The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

Posted by on Jun 18, 2014 in Book Reviews, Ontario | 0 comments

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13BSummary: In group therapy for teens dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Adam falls for Robyn, a fellow group member. Adam’s life isn’t easy, he’s trying to figure out how to best manage his illness but finds himself taking care of everyone else before himself. Determined to rescue Robyn too, Adam builds a friendship with her that turns into a relationship, and as she works through her issues Robyn is able to let go of her obsessive compulsive behaviours. For Adam though, OCD is something he will probably deal with for the rest of his life. Inspired by his friends and the superhero personas they have taken on, Adam is able to draw on his inner strength to accept help and take care of himself first.

Number of Pages: 272

Age Range: 13-15

Review: After reading The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten, my mind is spinning. Sometimes I am so struck by a book that it’s difficult to settle my thoughts and pull out what I need to if I’m going to write a good review.

I loved when the characters took on the personas of superheroes, because I got it. When I was a teen, my fictional heroes were the X-Men because they were people with genetic problems who were considered to be despised freaks but then used their powers to fight evil, gaining society’s respect. It’s about wanting to be more, and also drawing on fictional inspiration and strength to keep going.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is about first love, managing chronic illness in a responsible way through prescription medication and therapy and keeping family secrets. I enjoyed Toten’s sensitive exploration of  the role of religion in illness, learning to trust people, and the necessity of taking care of yourself first so you can then take care of others. Toten’s masterful character development of Adam takes us from a relatively immature teen falling in love so he can be someone’s knight in shining armour, to the mature man who lets go of his relationship to take care of himself and not bring her down with him.

Once again, Toten uses her characters’ shared experience to foster a family of friends who support each other and help each other face their fears. Adam was my favourite, but it’s hard not to have a soft-spot for his brother, Sweetie, and Thor, his ultimate protector.

I found it to be a The Fault in Our Stars-esque type read, but much deeper even though no one dies. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a bit of a chicken and the egg situation going on with Adam and his mother. Did his OCD get triggered by his parents’ divorce and his mother’s hoarding response or did Adam’s OCD trigger his mother’s mental illness? Either way there was a lot going on, and the story kept me reading with its’ well-paced action.

I’m looking forward to Teresa Toten’s next book, because I’m sure what ever she decides to write about will be filled with valuable insights into the human condition.

Memorable Quotes:

“And even though he had never noticed girls before, not at all – okay a bit and sort of, but not really – Adam knew he had to save her, must save her, r die trying. He loved her deeply, wildly and more intensely than he would have believed possible even minutes ago. Robyn, his Robyn, needed someone larger than life – a victor, a knight – and he would be it. For her, Adam would be and could be normal and fearless. He so wanted to be fearless. He could do it. He would be her superhero.” – Adam from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

“4. I believe that my four-year-old half-brother, ‘Sweetie,’ loves me more than all the adults in our lives put together. This does not stop him from being a considerable pain.” – Adam from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

“Adam returned his gaze to the cross. The Jesus was hurting. Guilt simmered and then boiled in him. Jesus had a whole world of suffering and horror to worry about and here Adam was in all his punk puniness. He didn’t want to add to Jesus’ burdens, but…

‘Sorry about that. Look, I know you’re busy and I don’t want to get greedy with your time, but still, if you could just help me … If you could find a minute, please, please, please, dear sweet Jesus, fix me.'” – Adam from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

“‘A day in heaven,’ Adam whispered. What would that be like? To wake up one morning and be normal? To not bite down and parcel out each second of each day. To not wrestle and negotiate with your obsessions. To not have thoughts that ran you into the ground.

To have a quiet mind.

A quiet mind.


Shh.” – Adam from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

“‘Sometimes it’s actually necessary to hurt the ones you love. You can check that out with your fancy-pants doctor, or whoever you do to every Monday.’ She patted his hand. ‘Letting go, Adam. It’s the really hard part of growing up. You’re ready.'” – Mrs. Polanski from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

“‘You are the bravest person I have ever, or will ever, meet.’

‘I sweat terror, Robyn! I’m scared every single second about every goddamned thing. I worry obsessively about being buried under an avalanche of fear. Jesus, Robyn, I’m scared like only the truly crazy can be.’

‘But that, you dope, is the definition of courage: you go on despite the fear.'” – Conversation between Robyn and Adam from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

“‘Your mom is … like, your mom is just a little sensitive. She kind of sees things and feels things about people.’

‘Like you, ‘cept you’re really, really sensitive, right?’

‘No, I’m – ‘ Wait! Was it true? ‘Uh, okay, maybe you’re right, Sweetie. Maybe I can recognize when people are hurting or sort of lost, more than other people.’

‘And that’s why you can fix me when I’m bad scared?’

‘Maybe.'” – Conversation between Adam and Sweetie from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

“Everybody lies.

Well, hell, maybe everybody has damn good reasons to lie. Maybe we all just lie to hide the hurt or to fake being strong until we can be strong. That’s not so bad is it?

Is it?” – Adam from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten is published by Doubleday Canada, (2013).

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