Monday, November 28, 2016

Fall Reading 2016 Under Rose-Tainted Skies


Someone looking at the subjects that are included in this book might get the impression that it will be a very depressing read, but they would be wrong. Yes, Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. Yes, she cannot leave the house or deal with odd numbers. Yes, she obsesses over possible catastrophes, germs, and possibly choking on foods such as popcorn. In short, she is like a female teenage version of the TV character Monk. 

Gornall manages to maintain the personality of a 17-year-old girl who is highly intelligent and realizes that many of her own behaviors are ridiculous, even while she cannot break out of her obsessive habits. Readers hear all her internal debates and self-chastisement, witness the close bond between Norah and her mother, and then watch the developing friendship between this strong yet fragile girl with the new boy next door. 

What makes the story so easy to identify with is Norah's way with words. While watching her mother wrestle a suitcase down the stairs she thinks, "The whole descent has the elegance of an elephant performing Swan Lake on a pogo stick." She describes her own confused mental state as, "My head is a ball of wool after it's been mauled by a kitten." And after receiving advice from her mother and her therapist, she wonders, "Why do people keep telling me to be myself? Honestly. It's like they've never even met me."

Watching Norah struggle against her limitations, seeing her try to break out of them and face the world outside the front door is heartbreaking and inspiring. The author shares in a note at the end of the book that it is a reflection of her "own struggles with mental health." After reading that note and then thinking back on the story, it makes the reader even more impressed with how difficult a fight it is to face those battles every day. 

If you enjoy realistic fiction, books with serious topics worked in (OCD, agoraphobia, cutting, etc.), and stories where boy meets girl and there are real-life obstacles to overcome (or perhaps not overcome), then you should give this a try. Not as painful as The Fault in Our Stars, but just as honest.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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