KISSING DOORKNOBS by Terry Spencer Hesser


Age Range: 13 - 15
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With a trenchant portrait of Tara Sullivan from ages 11—14, Hesser’s first novel puts obsessive-compulsive disorder under the microscope. Troubled Tara is preoccupied with orderliness and impending disaster, and dedicates her attention to painstakingly trivial rules and rituals. She counts cracks in every sidewalk, worries that her mother’s back will indeed be broken, lines up grains of rice on her plate, prays every time she hears a swear word, and “kisses” doorknobs in a ritual of her own invention. Her devotion to these activities leads to the exclusion of friends and the alienation of family. Incredibly, her parents allow her condition to drag on, undiagnosed, for years; when she does come under scrutiny, the various diagnoses are Attention Deficit Disorder, immaturity, borderline anorexia, anger issues. Tara’s condition isn’t easily conveyed: Readers may tire of her depressive, self-deprecating immersion in disorder, no matter how natural her perspective is to her illness: “In a fetal position, I rocked myself like a sad baby in a cold white crib. I had no language to describe my pain. I had no company in my pain. I just had pain. Isolating, solitary pain. And loneliness. And humiliation.” Understandably self-absorbed, Tara lapses into stilted, self-conscious moments that distance readers rather than elicit their compassion, e.g., “After a few months, I got over my separation anxiety.” Only a serendipitous meeting with fellow sufferer Sam promises a rescue for Tara in an otherwise onerous story. (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-32329-8
Page count: 163pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998