From the Publisher
A New York Library's "Books for the Teenage" list choice
A Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" books
A Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice
"Enjoyable" Publishers Weekly
"[E]nlightening, insightful novel." Booklist
"Tashjian's story is as absorbing and cleverly constructed as a challenging word puzzle. . . .The situations are realistic, and Monica's 'Multiple Choice' questions add suspenseful page-turns. Readers with obsessive tendencies will especially empathize, but all adolescents can appreciate the book's basic message
-that it's okay to be yourself." The Horn Book
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Of this story centering on a girl's struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, PW said, "This energetic, enjoyable problem novel is a must-read for wordsmiths." Ages 10-14. (Jan.)n Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Fourteen-year-old Monica is an obsessive-compulsive. While her distracted parents hardly notice, she slides from perfectionism and word play into a dangerous game of chance that gives her options to live by each day. After losing her best friend and becoming responsible for an injury to her four-year-old charge, Monica finally finds help with a compassionate neighborhood counselor. This well-written first-person account is painfully realistic, forcing the reader into a harrowing relationship with Monica and her mental illness.
To quote KLIATT's July 1999 review of the hardcover edition: Fourteen-year-old Monica is a perfectionist who worries about everything from schoolwork to her socks matching her pants. She's created rituals to help her get through her day, and she feels trapped and unhappy. To help herself become more spontaneous, Monica, who loves word games, creates a multiple choice game with Scrabble tiles to help her make decisions. She draws up lists of options to guide her behavior in various circumstancessome normal, some self-sacrificing, some cruel and out of characterthen chooses one randomly based on which tile she picks. Some of the options are harmless and silly; wearing pajamas to school, for example...But when she locks the little boy she is babysitting into his room, because that's one of the options she had written down, tragedy ensues, and Monica and those around her are forced to face her problem. The boy's mother, a supernaturally kind high school counselor, offers her counseling, and Monica gradually comes to find ways to break free of her obsessions and be happier and more spontaneous. This look at obsessive-compulsive disorder never uses the term (nor does it mention any drugs that can be used to help deal with it), but it does provide a sympathetic portrait of a girl suffering from it. Monica is bright and surrounded by people who care about her, but stress, lack of confidence, and the need to be perfect drive her to obsessive rituals and her dangerous game of multiple choice. Humor and lots of realistic details will make this appealing to girls in middle school and junior high, and perhaps reassure some that they are not alone in their anxieties. KLIATT Codes:JRecommended for junior high school students. 1999, Scholastic, 186p, 19cm, $4.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; March 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 2)
Children's Literature - Janet L. Rose
Monica Devon is obsessive. She obsesses about everything that is not perfect from saying the wrong thing to wearing the wrong clothes, from bean-bag chairs that don't weigh exactly the same to broken globes in the classroom, from a word she misspelled three years ago to what might happen in the future. To get out of her perfect mode, she invents a game of multiple choice: Letter A represents what she would normally do, Letter B something dumb: Letter C something mean, and Letter D something nice or sacrificial. The first question she asks is what will she wear to school and ends up wearing her pajamas (Letter B). Even when she loses her best friend by doing something mean she is now obsessed with playing the game. After the boy she baby-sits hurts his eye from one of her Letter C choices and she talks with a counselor, Monica is able to resolve the fact that she can still be her perfectionist self as well as spontaneous and creative without hurting herself or others.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Monica Devon is a perfectionist and a worrywart. Fellow students find her eccentric, and her mother is driven to despair by her excessively fastidious behavior, such as her need to transfer Styrofoam beads from one beanbag chair to another so that the chairs are evenly balanced. She chants the mantra "This does not count" to negate mistakes, and in times of stress, she constructs anagrams in her head. To shift her focus from daily worries, the 14-year-old creates a game called Multiple Choice, in which she fabricates a task for herself with four options to complete it. This self-destructive game takes over her life, causing her to lose her best friend and climaxing when the child for whom she is baby-sitting falls from a window and nearly loses his eye. Finally, in the wake of the near tragedy, her parents hear her cries for help. The history of Monica's problems is glossed over with brief mentions of her making herself ill studying for exams the previous year and spinning her lock three times before opening her locker. Monica's parents and teachers seem to accept or ignore her erratic and unusual behavior until disaster strikes. Anagrams and word games interrupt the flow of the narrative. Readers who are themselves compulsive may relate to Monica's dilemma. Those looking for a more realistic, detailed portrait of obsessive-compulsive behavior should read Terry Spencer Hesser's Kissing Doorknobs (Delacorte, 1998).-Alice Casey Smith, Sayreville War Memorial High School, NJ Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Horn Book Magazine
