Elle Cosimano

What Makes You Tic? — Part I

Yesterday marked the beginning of Tourette Syndrome Awareness month.

I was sad to see James Durbin leave American Idol last week. His talent has opened so many eyes to Tourette’s, but I’m optimistic that he’s peaked some curiosity out there, and that his fans will take a step deeper into his world by learning more and spreading awareness.

If you know me, or you’ve followed my blog, then you know Tourette’s awareness has a special place in my heart.  I thought long and hard about the kind of contribution I could make toward TS education.  Book recommendations seemed like the obvious choice.

So this month, I’ll share a few of my favorites books featuring characters who suffer from Tourette’s (Children’s, MG, and YA), as well as links to organizations that provide resources for families, teachers, and friends of children suffering from tic disorders.

(Click on the blue banner below to learn more about the Tourette Syndrome Association.)

What Makes You Tic?

 

My first recommendation this month is an outstanding fictional novel for young adult (and adult) readers.

Jerk California

JERK, CALIFORNIA by Jonathan Friesen– Available from Penguin/Speak

Winner, ALA 2009 Schneider Family Book Award~”Best Book for Teens”

 

“Sam Carrier is one confused kid. The high-school senior has Tourette’s Syndrome messing with his body, Naomi Archer messing with his heart, and a dead dad messing with his mind.

Sam takes off on a road-trip to California looking for some peace. Each stop brings Sam and Naomi (yep, she comes along) closer to a truth Sam doesn’t want to face, but can’t run from anymore. It’s the adventure of a lifetime, and his last chance to find out whose he really is.”  — http://www.jonathanfriesen.com/


I’m not going to spoil the book by revealing too much of the plot, except to say that the author takes his character on a remarkable and inspiring journey of self-discovery.  Sam Carrier’s cross-country search to uncover his family history mirrors an internal journey as he grapples to understand and come to terms with his Tourette’s.

There are two reasons I love this book. First, Sam’s symptoms are woven into a broader plot arc. His tics (and all the baggage that come with them) are part of him, as they are part of the story.  But they are neither all of him, nor all of his story.  There is a greater overarching story than a boy overcoming the challenges of his TS. It’s about families and love, secrets and acceptance. Sam’s character and his journey are layered deeper than you might expect.  The same is true of people with TS.

Which brings me to the second reason I love this book.  Sam’s voice is compelling and believable. The author drew me straight into his character’s mind and heart.  Too often, people recognize Tourette Syndrome by what we see on the outside.  But so much of TS happens on the inside.  Friesen takes us, through stunning prose and poignant memorable scenes, into Sam’s head — his obsessive thoughts, reactions, frustrations, and shame.  Not just the physical pain, but the battles inside as he struggles to find happiness and sense of belonging. Through them, we discover a bright, courageous and likable young man… who happens to have Tourette Syndrome.

Jerk, California is high on  my list of favorite YA novels. It’s thoughtfully crafted, emotionally evocative, and tells a beautiful story.