“UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES,” by Louise Gornall, Clarion Books, Jan. 3, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
One of the reasons I love reading so much is because it takes me to places I’ve never been. Sometimes the journey is magical and ethereal, other times it’s fraught with danger and adventure. Then there are the journeys that are difficult. They can be emotionally draining and at times hard to push through, but in the end, very rewarding. “Under Rose-Tainted Skies,” by Louise Gornall is one such book.
At the center of “Under Rose-Tainted Skies” is Norah, a teenagers suffering from agoraphobia (the fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment) and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
Norah can’t leave her house. Going to the doctor is a major undertaking. Even going in her backyard is a struggle. She wasn’t always this way, but now this is her reality, and it’s one that she’s learned to live with.
That changes when her mom goes out of town for work and the weekly groceries mistakenly get left on the front porch. It’s while she’s struggling to get the bags with a stick that she meets Luke, her handsome new next-door neighbor.
Luke is unlike anyone she’s ever met. He’s kind and funny, and for some reason, he finds Norah’s illnesses intriguing rather than weird or silly. As their friendship blossoms from simple notes slid under Norah’s door to real conversations, Norah finds herself in a terrifying and equally exciting new place — normalcy.
Author Louise Gornall wrote “Under Rose-Tainted Skies” in part from her own experiences with mental illness. Her background gives the book an authenticity that literally throbs on the page. That means there are hard parts to read. Norah’s head is not an easy place to be. The intensity of her anxiety is overwhelming at points, and I found myself occasionally rushing through sections just to move past it. While this could be problematic with some books, it’s not here. The reality of what Norah — and people in the nonfiction world — face everyday can’t easily be stripped away. You leave the book with a very strong sense of truth.
What makes “Under Rose-Tainted Skies” work is Norah’s relationship with Luke. It’s in those sometimes-little, sometimes-big moments that Norah becomes more than her illness. Luke is the kind of guy you’d want your daughter to date, and that helps, too. Additional scenes with Norah and her mother and Norah and her doctor help to flesh out what is a strong and worthwhile read.
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