Cover image for The unlikely hero of room 13B
The unlikely hero of room 13B
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Listening Library, [2015]

Physical Description:
6 audio discs (7 hr., 34 min.) ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
"Books on Tape"--Container.
Struggling with his parents' divorce, his stepsibling, and the challenges of OCD, teen Adam Spencer Ross cannot imagine ever falling in love until he meets Robyn Plummer and is hopelessly drawn to her.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Notes
CD Book TOTEN, T. UNLIKELY 1 .CIRCNOTE. 63 compact discs

On Order

Prescott Public Library1Received on 1/26/16



Filled with moments of deep emotion and unexpected humor, this understated and wise novel explores the complexities of living with OCD and offers the prospect of hope, happiness and healing. Perfect for readers who love Eleanor & Park and All the Bright Places.

Grow immediately.
Find courage.
Keep courage.
Get normal.
Marry Robyn Plummer.

The instant Adam Spencer Ross meets Robyn Plummer in his Young Adult OCD Support Group, he is hopelessly, desperately drawn to her. Robyn has an hypnotic voice, blue eyes the shade of an angry sky, and ravishing beauty that makes Adam's insides ache. She's also just been released from a residential psychiatric program--the kind for the worst, most difficult-to-cure cases; the kind that Adam and his fellow support group members will do anything to avoid joining.

Adam immediately knows that he has to save Robyn, must save Robyn, or die trying. But is it really Robyn who needs rescuing? And is it possible to have a normal relationship when your life is anything but?

Select praise for The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

." . . achingly authentic. Like Augustus Waters before him, Adam Spencer Ross will renew your faith in real-life superheroes and shatter your heart in equal measures." -- Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"This book made me laugh, cry, think, and kept me coming back for more." -- The Guardian

"Adam is a protagonist that readers will root for." -- VOYA

"Honest, fresh, and funny . . . Toten employs information about OCD like grace notes in this deft and compelling narrative." -- Booklist

"Adam is a fresh and complex character, and far more than the sum of his symptoms." -- Publishers Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

When 14-year-old Adam Spencer Ross falls for a girl named Robyn Plummer, who attends his OCD support group, it provides him with an instant inspiration to try to become "normal." Despite medicine and therapy, Adam struggles with compulsive rituals and anxieties, particularly concerning his mother, who is acting increasingly strange herself. Adam's internal monologues, which include interwoven lists of his beliefs and worries, are intense and realistic ("I believe that I am unclean and will harm those I care about the most and that there is too much noise in my head and that I am so goddamned tired"). While the book offers an unflinching look at mental illness, Toten's (The Onlyhouse) characters are also able to see humor in their darkest moments. Adam's path to accepting ownership over his health is filled with pain and false starts that are highly personal; as a result, Adam is a fresh and complex character, and far more than the sum of his symptoms. Winner of the 2013 Governor General's Award for children's text. Ages 12-up. Agent: Marie Campbell, Transatlantic Agency. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Fifteen-year-old Adam falls for Robyn in his teen OCD therapy group. Adam's insightful, steadfast support helps Robyn (and several other groupmates) improve--but Adam actually seems to get worse. While the tone is light overall (superhero group names!), there are plenty of touching, even wrenching, moments as Adam struggles to accept his own limitations and those of his loved ones. (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Two teens with OCD try to have a normal relationship in this honest, fresh, and funny novel. Adam Spencer Harris falls in love with Robyn Plummer, the new member of his therapy group for young adults with OCD. When the group members choose superhero names and Robyn picks Robin, who else can Adam be but Batman? A friendship, then more, springs up between Adam and Robyn, but as they become closer, Adam's rituals begin intensifying. In addition, his mother's compulsive hoarding, the vile anonymous letters she has been receiving, and Adam's role as the one to assuage his little half brother's anxieties put more stress on him. Ultimately, Adam is perceptive enough to realize that he is jeopardizing not only Robyn's recovery but also his own. Adam is impressively drawn: smart, sensitive, and neither helpless nor hopeless. He is supported by a vivid cast of well-rounded, believable characters, from his group members to the assorted adults in his life. Toten employs information about OCD like grace notes in this deft and compelling narrative.--Scanlon, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Fifteen-year-old Adam's life is a melting pot of teenage angst, as he balances his commitment to his divorced parents, his mother's (ultimately destructive) secret, and his escalating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The pot gets stirred when Robyn Plummer enters room 13B and the Young Adult OCD Support Group; Adam falls flat-out in love. Adam, "the horse whisperer of Group," feels compelled to save everyone who enters his life, which tends to accelerate his OCD tendencies, including counting and tapping and difficulty crossing thresholds. Yet in order to save others, he must first save himself. Toten's no-holds-barred novel is seamlessly woven and describes the insecurities and obstacles experienced by those held in the grip of OCD, as well as their courage, and hope. Narrator Jonathan McClain is fabulous voicing the eclectic cast, but he perfectly captures Adam's voice, especially the silent thoughts that zip through our hero's frazzled mind. VERDICT A must-have.-Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

