The Unfolding Identity Project

Best Users: Educators, Librarians, Counselors

Best Audience: Children Grades 03-07


In the middle grade novel Finding Perfect,  Molly’s view of herself differs greatly from how others perceive her. Although Molly’s OCD makes her situation unique, we are all a little like Molly – who we present to the world is not always in perfect alignment with who we are on the inside.

You can help your readers explore the layers of identity – both public and private – with a series of writing prompts.  The responses to the prompts, written in tiny spaces on a provided template, are folded and tucked to create a private exploration of the layers of self.


The Unfolding Identity Project





Finding Perfect
By Elly Swartz
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-13: 9780374303129
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

To twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, perfect is:

—The number four
—The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil
—A crisp white pad of paper
—Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are sometimes broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Poetry Slam Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with white tablecloths. Molly is sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?

But as time passes, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control. In this fresh-voiced debut novel, one girl learns there is no such thing as perfect.

“First-time author Swartz creates a clear, moving portrayal of obsessive-compulsive disorder through the authentic voice of middle schooler Molly Nathans.” —Publishers Weekly
“With middle school friendships and family relationships at its heart, this novel offers an empathetic guide to coping with a mental health issue…Swartz adds to the growing list of fiction titles that raise awareness of differences and promote acceptance; a strong purchase for most middle grade and middle school collections.” —SLJ
“With intense and insightful depictions of Molly’s thoughts and subsequent actions, Swartz renders Molly’s decline into full-blown OCD visceral and sympathetic; readers with similar tendencies will relate while others, like her friends, will recognize the pain of seeing someone in need but not being able to help. This is a powerful but not overpowering novel, informing audiences about OCD with tact and acceptance through an accessible and relateable cast of characters…This is one for preteens struggling with the desire for perfection in this imperfect life.” —BCCB
“This lightly and sensitively written debut is a candid portrayal of what it might be like for a child living with obsessive-compulsive disorder…the exploration of OCD is thorough and compelling, and the book is as well researched (including a list of consulted resources) as it is gently written.”—Booklist



  1. Sounds like a wonderful read for my students!

    • Brian, you are the best. It is a brilliant, important read, YES!


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