Compulsion: Take A Leap Into An Obsessive Compulsive Mind. There’s Spiders.

Compulsion (also known as Compuls1on) is written by Heidi Ayarbe. It was published in 2011 by Balzer + Bray. Ayarbe’s website can be found here.

Genre: Tough Read, Realistic


“Saturday will be the third state soccer championship in a row for Jake Martin. Three. A good number. Prime. With Jake on the field, Carson City High can’t lose because Jake has the magic: a self-created protection generated by his obsession with prime numbers. It’s the magic that has every top soccer university recruiting Jake, the magic that keeps his family safe, and the magic that suppresses his anxiety attacks. But the magic is Jake’s prison, because sustaining it means his compulsions take over nearly every aspect of his life.

Jake’s convinced the magic will be permanent after Saturday, the perfect day, when every prime has converged. Once the game is over, he won’t have to rely on his sister to concoct excuses for his odd rituals. His dad will stop treating him like he is some freak. Maybe he’ll even make a friend other than Luc.

But what if the magic doesn’t stay?

What if the numbers never leave?


Just focus.

I know, though if I can work out the numbers, the numbing pain will go away and I’ll be able to hear what Dad has to say. The world will become clear again. So I turn, slightly, and glance at the time.


Seven forty-three. Seven plus four is eleven minus three is eight plus seven is fifteen minus three is twelve divided by three is four.


Seven forty-four. Seven minus four is three plus four is seven. OK.

~Ayarbe 17

“I stare at the numbers on the clock, working them out, making the patterns.

A heavy silence until Jenny Roark talks into the microphone. “Apparently, M&M, the greatest athlete to come out of Carson High, is concentrating? On—” She taps my shoulder. “What are you doing?”

“Winding. My. Watch.” I try to keep my voice steady. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

“Winding his watch,” she says.

Mera squeezes my arm. “Are you okay, Jake?”

Are you okay?

No. I don’t think so.

Wrong answer.”

~Ayarbe 112-113

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 3/5

What I Liked:

I read Ayarbe’s Freeze Frame about two summers ago and loved it, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading some of her other books until now. I reviewed Jennifer Brown’s Perfect Escape which was about a girl who had a brother with OCD; Compulsion takes place from the point of view of someone with OCD, and boy, is it a rollercoaster. Don’t read this book if you don’t like to cry when you read; in fact, don’t read Ayarbe because I’m 2 for 2 with her books.

Very intense, very angsty. You can really feel Jake’s confusion and his determination to be normal. The ending was perfect—almost. I wanted more openness with his dad. But I loved the “I don’t think so” as the last line

Not much more I can say—it’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Freeze Frame was more angsty, but this one has its moments. Ayarbe, I will definitely read more books by you.

Handy thing I found about the editorial process for Compulsion.

What I Didn’t Like:

Good gravy, there was a lot of swearing. There was one or more swear words on every single page, it felt like. A lot more than what is usually in the books I read.

The last scene with his dad was a little confusing. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on there. Was it just a moment of comfort between them or what?

Overall Review:

Compulsion dives deep into the head of someone suffering from OCD and tells a story that is stark, gripping, and compelling. Be prepared to cry. A little too much swearing for my tastes, but overall, wonderful.

Coming Up Next: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

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