What would it feel like to wake up normal? It's a question most people would never have cause to askand the one 14-year-old Adam Spencer Ross longs to have answered. Life is already complicated enough for Adam, but when Robyn Plummer joins the Young Adult OCD Support Group in room 13B, Adam falls fast and hard. Having long assumed the role of protector to those he loves, Adam immediately knows that he must do everything he can to save her. The trouble is, Robyn isn't the one who needs saving. Adam's desperate need to protect everyone he loveshis broken mother, a younger half brother with OCD tendencies, and the entire motley crew of Room 13Bnearly costs him everything. Adam's first-person account of his struggle to cope with the debilitating symptoms of OCD while navigating the complexities of everyday teen life is achingly authentic. Much like Adam, readers will have to remind themselves to breathe as he performs his ever worsening OCD rituals. Yet Toten does a masterful job bringing Adam to life without ever allowing him to become a one-dimensional poster boy for a teen suffering from mental illness. Readers be warned: Like Augustus Waters before him, Adam Spencer Ross will renew your faith in real-life superheroes and shatter your heart in equal measure. (Fiction. 12 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Chapter 1 The boy inhaled as the door opened. It was as if he knew. The girl stepped into the room, and within the space of a heartbeat, he was lost. The girl made her way toward the semicircle of chairs, not smiling exactly, but not hesitating either. She was older for sure. Probably. So it was hopeless, of course. She sat down directly across from him, at her end of the semicircle. Without looking up, she crossed her genius, perfect legs and flipped a long black braid behind her. By the time he exhaled, the boy was in love. It was like he had drowned in a wave of want. Without even knowing how he knew, he somehow did know that if she wanted, he would give the girl everything. Hers for the taking as of that moment were his iPad 3 (especially since he himself was no longer allowed to use it), his first-edition copy of J. D. Salinger's Nine Stories, his Xbox, his autographed Doc Halladay baseball and his most prized Orcs from the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game--the classic eighth edition, not the other poseur stuff. For her he would master his most troublesome rituals and offer up what was left of his sanity. "Greetings, Robyn, and welcome!" said Dr. Chuck Mutinda, nodding first at her and then into a raggedy file folder. This simultaneously shattered and enhanced the moment. The boy now knew her name. Robyn. "Thank you," the girl said to her feet, and the boy stopped breathing altogether, so hypnotic was the sound of her voice. The girl's eyes were blue. Up until that very second, the boy had never noticed the color of anyone's eyes, could not have told you the color of his mother's eyes. But Robyn's eyes . . . well, they were the shade of an angry sky rimmed by thick lashes the color of soot. Her beauty--which, shockingly, no one in the room felt compelled to jump up and comment on--was ravishing. Everything in him felt tossed and trampled. He ached deep inside just looking at her, but he could not look away. So this was what that was like? "Robyn Plummer is a slightly late addition to our merry band, having recently completed the residential program at Rogers Memorial Hospital." Residential. His heart stopped then started up again. He focused on his breath the way Chuck had tried to teach him to do--except that he'd never really paid attention, so it didn't help. Residential. They were all freaked by the mere possibility of residential. "Welcome, Robyn, to room 13B and the Young Adult OCD Support Group. Course," Chuck explained, "there is no room 13A, which makes a 13B a bit superfluous. And you will have no doubt also noticed that there is no thirteenth floor on the elevator. We have to get off on fourteen to get to this floor." "Yeah, man, what's with that? I spent half an hour riding the damn elevator my first time here. I thought it was some psycho test," said Peter Kolchak, slouching into his chair. A couple of the kids snorted in agreement. "So," continued Chuck, ignoring the interruption, "in some blessed existential way we, uh, don't exist." He said this as he said almost everything, with the faintest hint of a Jamaican lilt. He was long parted from that country, but not yet from the singsong rhythms of its language. He returned to the file. "Robyn is sixteen and . . ." Sixteen! The boy seized on the number. Sixteen was bad. It was an even number, and therefore had to be sterilized. And it was very bad as an age. Sixteen--he repeated it fifteen times and tapped it out thirty-three times until it felt "just right." Okay, so it could have been worse. And then he realized it was. There was also the height thing. You could tell even