gay. I mean, I've never even had a girl friend — space in between. And I wear pink sneakers sometimes. I almost don't blame Dad for thinking that. But I'm definitely not gay. Just terrible around girls. And really fucking bored.
"The trading deadline is coming soon; these guys are playing for their jobs," Dad remarks.
I nod in agreement as if this means anything to me.
"Also, me and Mom want to talk to you before dinner."
"About what?" I ask.
"She'll tell you. It's no big deal. When do you go back to school again?"
It actually amuses me that my dad kinda gets pissed whenever I'm off from school. Sometimes I just want to say, "Dad, I'm seventeen. You're forty-seven. What do you want me to do?"
"I go back Monday. You know that."
"Just seems like a really long break. I'm still working."
Dad is an accountant. Now don't get me wrong, I'm good at math. I'm in Calc AB, which is the second highest class you can possibly be in. In fact, if I do well on the AP test in May, I could even get college credit for it. But I still hate calculus. I can't believe my dad's actual job is to do math all day. Math for other people. Not only does it sound awful, but it's one less thing we have in common. Steve's dad's company makes the plastic casing that video games come in. At least that's sorta kinda cool.
"You're working this week because you're old, Dad!" I say. I'm joking. Despite our cavernous differences, me and Dad still joke around a lot, and I love that. He smiles.
"Not too old to come over there and smack ya," he says. Also joking.
Just as the game is about to start, Mom calls down from the kitchen. "Chuck! Ray!" Mind you the kitchen and the living room are not that far away.
"Coming!" we respond simultaneously, yelling just as loudly as Mom had. But we don't go upstairs for another few minutes. Dad wants to see if he can catch tip-off. I remember I touched a twig on the way home from Steve's and go to wash my hands.
Excerpted from Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo. Copyright © 2012 Aaron Karo. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
In 1997 Aaron Karo wrote a funny email from his freshman dorm room that eventually spawned his celebrated column Ruminations, the humor website Ruminations.com, and three books: Ruminations on College Life, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, and I'm Having More Fun Than You. Also a nationally headlining comedian, Karo has performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and his one-hour special Aaron Karo: The Rest Is History premiered on Comedy Central in 2010. Lexapros and Cons is his first novel.
In 1997 Aaron Karo wrote a funny email from his freshman dorm room that eventually spawned his celebrated column Ruminations, the humor website Ruminations.com, and three books: Ruminations on College Life, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, and I’m Having More Fun Than You. Also a nationally headlining comedian, Karo has performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and his one-hour special Aaron Karo: The Rest Is History premiered on Comedy Central in 2010. Lexapros and Cons is his first novel.
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I was very interested in reading this book for several reasons. The biggest is that the protag has OCD. This is something that runs in my family, something that I've dealt with up close and have borderline issues with personally. I was very surprised to find that Karo nailed the disorder in every part of my knowledge. Chuck is a teenage boy with OCD and he acts just the way any normal guy would act only different. He just has his special ticks. Karo has given him an amazing personality..full of spunk and attitude. I can honestly say that at several points through the book I thought this is totally my brother (when he was younger). Chuck has the greatest best friend and of course there is a girl. I read L&C in one sitting and during the entire time I had a smile on my face and would laugh out loud to no one but myself. There is so much heart and honesty written into the story line that you can't help but to keep reading and find out what happens. I am incredibly pleased that I was able to read a copy of this novel and extremely happy that someone has taken steps to write about how someone like Chuck goes through life on a day-by-day with the struggles of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There are some language and sexual situations that may make some folks uncomfortable however, I think it fit in just right with most average teen boys.
Been reading Karo's newsletter for a dozen years, and his first novel was pleasantly surprising. The story was entertaining and Chuck is a lovable character trying to cope with his teenage awkwardness and issues. I did not know what to expect but had the thought "he nailed that topic" on several occasions. Insightful and witty, looking forward to seeing more of these.
Book Review (ARC) by Kole This was a refreshing book after reading so many sci-fi’s and fantasies. It’s a nice plausible story. The characters are unique and very lifelike and they story is funny and original. Although the story is a little easy to predict it still provides a good time while reading it. The characters make you feel like you can relate to them and they show their emotions very clearly. I’m wondering if it’s planned to continue on in a series. If so, I’d definitely read them! Book Rating: 4/5 Book Review (ARC) by Jessica I agree with Kole that this was a nice departure. Neither of us read very much contemporary YA fiction and we should because there are some great ones out there. First off I loved the name of the book. The play on the medication name with the Converse sneakers that are worn by the main character worked wonderfully, especially as the main character Chuck is trying to figure out his life with it's ups and downs. The characters in the story are so complete I felt like I'd known them forever. Chuck could walk right off the page and into my life and I'd accept him just how he is because he feels real. Seeing a character that doesn't have it all figured out, but isn't clueless about the world around him is refreshing. Too often main characters seem as if they have no idea that they are the most gorgeous person on the face of the Earth, but Chuck is well aware of what's good about him and what he needs to work on. That awareness makes him human, realistic, and intriguing. While the story was a bit predictable (again it's a contemporary novel, there isn't some supernatural creature that's going to swoop in and change the world in a moment's notice), it was still charming. I found myself trying to say some of the lines out loud, over and over again, to hear what they would sound like. OK, that might sound strange, but there is a character that sounds like they are asking a question every time they speak, so I was trying to mimic it and it entertained me...and those around me hopefully. Some of the bits made me feel a little weird with the fact that Kole and I were both reading this story (mostly the masturbation count and the talk of breasts). Seeing as how I'm Kole's mom I didn't even want to go there. Either way it was entertaining! Book Rating: 3/5 Kole & Jessica review on the blog Book Sake.
Loved it, but don't get thrown off by the first chapter just keep reading.