Welcome to my stop on the Don’t Touch Blog Tour hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club! Today, I will be sharing some book info, my thoughts on the book, some info about the author, and of course, the giveaway!
Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by HarperTeen
Source: ARC from HarperTeen for review
My Rating: 5 Stars
A powerful story of a girl who is afraid to touch another person’s skin, until the boy auditioning for Hamlet opposite her Ophelia gives her a reason to overcome her fears. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good. Caddie can’t stop thinking that if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, her parents might get back together… which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin. It seems harmless at first, but Caddie’s obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who’s auditioning for the title role—and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall. Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, this debut novel from Rachel M. Wilson is a moving story of a talented girl who’s fighting an increasingly severe anxiety disorder, and the friends and family who stand by her.
Wow. Where to begin? This book blew me away. I was expecting to like it (why else would I have read it, right?), but I never expected it to impact me the way it did. After I finished, I couldn’t sleep. Literally, I just stayed awake, in deep thought.
When I first decided I wanted to read Don’t Touch (which I had initially overlooked, mainly because I saw mention of “drama class” and Hamlet, which in hindsight would have been a huge mistake), I wasn’t sure how much I would connect to Caddie. Sure, she had some issues, but they were mainly sensory issues (or so I’d assumed). She was into theater, and artsy stuff.
As it turned out, Caddie and I are far more alike than I care to admit. But for the sake of explaining my connection to this story, I think it is vital that I do. See, Caddie isn’t afraid of touch, per se. She is afraid of what the touch may bring upon her, her family, those around her. She is consumed by “magical thoughts”, in which she feels as though she can somehow control her surroundings by modifying her behavior, doing specific routines, and in this case, not allowing anyone to touch her skin. I had (and in the spirit of honesty, still have) many of these such thoughts and reactions. For years (probably since I was around seven), I was convinced that if I fell asleep on my back, the phone would ring indicating that a relative had passed away. Did I know logically that it was ridiculous? Of course. As does Caddie. But that doesn’t stop the compulsion from being there. The fear and anxiety overwhelms you until you simply can’t help but follow through with the thought or behavior.
The way Rachel M. Wilson writes this is so honest, so completely accurate that I actually had to regain my composure before continuing. I have read books before in which the character was supposed to have some kind of anxiety, depression, OCD, etc. But it felt like someone trying to describe what it might be like for the character. It was maybe even a close representation. But not in Don’t Touch. I felt every single bit of Caddie’s struggle. I knew it, because it was my own. And it was so startlingly real. Caddie was being suffocated by her fears and anxiety, and each response she had, I have felt. For people who haven’t experienced this type of affliction, trust that this is absolutely spot-on. The panic is real. The terror is real. And Wilson’s writing makes the reader absolutely feel it oozing from Caddie.
The supporting characters in the story are also portrayed so well. They are likable, especially the romantic interest Peter. He is one of the good guys, the kind of guy any girl would be lucky to have. He is patient with Caddie, though of course goes through some of the feelings you’d expect him to go through when the girl he is interested in refuses any hint of affection. There’s no insta-love, just insta-attraction, which is fine by me. Caddie likes Peter, but is too terrified to do anything to jeopardize her “Don’t Touch” mantra. Caddie’s best friend Mandy is much more frustrated with her behavior. Of course, Caddie doesn’t want Mandy to know about her mental health issues, for fear that Mandy will simply think she is crazy and not want to be around her. All Mandy wants is for Caddie to trust her enough to let her in. Again, the reactions are so true to life. Caddie’s parents are going through a separation; Caddie’s mom is trying to figure out life on her own while Caddie’s dad is kind of being useless. Does this really happen with parents? Um, yes. After all, parents are human, and very fallible, especially when not wanting to admit/deal with a child’s mental health. I was glad that Caddie’s parents were at least supportive of her seeing a therapist and getting treatment.
The drama group, in addition to being great characters in general, create some great side stories and witty banter to make the book very multifaceted. In the midst of Caddie’s inner turmoil, she is able to share some fun moments with her new group of friends. It also makes for a great opportunity for the reader to regroup from the more heart-wrenching moments.
The Hamlet piece was really well done, and quite genius. It makes for such an amazing comparison to Caddie’s life, and challenges her in ways she never imagined. Instead of being bored by Shakespeare, I was actually really invested in the play’s success, since I was so invested in the characters. And of course, the story mirrored how Caddie felt so well, and there were times that she felt so much like Ophelia. It was the perfect plot choice.
There were quotes and conversations in the book that made me literally stop reading to write them down, because I was so moved by them. There were conversations that Caddie and Mandy had that moved me so much, especially ones relating to touching. How do you explain to someone that being touched terrifies you? Isn’t explaining it just as terrifying? I don’t have any magical thoughts related to touch like Caddie does, but I have panic attacks when men I don’t know (and sometimes even men I do know) touch me. Like Caddie, it doesn’t stem from any horrific attack, it just is. In a work training, I was paired with four large, strange men to do restraint training exercises. I lasted about twenty seconds, had a full blown panic attack which led to a severe asthma attack, and that was the end of that. How could I explain to a room full of people why that happened? I couldn’t. This is why Caddie feels so helpless when trying to describe it to Mandy. It isn’t that she doesn’t trust Mandy, there are simply no words.
I wrote down two quotes* said to Caddie by her friends that made me both think so deeply, and tear up. They’re true, and for me, they hit home in ways that nothing else has.
Peter: “…but have you thought maybe you’re afraid of the wrong thing? What if the way you are right now is what you need to be afraid of?”
Caddie: “I’m not choosing to be afraid” Livia: “No, see, that’s not the choice. The choice is what you do even though you are afraid.”
This story will undoubtedly stay with me for a long, long time. In fact, the first chance I get I am ordering a physical copy of this book, because I am certain I’ll be rereading. Do you have to understand mental illness firsthand to be moved by this book? Absolutely not. It is a fantastic book with beautifully written characters, and a plot that will keep everyone interested. It is sad, but hopeful; smart and witty; and brutally, brilliantly honest.
*Please note, these quotes were taken from an uncorrected copy; quotes are subject to change.
About The Author
Rachel M. Wilson is the author of the contemporary YA, DON’T TOUCH, forthcoming from HarperTeen, Sep. 2, 2014.
She graduated from Northwestern University and holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Rachel grew up in Birmingham, AL, and she currently writes, acts, and teaches in Chicago, IL.
Giveaway is open to US/CAN Only | Must be 13 or older to enter