when she was sitting. The height--her height--could be and certainly would be a barrier. Robyn was unusually tall for a sixteen-year-old goddess, and he, sadly, irrefutably, was quite short for a boy of almost fifteen. Too young, too short--definitely obstacles. But these too were surmountable. The boy would grow, and fast, now that he had a goal. He'd just never had a goal before, not really, or at least not one that he could remember. He would start right away, immediately, this instant. The boy began listing his brand-new goals as Chuck introduced everyone to Robyn. He wrote them in bullet points with his right index finger into the shielded palm of his left hand. * Grow immediately. * Find courage. * Keep courage. * Get normal. * Marry Robyn Plummer. That should do it. The boy straightened up hard into his chair. The chewed-up plastic bit into his shoulder blades. It was almost his turn. "And beside Elizabeth Mendoza is--" "Pretty Boy Ross," said Peter, who had been providing a running commentary throughout Chuck's intros. Peter was sitting beside Robyn and facing her all the while, moving ever so slightly closer. Pretty? What the hell? Peter was going to be a problem. Or maybe he just needed a meds adjustment. With some in the group it was hard to tell. Chuck raised an eyebrow, which was about as threatening as Chuck got. "And beside Elizabeth is our youngest member, Adam Spencer Ross." Noooo...! Did he actually say that? Between Chuck and Peter, Adam sounded like the group's pet bunny. Elizabeth was only a few months older, for God's sake! Chuck had said the same stuff last week during the first round of intros. Somehow, it hadn't sounded as gormless then. Adam would normally tap or count the tiles, but since, as of seven minutes ago, he was a man with a goal, he didn't. Besides, they were all looking at him. So Adam Spencer Ross rolled dice he didn't even know he possessed. He sat up straighter and presented Robyn with his finest "Whaddya gonna do?" smile. And then a miracle happened. She smiled back. His feet got hot. Robyn had not smiled back at the others--who, he had already determined last week, were way more nuts than he was. Adam had tracked her reaction to each intro as he'd listed his newly revised life goals. With years of multitasking of a very high order behind him, he could tap, count and pay attention to critical information. "And finally, back to our newest member, Robyn Plummer . . ." Chuck's Rasta dreadlocks seemed to wave at her while he searched through his notes. "Robyn is a junior at Chapel High." That's it! Game over! Confirmed as dead-in-the-water! Junior year was deep into high school. It was practically out of high school! Juniors dated college boys, sometimes. Even he knew that. Peter Kolchak, who was still ogling her, was in college, or would have been if he hadn't flamed out. Adam was a sophomore. This was Montague and Capulet territory. That he was in the gifted program at St. Mary's was no bonus. He got angry with his mother all over again. She had point-blank refused to let him skip from third to fourth grade, even though the nuns had suggested it rather strongly (for nuns, that is). He and Robyn would have been in the exact same year if it weren't for his mother. Adam tapped his right foot twenty-nine times in three sets ending with three middle-finger taps for good measure. It was barely perceptible even in this room of experts. The annoyance with his mother receded. She meant well, and he did love her, after all, whatever color her eyes were. Robyn folded her hands neatly in her lap. They jutted out of a forest green school blazer. The uniform jacket was too small and the school kilt too short. This was more about neglect than an effort to look cool. Adam would swear to it. Except for shiny perfect lips, her brilliant face shone without a trace of makeup, but bright blue nail polish gleamed on every fingernail. Ten little robin's eggs. Robyn's eggs. He knew with impenetrable certainty that this was the reason she had chosen that color. He got it. It was yet another reason, in the head-spinningly fast accumulation of reasons, why they should be together, forever. Chuck was in serious overdrive in his signature laid-back kind of way. He was going around the room again. There was muttering. Adam had missed something. "Trust me, people, studies show that this can be very freeing. Try it on for size. Just pick a character. It's like you can be more true to you, somehow, if you're someone else." Huh? Chuck looked like he didn't care one way or the other. But Adam knew better. He'd already been going to one-on-one therapy for almost a year before Chuck suggested that it was time to join the group. Dr. Charles Mutinda cared plenty. Chuck had asked everyone to pick a nom de guerre, as he called it, for this and all future sessions. They would leave their doubt-ridden, shell-shocked and agonizing selves at the door and become instead all-powerful