Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall

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At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.

But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.

Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?

After the awfulness of some other YA contemporary books I’ve read recently, I didn’t hold up much for this one. I’d seen a lot online about it, though, and the fact that it was realistic in the mental illnesses it portrayed and thought I would actually give it a chance.

I was so so wary going into this. I had a proof copy, so I don’t know what it says on the back of finished ones, but the blurb on mine made it sound like the whole girl meets boy girl falls in love *poof* mental illness cured! Which… yeah, I’m definitely not the only one that hates the whole idea of that thing. It really really isn’t like that at all. But I had the book and I knew enough about it to be interested, so I started it.

It was slow. There is no denying that, and for someone like me, who likes fast paced fantasy and on-the-edge-of-your-seat plots, it was hard to get into (pretty much why this is a 4 star and not a 5 star.) but how can it be anything but slow, when the main characters whole world is the four walls of her house?

But that slowness didn’t stop the story, or make it boring. With something like agoraphobia, it would have been easy to slump down the monotonous route-with how Main Character’s, Norah, life was, it would have been more than easy. But Gornall is a clever writer that it never seems that way. She has just proven that you dont need massive world building and endless sets to create a beautiful story.

Because it was beautiful. In its writing but also in the truth of the mental illnesses it tackled. It was unflinching in everything, from the anxiety to the panic attacks to the self harm- and also the treatment of them all. And you know what else was beautiful? The fact that Norah has a caring support system from her mother. In so many YA novels, the parents are the bad guys. The ones that don’t understand, or don’t care, or teach their kids as less. Or even, aren’t in the story at all. But Norah’s mum worries and cares- but when Luke appears on the scene, she doesn’t smother. She just tries to help, and its lovely to see.

And lets talk about Luke. He’s apparently your average teen- good looking, and wanted by the High School Queen (this is a running theme in YA books. Was it just me that never seemed to have one of Those Types while in school?). He’s caring and funny and desperately wants to know Norah. I loved the interaction between these two. Because it wasn’t all love will cure everything. It was awkward- not just when Luke didn’t know anything about her, but even after she explained it, and they were trying to ‘date’. Luke made mistakes- as everyone does, and it’s heartbreaking to see from both sides.

Luke wasn’t the ‘cure’. Norah was not ‘cured’ at the end of the book- she still struggled leaving the house- even when her life was at risk- she still struggled with her OCD and anxiety. But Luke was almost… motivation (not the right word but I can’t think of it at the moment) to get better. To try the treatments suggested to her.

Though some of the book was funny, a lot of it was gritty and hard to read. Because she does struggle with a lot, and the book is written in her POV, you see a lot of what goes on in her head, and sometimes some of the things she went through reminded me of things I’ve struggled with in the past. But not all books are meant to be light- and books that rotate around characters with mental illnesses shouldn’t be easy, because mental illness isn’t easy.

It was an honest view into Norah’s life, and I really enjoyed it and I recommend it to everyone, no matter your normal reading tastes.

four stars

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