Challenge 35 ~ “An award-winning book.”
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
When I ended up filling the previous challenge with Frayed, I just bumped this one down the list a challenge to number 34. I’d been pretty eager to read it – it sounded like an exploration of OCD and anxiety in teens, but it hadn’t been in circulation at my previous local library. Surveying the catalogue of my temporary local library during my year abroad, I was pretty happy to see this pop up, and made it a must-include on my challenge this year. Maybe I should have left it on the TBR, forever glorified as something I just never found the resources/time to read.
My biggest struggle with Total Constant Order was the characterisation. As a protagonist, Fin was highly changeable and I struggled to connect with her. With the novel told in the first person, this inevitably created a barrier that prevented me from wholly connecting with the other characters and plots within the book. To me, she was just a little too erratic to be realistic – one moment she was anti-therapists and the next she was spilling her guts, one page she was freaked by germs, the next she was sharing drugs and riding public transport. These transformations weren’t handled with the development, either, instead occurring sporadically and bouncing back between multiple states to suit the current plot development.
Which brings me to my other main qualm regarding the novel – the plotline. Or lack thereof. I found that there was nothing substantial to the plot as I was reading – in fact, it felt as if the main plotline was missing, leaving just the sub-plots in place. If I were to describe the novel to someone else, I wouldn’t know if Chappell’s intention was to focus on the relationship with Thayer (don’t even get me started on that), reconciling with her Mom following the move to Miami, or the pros and cons of withdrawing from prescription meds only days after starting them. (Whether the latter was entirely realistic or not I cannot say, since I’ve not been on Proxil, but the way it was largely bounced over seemed to even glorify it slightly – I mean, nothing bad happened to Fin, the doctor never found out and she only felt a little ill occasionally, right?).
Unfortunately, I really struggled to relate to, and find a believable reality, in Total Constant Order. Fin’s character was erratic in beliefs, and struggled with a quickly-and-easily-cured case of OCD, whilst simultaneously exploring an unidentifiable relationship with a somehow-even-more-erratic Thayer and experimenting with withdrawing from a newly-discovered prescription med. Both characters and plot were a little far-fetched for me, and even at the end of the novel I couldn’t pin down the main focal storyline. How it qualified for this challenge, I’m not really sure.