Thursday, 18 May 2017

Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall

"I'm being forced to challenge ideas that have kept me safe for so long"
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?

* * 
2 / 5 

Under Rose-Tainted Skies has taught me two things: firstly, to read the backs of books properly in order to correctly identify a YA romance, rather than a general YA book. Secondly, that YA romances are just not my thing. Whilst Under Rose-Tainted Skies has an insightful and respectful portrayal of various types of mental health issues (OCD, agoraphobia, anxiety), the book feels directionless and the romance falls flat. 
My mind is attempting sabotage, refusing to find the beauty, the fun, the exciting in watching what are essentially pretty explosives 

Norah is seventeen. She lives with her mother and is homeschooled online, rarely interacting with anyone other than her therapist. She has barely left the house since she was thirteen. Why? Because she has OCD, anxiety, and agoraphobia. I thought her thought-processes here, at least the ones regarding anxiety at any rate, where realistic and relatable. Her fears and thoughts were a constant presence throughout the book, reminding the reader that whilst her mental health is not who Norah is, it shapes her life massively.

The main arc is her developing relationship with Luke, a boy who moves next door. But, the book had quite a few aspects just sort of flapping around and no clear plot direction. Norah's grandmother is brought up a number of times, enough for her to be remembered, such that you expect her to be significant, but she never is. Then there's this beautiful girl, Queen Amy, with a tan, long legs and a nice car. Basically, the girl is a walking stereotype and her only function is to provide a counterpoint to Norah in a sort of oh well she's beautiful and wants Luke so why would he want me way, and when Luke asks Norah to be his girlfriend, Amy is never mentioned again. Even Luke's dad is only there to be a foil to Norah, to be the wanderlust to her housebound. It felt a little bit lazy to me and left me feeling unsatisfied at the end of the book.

Sometimes things are going to happen and the only way out is through 

Everyone centres around Norah. At first, I thought this was actually quite a good artistic choice - Norah is agoraphobic. Thus her entire world is, essentially, herself and her mother. On a side note, I absolutely loved the way they were written together - I thought it was touching and realistic. But the consequence of having all the characters be about Norah, reflecting her, showing the reader what she is and what she is not, makes the romance entirely flat. Like a pancake. Yeah, sure, Luke seems like a nice guy and he's understanding and respectful. I also think it's very important to treat mental illnesses respectfully and to show those with them in good strong relationships, but I felt absolutely nada here.

Then there's the writing itself. I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't like it either. Gornall has this odd style that I found a bit hard to follow. Norah and Luke always seem to be conversing through the front door in whispers, or she's constantly spying on his house through her front door even though they live next door to each other. How would these things even work? Or we move room suddenly and without warning or any indicators of movement or change of scene. I found it quite jarring.

It is such a noble, unconditional word. Brave. Blindly committing to situations it knows nothing about. 

Then the pacing is all over the place; there was only one scene, at the very end, where I felt any sense of urgency or desire to read at more than a very sedentary pace. I kept picking the book up and putting it down - sometimes because it was very emotional and hard to read, but other times because I was straight up bored. The plot itself is okay, but I thought it lacked a lot of focus. It's a weird mix between just sort of chronicling Norah's day to day life, a romance, and Norah's journey towards helping her struggles with self-harm and such. Also the ending is straight-up bizarre.

To conclude, this book is a great and respectful portrayal of what it can be like to suffer from various mental health issues. However, I found it mostly quite boring and directionless. I think this book signals that my brief flirtation with YA romance novels should come to a close. 

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