Kissing Doorknobs

Teens’ battles against mental health issues have become a more prominent concern in today’s world. The internet is speaking out and providing uplifting feed on social media. A CFHS teen reviews a story called “Kissing Doorknobs,” that features a young girl and her personal battle.

Terry Spencer Hesser’s novel, “Kissing Doorknobs,” illustrates some of the unique compulsions and struggles that a young girl faces.

Jessica Baszuro

Terry Spencer Hesser’s novel, “Kissing Doorknobs,” illustrates some of the unique compulsions and struggles that a young girl faces.

“Step on a crack, break your mother back!” An innocent rhyme repeated numerous times by children as they skip along the sidewalk, avoiding the cracks in a fun little game as they get themselves from point A to point B. For Tara though, it is quite the opposite of fun. Torturously, the phrase replays itself over and over in her head, screaming at her to always avoid and to count every crack as she walks along. She must do so carefully because if there are any mistakes made, she has to start all over again.

In Kissing Doorknobs, the author, Terry Spencer Hesser tells the story of a young, 10-year-old girl growing up plagued by the demons of her mind. These demons, unknown to Tara or her family, are undiagnosed OCD. After going to multiple psychiatrists and shrinks, nobody could quite catch what was wrong. Tara was given many false diagnoses’ such as self-esteem issues, borderline anorexia, and attention deficit. Without receiving the correct diagnosis or any help, her issues slowly begin taking over every aspect of her life. This causes relationship issues between her loved ones; parents, friends, sister, and teachers. 

Despite a childhood filled with anxiety and nightmares that could only be calmed by her mother, Tara was a fairly normal girl. She had lots of friends who she hung out with all the time, got good grades, and found much joy in her life. Her parents were never really worried about her. Although, after a few years, she began to start accumulating compulsive behaviors, starting with the repeated phrase, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back!” While she knew it was silly to think that her mother’s spine would snap if she stepped on a crack, Tara found herself slowly walking along the path to school, not only avoiding but counting every crack on the sidewalk. She ignored many shouts from her friends and teachers, trying not to break concentration. If for any reason she was interrupted, she would have to walk all the way home and start again. Tara began picking up even more “quirks” such as compulsive praying for her family and friends, needing numbers to be even, and touching the doorknob then kissing her fingers, all with equal pressure. Slowly, her friends began drifting from her as these behaviors started taking over her life, unable to maintain any bond between them. Her parents began worrying and tensions grew dramatically in her household. But nothing could be done for Tara as no one couldcomphrend what was wrong. 

Hesser does an amazing job in this novel of telling a very moving, enthralling story while still using it to spread awareness of mental health issues. She herself struggled with OCD as a child and uses the book to tell a fictionalized autobiography of her childhood and the struggles she faced. Not once did the book slow to a boring pace, always bringing something new to the plot. She found a very entertaining and enthralling way to tell and bring awareness about people, like her, who were and some still are, in a battle with their minds. Putting the book down is not an option. I was drawn in by every word and thought going through the pages, bringing me into the mind of Tara and OCD. Some may even find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in the struggle, and can find hope in Tara’s story. Just be sure that if you too find yourself with the urge to kiss your front door’s knob, sanitize it first. We’re still in a pandemic.