Fourteen-year-old Monica Devon wishes her brain could be turned off, like a household appliance. Her obsessive thoughts and behavior are driving her crazy, and she dreams of "a world where I breeze from one activity to another, not worried about committing some critical error that sends the entire planet screeching to a halt." A word-game maven, she decides to invent her own game-one that will lessen her anxiety about decision-making and force her to take risks and be spontaneous. To play, she asks herself what to do in an impending situation, makes up four answers (one normal, one silly, one mean-spirited, and one that's charitable or kind), and chooses by randomly selecting an A, B, C, or D Scrabble tile. The game seems perfect to her, expanding yet limiting her choices, and completely eliminating the agony of making decisions. It allows her to think she's changing while still keeping what she likes about herself; the strict rules fit her personality, but the out-of-character choices add danger and daring. Predictably, Monica's strange behavior embarrasses, worries, and alienates friends and family. But she can't quit-the same obsessive traits that drove her to start the game won't let her stop-and she gets the help she needs only after causing an accident. Tashjian's story is as absorbing and cleverly constructed as a challenging word puzzle. Monica's panic and fear are palpable, yet her narrative contains self-deprecating humor sharply aimed at her own neuroses. The answers to word puzzles throughout the book announce chapter topics or Monica's emotional state ("Life at Home," "Girl Overboard"), and the type of game is telling-anagrams, her favorite, give way to different puzzles, such as crosswords, when she's behaving unlike herself. The situations are realistic (well-meaning but basically impotent parents), and Monica's "Multiple Choice" questions add suspenseful page-turns. Readers with obsessive tendencies will especially empathize, but all adolescents can appreciate the book's basic message-that it's okay to choose to be yourself.
A teenager concocts a risky private game that almost leads to tragedy in this character portrait of a borderline obsessive-compulsive from Tashjian (Tru Confessions, 1997). Weary of incessant worrying, regrets, and mental instant replays, Monica tries a distraction; drawing on her fondness for anagrams and other wordplay, she performs an act either a) normal, b) silly, c) mean, or d) sacrificial, depending on which of four Scrabble letters she draws. Repeated drawings lead to several good deeds, which are more than balanced out by embarrassing or painful ones. Soon Monica has made herself wear pajamas to school, give away her prized kaleidoscope, alienate her best friend, and, after locking Justin, the preschooler she babysits, in his room, driven him to jump from a window and scratch his cornea. Monica comes off more as a born fretter than someone with an actual disorder, so her desperation seems overdone; the game appears less a compulsion than a bad decision that gets out of hand. Still, readers will feel Monica's thrill when she takes charge, and also, with uncommon sharpness, her bitter remorse after Justin's accident. Once Monica's secret is out, Tashjian surrounds her with caring adults and, turning her penchant for self-analysis in more constructive directions, leads her to the liberating insight that she's been taking herself too seriously. As a light study in how self-absorption can sometimes help as well as hurt, Multiple Choice is a fitting choice. (Fiction. 11-13)
Read an Excerpt
I'M THE WORLD
(I'm on top of the world!)
I wish my brain were a toaster.
That way I could use it when I wanted to, and when I was done, I could pull the plug and shut it off.
The reason I'm thinking about this is that I've just finished conducting a very important experiment. And after weeks of compiling and analyzing data, I have come to a scientific conclusion.
98.762 percent of my time is spent obsessing.
Saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, wearing the wrong clothes ... I've been professionally obsessing for as long as I can remember.
I'm sure everyone obsesses; it's just a matter of degree. But is it normal to constantly think about the word you got wrong in a spelling bee back in fifth grade? (The word was mediocreI still can't say it out loud.) Is it normal to stare at the broken globe in your geography class as if it magically got fixed since the last time you stared at it three minutes ago? To obsess that the girl sitting next to you in English is thinking about how your socks don't matchyour pants? My scientific experiment proved that I am spending 98.762 percent of my life analyzing my life.
I daydream about how carefree my life would be if I could shut my brain off like a toaster. No wearing special socks on days I have tests (black for history, blue for math); no fighting with the cafeteria ladies about slopping the food on my plate according to color (green does not go next to orange; I'm sorry). A world where I breeze from one activity to another, not worried about committing some critical error that sends the entire planet screeching to a halt. I can't help but smile at the thought.
My utopian toaster world is interrupted when Mr. Bergeron asks us to write an essay off the top of our heads about three items we would put in a time capsule for the next millennium. I come up with an answertelevision, a stone from the Berlin Wall, penicillinbut most of my time is spent trying to figure out what he expects (and how he's going to grade us, of course). I approach his desk to ask him specifically what he's looking for, but he just smiles and tells me to do my best and not worry. (Excuse me, Mr. Bergeron. Perhaps I should share the results of my recent experiment with you. Ah, never mind.)
