Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Norah is a mentally ill teen struggling with agoraphobia and OCD. She lives with her mom and hasn't attended school in over four years -- in fact, she really hasn't had what society would deem a "normal" outing in that time. Her interactions are with her mom, her therapist, and the online world: watching her former friends live their lives via social media. When a new boy moves in next door, Norah doesn't expect much to change. But when Luke catches Norah trying to fish in groceries left outside on her porch, he helps her. The two slowly begin to interact, and a friendship blossoms. Still, despite the movie "dates" they have at Norah's house and their many chats, Norah is trapped in her own insecurities and fears: Luke deserves a "normal" girl, who can go outside to parties, and who isn't too scared of germs to kiss. What does the future hold in store for Norah and Luke?
This was a lyrical novel offering a rather unflinching portrait of mental illness. (I must point out up front that there's a self-harm/cutting trigger.) The writing is beautiful, almost falling over the line of too flowery at times. Norah is an engaging heroine: a real person living her life with mental illness. The novel truly tries to portray her OCD and agoraphobia in a real (yet humorous at times - it's not just as if you're reading a medical manual) manner. There are some incredibly important passages in this book about how, while Norah may not look sick or mentally ill, she is. I enjoyed her character immensely.
Unfortunately, some of my love of Norah was diminished by slightly unrealistic and odd plotlines. Maybe it's just me, but I was immensely bothered by little things - Luke's dad getting a job at the TSA for 8 weeks (unless that was a long time ago, basically impossible in the security clearance era). In turn, Norah's mom undergoes a hospital stay that seems oddly inserted; further, if the family has money, why is poor, scared Norah forced to stay alone for huge chunks of time without any assistance or company? Luke also comes across as too good to be true sometimes, making me question his character, even when I wanted to buy into the love story. Finally, the ending hinges on a weird twist and seemed to tie things up a little too easily for how strongly the book was presenting Norah's illness throughout.
The angsty teen love genre is certainly in full swing lately and adding in mental illness is popular as well (I think Everything, Everything is my favorite, where it worked so beautifully). Still, I certainly wouldn't not recommend this novel. It's well-written, portrays its mental illnesses very well, and the character of Norah is worth the read alone. There are some flaws, yes, but I did enjoy the book overall. 3.5 stars.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review; it is available as of 01/03/2017.
View all my reviews