Lily Bailey’s debut novel WHEN I SEE BLUE is a brave and unflinching portrayal of life as an OCD sufferer and, while it’s the perfect example of how reading has the power to promote empathy and understanding, and to reassure those experiencing similar difficulties that they are not alone, it is by no means a dry, textbook kind of read.
We meet 12-yr-old Ben when he is at his most vulnerable. He’s just moved to a new city and school, and life in his new home is unravelling in front of his eyes. With his mother, father and brother wrapped up in their own problems and unable to deal with what they call his “Ben things”, Ben is desperate to gain some control over his increasing anxiety and the chaos of his new surroundings. Compelled to avoid certain colours, and to always do things in relation to the number four, Ben’s compulsions get so bad, his schoolwork is suffering as he can’t write words that are not composed of four letters, or multiples of four. And he can barely walk down the street without having to stop and carry out the rituals that give him the illusion of safety and control.
But, as the saying goes – when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. New friend April, a fellow Dr Who fan, is the first person to help Ben onto the bottom rung of the ladder that will get him out of that dark hole.
Recognising the symptoms of Ben’s condition, April convinces him to seek help, and Ben finally sees the bully in his brain for what it is. Slowly, he begins to challenge these intrusive thoughts, and Bailey does a brilliant job of showing the reader just how stressful and panicky Ben feels as he fights against the brain-bully’s lies. But readers, like Ben, will be rewarded with the sense of empowerment that come from his small triumphs.
This beautifully crafted middle grade novel will grab your heartstrings and pull you into a story of great suffering, but also of great friendship…and hope!
Nigel Baine’s poignant cover art really gives a sense of Ben’s loneliness and isolation, and this beautiful book would be a brilliant addition to any school library.