beings. Adam got excited despite himself. He would cease to be, becoming the Venerable Lord Kroak or Grimgor Ironhide! Yes! Why not? But by the third pick a clear trend was forming: except for Elizabeth Mendoza, who claimed a reality TV star named Snooki, the rest of them called in comic super-heroes. In fact, the group was loosely forming into either DC's Justice League or Marvel's Avengers, with just a hint of X-Men. Connie Brenner chose Wonder Woman, lining up in the Justice League camp, while Peter Kolchak called in Wolverine. Kyle Gallagher said he wanted to be Iron Man, while Tyrone Cappell said he'd like to be Green Lantern if that was all right with everyone. "Naw you don't, Cappell!" snorted the newly christened Wolverine. "Haven't you heard? Green Lantern's a fag--I mean, gay." Green Lantern seemed to ponder this for a moment and then stammered, "Uh, y-yeah, so Green Lantern would in fact be especially perfect." "Oh. Right, yeah. Cool. Whatever," said Wolverine. Jacob Rubenstein, who sat on the other side of Robyn, chose Captain America and couldn't stop smiling. Chuck interjected to tell everyone that Nicolas Redmond, the -massive brooding fellow sitting not so much in the semicircle as behind it, had chosen the Mighty Thor. "Right, Nick?" The storm cloud growled his assent. Adam smiled at the Viking like an idiot. He couldn't help it. "Hey, man, Thor's the best!" The newly anointed Viking glared at him. Didn't matter. Adam loved the anguished Thor comics. He had a million copies perfectly stacked in order of issue in his closet. Nicolas Redmond was a perfect Thor. Then it was her turn. "Robyn," she whispered. "If you don't mind, I choose Robin. Not my name but like the . . . well, you know." Each consonant and vowel shimmered with pain. 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, or 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. That's it! They were all looking at him now, including Thor and Robyn. Her smile sweetened, Adam was sure of that too. He felt himself grow. It all made perfect sense. The universe was unfolding exactly as it should. "Batman," he said in a strong, clear voice. Adam Spencer Ross would be her Batman. Chapter 2 "So, my man, did you do your homework?" Adam and Chuck were about three-quarters of the way through their monthly session when Chuck began threading a fountain pen in and around the fingers of his right hand. The pen-flipping became hypnotic. Did Chuck know that? He had to. Chuck knew everything. All Adam had to do for his one-on-one homework was the List. But he usually didn't, couldn't or wouldn't, and he didn't know why. Chuck also assigned homework in Group. Most of it was from an OCD handbook that they'd had to buy before Group started. Adam didn't do that either. It was crazy. He did all his school homework. He was probably the only kid at St. Mary's to do so. He did it in record time in the school library using their computers. And he did it perfectly. But Chuck's stuff? Nope. Until today. Adam had goals now. "Yes, sir. Yeah, I did." Chuck raised his left eyebrow and then his right. He hated being called sir. "Hey, there's a first time for everything, right?" offered Adam. Chuck's eyebrows were also hypnotic. He could raise them independently of each other, which is a superior trick when you think about it. When Chuck lifted his right one it meant he was sort of pissed or frustrated, like he was with Wolverine that last Group. The left one raised meant he was surprised or questioning, like he was now. Adam was supposed to keep a weekly Tens List, a State of the Union-type thing, and bring it in for review. Chuck had assigned it about four months ago, and Adam had finally done his first one today, on the way over. But the thing was, at least he'd done it. And he would do one every single week from now on and bring them all in. If doing psycho homework would put him on the fast track to being fixed, then move over, Adam was boarding that bus. Robyn was waiting. "Can we review it together?" asked Chuck. "No! Uh, I mean, no. We . . . Not this time, if that's okay. Okay?" Adam's heart was racing. It went to the starting block as soon as Chuck said the word review. Of course the therapist would want to "review" the List, discuss it, pick it apart. Hell, it freaked him out that Chuck was even going to read it. Chuck slid his glasses farther down his nose and peered over the rims. The glasses were massive wire-rimmed aviators from the 1980s. The man was a walking time capsule. Adam sighed, relenting, and handed Chuck a piece of paper that had been folded over so many times it looked like a runner-up in a demented origami contest. The therapist began the process of unfolding the paper and reading it while Adam paced inside himself. He knew the List by heart. He'd rewritten it several times in his head before committing pencil to paper. It was not perfect. Excerpted from The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.