Cory Friedman is a normal, healthy preschooler until one day, just before his fifth birthday, he inexplicably develops an irresistible urge to shake his head. Thus begins Cory's thirteen-year odyssey through hell as uncontrollable tics dominate every moment of his life, even to the point of disrupting his sleep. Cory is diagnosed with "one of the most complex cases of OCD, Tourette's syndrome, and anxiety disorder his doctors have ever seen." Some of his tics are so violent that he breaks his own teeth by biting down with tremendous force, tears muscle tissue with violent, uncontrolled twisting, and shatters tiles on the bathroom floor by repeatedly pounding them with his feet. In a desperate attempt to find a cure for their son's illness, Cory's parents, who remain loving and supportive throughout his ordeal, consult a plethora of doctors and visit specialized medical facilities throughout the country. Well-meaning physicians ply their son with an array of drugs, but nothing works, and the side effects of the medications are often more debilitating than the disease itself.

Cory's condition continues to deteriorate throughout his elementary and middle school years. Although he is highly intelligent and enjoys brief moments of success playing baseball and football, every day poses unbelievable challenges. Rendered friendless by his compulsions to gyrate, writhe, twist, and vocalize, Cory spends much of his time at home alone, working on his computer. By the time he is in high school, Cory has become a chain smoker to alleviate stress and has turned to alcohol because its anesthetizing properties bring him moments of elusive peace. These dangerous substances, in combination with the myriad drugs prescribed by doctors attempting to alleviate his symptoms, bring Cory to an abyss of desperation and depression. In the middle of his junior year in high school, he almost burns down the house after falling into a drunken sleep while smoking on the basement sofa. This incident forces Cory to realize that his only hope is to take control of his own life, and find a cure, or at least a way of coping, within himself.

Recognizing that their son is a real danger to himself and others, Cory's parents intervene in his treatment. With his cooperation, they remove him from most of his medications and send him to a wilderness camp for troubled teens in Wyoming. Forced under primitive conditions to overcome his handicaps and function constructively for his very survival, Cory achieves success through sheer determination, emerging from the wilderness "free of (his) addictions...(and) stronger inside and out...hav(ing) gotten past fears that none of the medicines...could conquer." Cory still has tics, but they "are more like nuisances, not overwhelming problems." Following his wilderness experience, Cory is admitted as an inpatient at a well-known neurological center, where he meets a therapist who teaches him to deal with his symptoms rather than suppress them. Cory manages to finish his junior year at his regular high school, doggedly catching up on the work he missed and progressing amazingly well. By the end of the year, Cory's tics begin to subside as inexplicably as they had begun thirteen years earlier. Although his symptoms never entirely disappear, Cory is able to excel in college and is currently leading a productive life, working in Internet marketing and performing as a lead singer in a band.

Against Medical Advice is best-selling author James Patterson's first nonfiction work. Written in conjunction with Hal Friedman, Cory's father, the book, published in 2008, achieved the distinction of reaching the number one spot on the New York Times best-seller list. Patterson, whose literary specialty is the mystery genre, uses a simple and direct writing style to build intensity and suspense, recounting a story that is heartrending, at times terrifying, and, most incredibly, true. Against Medical Advice is told from the perspective of Cory himself, and readers will empathize with him and his family as they are forced to accept that the medical establishment, although it is inarguably focused on promoting the well-being of individuals and is constantly expanding in knowledge, has its clear limitations. Having suffered with Cory as he re-creates his ordeal, readers will also share in his triumph as he affirms that even when the mysteries of the physical body stymie all the experts, the determination of the human spirit can still prevail.