After that sad excuse for a pop quiz, my best friend, Lynn Kelly, and I walk to my locker. She blows the tips of her index fingers as if they're smoking guns. "Was that the easiest test or what?"
How can I tell her that my stomach is churning, that I can barely breathe, all because I'm petrified that Mr. Bergeronwill think my answers are stupid? I try to explain as best I can without sounding like a weirdo.
Lynn waits patiently for me to finish. "I wrote about the Simpsons, candy corn, and strawberry lipstick," she says. "I defy anyone to tell me those aren't three good items for a time capsule." Then she looks at me and takes pity. "You have got to stop torturing yourself, Monica."
Tell me something I don't know.
I spin the lock clockwise three times before dialing the combination. I check the jacket of my book. Purple/history /third period. I feel myself yawning already
I used to worry that Ms. Emerson would catch me not paying attention and bark out a "MONICA!" in front of the whole class. But I realized last week after Joey DeSalvo took off his shoes and clipped his toenails while she lectured about the Emancipation Proclamation that the chances of her singling me out are thin.
While most of the class catches up on sleep, I continue to obsess over Mr. Bergeron's quiz. Should I have chosen the computer instead of the television? Will he think I'm not serious enough? And how about something from World War II, the Holocaust, even? And I didn't mention anything about architecture or music ... . I take out my notebook and try to take my mind off my mind.
My notebook is filled with word games, puzzles, and other personal musings. I turn to the page labeled GOOD QUALITIES/FLAWS. Three of my good qualities are listed: reliable, intelligent, and dependable (which may bethe same as reliable, now that I think about it). But the list of flaws overflows from one page to the next. The four remaining flaws on the last page bother me; I erase them and copy the whole page over so all the flaws fit on one sheet. I count the linestwenty-six of them. Worry too much, perfectionist, not creative, obsessive ... the list goes on. It makes me wonder if my mother doesn't have a pointthat I'm too hard on myself. Although I suppose that's just another flaw to add to the list.
I doodle the phrase WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? across the top of the page. I move the letters aroundjuggle them like balls, scramble them up until their meaning has changed. Eventually I come up with SWAMPY BIRTH MOLE, WISPY MARBLE MOTH, and PHIL MYER'S WOMBAT.
I've been playing these word games for years, but in Mr. Bergeron's class this week I learned these jumbled-up words are called anagrams. I must admit, it's something I'm quite good at. At first, I used to just move letters around, like REILRESBEUB or SLUBBREREEI for BLUEBERRIES. Then I began finding words inside BLUEBERRIES, like BEE and RISE and LIE. Gradually I found words that were true anagrams for BLUEBERRIESRUBBER ELSIE and REBEL BRUISE. Soon the words hidden inside other words began to jump out at methe letters moved around in my mind, waiting to be transformed. OCEAN became CANOE, LADIES becameIDEALS, HALITOSIS became LOIS HAS IT. But my grandpa is truly amazing; he can do even the long phrases in his head. I haven't gotten that good yet, but I am pretty fast. It's just habit from doing them with him for so long. It's a semi-meaningless skill, similar to how Lynn can rewind or fast-forward a cassette tape and stop it at the exact song she's looking for. Cool, but not too practical.
It's like I'm afraid I'm missing something if I leave the words alone. If I just write CANOE by itself and don't try to wring it out and go deeper, I might be missing some meaning, some hidden message, some ... I don't know ... revelation meant just for me. I scramble up the letters of the word OBSESSIVE to see if I can find a way to escape from it. All I come up with is EVE IS BOSS. Not much of a cure there.
Now Ms. Emerson is babbling about the weather conditions during the War of 1812. I write down I AM TRAPPED in my notebook and spend the next twenty-five minutes rearranging the letters. I come up with TAMPA PRIDE, MAD ART PIPE, and ADMIT PAPER until I finally settle on DAMP PIRATE. I draw a picture of a girl with an eye-patch and a wooden leg, wearing a striped shirt. She is standing on the deck of a ship, drying off from a wave that has soaked her through. Instead of a telescope, she's using a kaleidoscope to scan the horizon. But of course, she can't see the place she's looking for because she's too busy gazing at the small world in herhandempty colors changing, changing, changing, going nowhere. I shiver in my seat at how much that sounds like my mind.
So right then and there I make a vow. I, Monica Devon, fourteen-year-old worrywart, do hereby solemnly swear to stop obsessing, to stop trying to be perfect, to stop trying to be ... me.
MULTIPLE CHOICE. Copyright © 1999 by Janet Tashjian. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address Square Fish, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.