ARC Review: “Under Rose-Tainted Skies” by Louise Gornall

Thanks to Netgalley and HMH Children’s for giving me a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wow. Boy, am I glad I read this book. Let me start off by saying that I know very little about OCD or agoraphobia–that is, I know what they are but I don’t know how someone’s brain works when they are affected by it, so I’m going into this fairly blind and my opinion and/or thoughts may be null and void. Despite that, I’m so glad I requested this book and was given the chance to read it.

under-rose-tainted-skiesTitle: Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Author: Louise Gornall
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s
Expected release date: January 3, 2017 (tomorrow!)
Genre: Young adult, contemporary
Length: 320 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.”

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Meet 17-year-old Norah. She’s got OCD and agoraphobia. She’s been homeschooled for a couple of years now, lives with her single mother, and regularly visits her therapist, Dr. Reeves. When a cute boy moves in next door, Norah watches him from her window–that is, until he sees her trying to drag the delivered groceries into her house with some sort of make-shift staff. Their friendship blooms slowly and Norah has to face a few things she’d only given passing thoughts to.

The entire friendship/relationship between Luke and Norah was adorably cute. I wouldn’t call this book a cute, fluffy read but I love their growing friendship and how Luke tries to understand who Norah is even with all her nuances and idiosyncrasies. Norah’s own internal struggle to be “normal” and not “crazy” resonates with me because when I was her age, I shared some similar struggles with Norah. I like how Luke doesn’t push Norah to do things she doesn’t want to do. Norah’s thoughts are wild and may sometimes seem erratic or irrational but we have to take a step back and realize that these small things make up Norah.

What I really loved most about this book is the extremely positive relationship between Mother and daughter and Therapist and client/patient. A lot of times we may see books that do not reflect good light on parent/child or doctor/patient, but I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated how Norah was very willing to work with her mother and her therapist in various aspects. Each individual challenged Norah in their own way, and it all came out positive in the end. Some might shrug it off and think, “Of course Mom and daughter get along well–Norah’s too afraid to leave the house!” And while that is true, it’s very surface level. Norah has legitimate fears–fears and quirks that her mom has come to understand and to help Norah get through them unlike some parents who might just shrug it off as a “phase” or something they can easily get over. I also like how Dr. Reeves meets Norah where she’s at–literally, like when the doctor came to Norah’s house. It’s refreshing to see Norah respond positively, although skeptically, to Dr. Reeves’s suggestions.

I will admit that this sometimes felt like it dragged on but I like how Norah was challenged in various ways. There are times she does feel sorry for herself and she does wallow a bit, but she also comes to understand that she can be a bit irrational (though it doesn’t help that she looks up crazy videos and articles, lol), but that’s the way her mind works.

On a somewhat different note, I really like that cover.

I look forward to reading whatever else Gornall writes as I think she’s done a splendid job exploring these particular mental illnesses. I’m glad that we’re seeing more and more (YA) books with characters who have mental illnesses as it can be a learning experience for those like me.

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