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Med Head: My Knock-down, Drag-out, Drugged-up Battle with My Brain

By James Patterson and Hal Friedman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010
Pages : 320
Suggested Ages: 12 and Up
ISBN: 0316076171

“One morning in March of 1989, just before my fifth birthday, I woke up as a normal, healthy boy. By that afternoon, I had an irresistible urge to shake my head—continually—and the course of my life changed in ways few people had ever seen or could begin to understand.”

So begins the valiant, horrific, and true account of author Hal Friedman’s teenage son, Cory, in his lifelong struggle with Tourette’s syndrome and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). In “A Father’s Prologue,” his father explains, “We decided, with Cory’s blessing, to tell the story in his own voice, because this conveys most powerfully what it was like for Cory to live through these experiences.”

Each new doctor attempts, without success, to control Cory’s escalating problems with an ever-expanding cocktail of drugs that lead to food and germ phobias, weight gain, and depression. One expert in the field prescribes a huge dose of TBZ, an anti-psychotic drug that causes akathisia, agitation so severe that Cory says, “I am officially in hell.” By high school, Cory has blown up to 240 pounds, is prone to reckless behavior and rage attacks, where he punches holes in walls and breaks furniture, and is anesthetizing himself with booze and cigarettes. After he almost sets the house on fire when he falls asleep holding a cigarette, his parents send him to Roundtop Wilderness Camp for troubled teens for three weeks of hiking and survival on a mountain in the snow. It’s that extreme experience that helps him to begin to confront and overcome some of his formidable physical problems, fears, and addictions.

This isn’t a sunny “How I Beat Tourette’s” saga; Cory’s journey, heartfelt and calamitous, will make you marvel at his (and his family’s) drive to survive and even thrive, and will change the way you look at your own comparatively piddling problems. Back matter includes family photos; reproductions of medical records; a list of the dozens of meds that Cory took over 13 years; interviews with Cory, now a 21-year-old college grad, and his dad; a doctor’s ten questions and answers about OCD, Tourette’s disorder, and the other conditions Cory has faced; and an annotated list of websites to consult.

Reviewed by : JF

Themes : BEHAVIOR. BIOGRAPHY. OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER. PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.

If you love this book, then try:

Chappell, Crissa-Jean. Total Constant Order. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, 2007.



Delano, Marfe Ferguson. Helen's Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's Teacher. National Geographic, 2008.



Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Mind. Atheneum, 2010.



Freedman, Russell. Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille. Clarion, 1997.



Hesser, Terry Spencer. Kissing Doorknobs. Laurel Leaf, 1999.



Hopkins, Ellen. Impulse. McElderry, 2007.



Little, Jean. Little by Little: A Writer's Education. Viking, 1987.



Lord, Cynthia. Rules. Scholastic, 2006.



Miller, Sarah Elizabeth. Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller. Atheneum, 2007.



Trueman, Terry. Stuck in Neutral. HarperCollins, 2000.



Urban, Linda. A Crooked Kind of Perfect. Harcourt, 2007.



Wolff, Virginia Euwer. Probably Still Nick Swanson. Henry Holt, 1988.

Critics have said

In the tradition of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Patterson and Friedman manage to get deep inside mental illness, and show us what life looks like from that perspective...an amazing story of courage, fortitude and a family's love, simply told.
Terri Cheney, author of Manic: A Memoir


...both harrowing and heartbreaking, but is also a story of astonishing courage. This book stands as a testament to the amazing power of one family's unconditional love for each other.
Tess Gerritsen, author of The Bone Garden