Sunday, July 17, 2011

COMPULSION by Heidi Ayarbe

One would think high school soccer star Jake Martin would be focused on the game, his teammates, and maybe scoring with one the team's adoring female fans.  Those aren't the controlling forces in Jake's life.  Instead, he is controlled by his obsession with time and more specifically whether he can translate time into prime numbers.  Jake suffers from the condition known as OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Most likely triggered by a traumatic childhood experience involving his younger sister and his mentally unstable mother, Jake feels a compulsive need to find order in his days by constantly checking the time and making mathematical equations that equal only prime numbers.  Beginning with his first waking moment, Jake is compelled to follow a set routine from the time he leaves his bed, showers, dresses, eats breakfast, and leaves the house.  If any part of that routine is disrupted, the urge to repeat the process is debilitating.  He hides his secret well, but those closest to him are beginning to suspect something is wrong.

Jake tries to focus on keeping his life on track.  He knows that his father depends on him to watch over his younger sister.  Jake's mother isn't able to hold down a job because of a mysterious illness keeps her shut up in his parents' room.  Those rare occasions when she does attempt to simple take a drive or run an errand, the result is a total breakdown when she claims to have mistakenly forgotten to pay for merchandise or accidentally struck a cyclist on her drive home.  No matter how much family members try to convince her that she hasn't committed any such crime, she insists on returning to the scene or calling the police to turn herself in.  Each episode ends with her seeking refuge in the bedroom which leaves Jake and his sister to fend for themselves.

Afraid that his own compulsions are related to his mother's emotional instability, Jake forces himself to be "normal."  Playing soccer gives him a chance to put aside his obsessive behavior, and he is truly an exceptional player being scouted by numerous college programs.  About to play in his third state championship, Jake's chronic problem with tardiness could jeopardize the team's performance.  His compulsions have so often delayed his arrival to school and classes, that one more tardy will have him suspended from the team just before the final game.  Pressure from the school, teammates, and his father just add to the emotional stress Jake faces every day.

Author Heidi Ayarbe takes readers inside Jake's mind to experience the intense emotion created by his unexplained compulsions and his desire to rise about them.  His need to control time by manipulating the numbers into prime numbers is exhibited through Ayarbe's diary-type approach to the narrative and the creative numbering of the chapters using only prime numbers.  As a reader, I felt the constant strain as Jake attempts to hide his condition to protect his family and realize the dreams of his teammates.  With each page I turned, I understood that Jake's problem went much deeper than anyone could imagine. 

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

Surly Teen Boy thought that this was a bit confusing, and I was dismayed by the bad language. Sigh. Authors everywhere could take a page from Deuker and write hard-hitting stuff WITHOUT the bad words!