Review: What If?

What If? Centres around the rituals, compulsions, and anxiety of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), as felt by a teenager struggling pre (and mid) diagnosis. Looking at the impact others can have on our mental health (and how able we feel to seek help when we are struggling), Russell’s book imparts the overall message that you don’t need to be fixed – just helped.

(I’m not crying, you’re crying).

OCD, unlike anxiety and depression, isn’t necessarily something that we’ll all encounter in our lifetimes (be that through ourselves, loved ones, or friends). Just 1.2% of the population (around 12 in every 1,000 people) in the UK experience OCD during their lifetime according to leading charity OCD-UK. It’s become pretty common to hear phrases like ‘we’re all a bit OCD, aren’t we?’


No, we really aren’t. Someone isn’t ‘a bit OCD’ because they like to keep things a certain way, are neat or tidy. OCD involves intrusive, obsessive thoughts; compulsive, often overwhelming urges that can only be relieved through repeating an action, over and over and over, out of anxiety or fear that something bad will happen to someone they love if they don’t.

Many of us may experience some traits, but that doesn’t mean we fully understand the condition. Just like we wouldn’t say ‘We’ve all got a bit of a broken leg, haven’t we?’ every time we have a knee pain or a cramp, we can’t say we fully understand OCD just because we have occasional intrusive thoughts or a preference of keeping our things in a certain or specific order.

What If is a short work of poetic fiction rather than a traditional novel, which can be a bit of a challenge if you’ve never read anything in this style before. It’s really worth sticking with it; once you get past the first few pages, the format really lends itself well to the thought patterns of protagonist Josh, creating a rhythm of its own you can feel as you move across the pages.

If you have a friend or loved one who has experienced OCD, What Ifgives a great insight into the thought process behind their condition. If you’ve never learnt about OCD but want to know more, it’s a great introduction to a complex subject matter, making it much more accessible – not only for teens and young adults, but all ages.

What If? by Anna Russell
Poetry, YA, Mental Health
Available in hardback | on kindle
Rating ⭐⭐⭐

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Author: Bonnie Evie Gifford

*waves* I'm a writer and blogger from the not so sunny south coast of England. With bylines in Happiful Magazine, Harness Magazine, as well as on Counselling , Therapy, and Lifecoach Directories, I write about books, mental health, wellbeing, autism, and culture. When not writing, I can be found partially buried under a stack of books, hiding from the outside world. Find me lurking on Twitter:

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