My Rating: 3.25/5 Stars
Because We Are Bad by Lily Bailey
A young woman’s struggles with her OCD and finding a way to love herself.
Because We Are Bad by Lily Bailey is a young woman’s memoir of her life and experiences with her OCD. The author bears her soul in this stark portrait of OCD and shines a light on an otherwise misunderstood illness.
From the age of 13, Lily Bailey lives with another self inside her telling her that she is bad and guiding her in what she must do to be good. Unbeknownst to her family, Lily struggles every day to deal with all the bad things she does and the routines she must complete to counteract them so that she can be considered a perfect, normal person, though the things she considers transgressions are, for the most part, completely in her head or so inconsequential that most would not have acknowledge them.
Her life changes when she finally sees a doctor who names her condition: OCD. Lily’s obsessions and routines take up most of her days and nights, and though she now knows what it is that compels her to do the things she does, her life is still a struggle. This is her memoir of that struggle and a chronicle of how her OCD changes throughout her life and how she grows to combat it.
Boy was this a difficult book to read. Even though I don’t suffer from OCD, reading the written thoughts of someone who does is both exhausting and frightening. I can only imagine what it must be like if one actually has OCD, though I believe Bailey’s writing does capture as close a representation as anyone could. Bailey’s account of her life, from early childhood, living with this mental illness is stark and harrowing. She does not hide even her worst thoughts and she bears all so that the world may see the true all-consuming reality of OCD, not the sanitized Hollywood version.
This book will eat you up if you’re not careful. I had to read it in bits and pieces because it gets to be pretty heavy after too long. I think Bailey’s handling of her personal story is very deft. She exposes so much and her writing is insistent and captures your attention and dares you to not look away. This is not a story written for people to provide sympathy for her or call her brave. Throughout the novel, Bailey makes it clear that this story is her attempt to reveal the true nature of OCD, to minimize the misunderstanding that people have of this illness. I learned a great deal.
Literary Value: 4/5
Bailey’s writing is strong. I can tell that her work as a journalist has aided her in putting her story together. It reads like a cohesive story, which I think is tricky to do when you take into consideration that a human life doesn’t read like a story plot-line. I was very impressed by Bailey’s ability to tell her story in a fashion that reads very much like a novel. Because of this, I feel I could easily recommend this book to teens who might have an interest in this subject matter.
The book also wraps up very well, considering Bailey is still young and her struggle is on-going. Despite the many layers of hopelessness and difficulties, her novel ends on a hopeful note and she makes it clear that she is in a good place, will have bad days, but she’s found a good path for herself.
Entertainment Factor: 3/5
I was interested in this book since I first saw a review for it in a literary review journal. I have a general interest in books on mental health and I have done school projects on OCD so I felt I was familiar with the subject matter. This book blew me away with its detailing about what it’s like to live with OCD. Of course, Bailey makes it clear that OCD is different for everyone who has it, but she does a good job of describing her personal struggles in a way that is not clinical, but real and deeply felt. The book truly immerses you in Lily’s life. She still manages to impart truths about OCD, especially by calling attention to how misleading the general idea of what OCD is, in a way that is eye-opening. I definitely didn’t want to put the book down, but I found that I had to now and then because Bailey’s depictions of her condition are intense!
Cover Art Rating: 2/5
I’m not the biggest fan of yellow, so I’m not super jazzed about this cover. I do like the overall design, because I feel it reflects Bailey’s routines for keeping track of her infractions. I would have liked it better if they had used letters instead of Xs because Bailey used letters to remember her wrongdoings. Overall, it’s not a bad cover. The yellow certainly catches your eye, but I think it could definitely be better.
Overall Rating: 3.25/5
What a fascinating book. I definitely recommend it because it does a great service to creating awareness of what OCD is and shatters the general stereotypes about it. Bailey’s story is very compelling, her writing is strong, and the amount of depth she provides for this book is truly astonishing. She really bares all and I imagine this book was very difficult to write. Her struggles are not shied away from, her darkest fears and thoughts are exposed. This book hits hard.
I definitely had to put it down every now and then because of the intensity, but it is certainly worth reading. I really admire Bailey for sharing her story because it’s important that mental illnesses are better understood by the general public and especially OCD, as it has many stereotypes linked to it. This book provides clear idea that OCD is different for each person that has it and that it is more than just organizing or being afraid of germs.
This book reads very much like a novel, and because of this, I definitely recommend it to those who might not normally pick up a non-fiction book. I would even recommend it to interested teens.
Open discussion below!
Let me know what you think! Have you read any other books about mental illness? Please share!
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