I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first book I’ve read about mental health, in fact, I can think of a couple of titles off the top of my head that would fall into this category. However, Under Rose Tainted Skies is definitely going to stay with me the longest.
I first heard about this book from Kourtni over at KoutniReads in her January Releases post. Between her rave review and the brief description. I decided to pick it up.
If I had to compare this book to something, I feel it would have to be to Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (my favourite read of 2016) – the main characters faced similar symptoms (with very different causes), both books contain a cute (yet complicated) romance and both books have a huge twist in the last few chapters that left me with a pounding heart.
Before I go any further into this review, I think it’s important to mention that due to the book’s topic, there are trigger warnings for mental illness and self-harm, if this may be a problem, please check out Goodreads and make sure you’ll be able to handle it.
Obviously, Norah is the heart and soul of this book. In a book about mental health, the characterisation of the main protagonist really has to be done correctly. Norah needed to be the perfect balance between being normalised enough to remain relatable without underplaying the significance of her illness. In my opinion, Gornall captured Norah perfectly, every detail from taking the last step twice to her love of horror movies helped to build a well-rounded and believable character, a very important factor in making her relevant, relatable, yet individual. I love that Norah did not become her illness, yet her constant struggle was still clearly evident.
While we’re looking at characters, let’s talk about Luke. Luke was your standard boy next door love interest. He didn’t have a heap of characterisation, but that was acceptable in a story which really is documenting the relationship between Norah and her brain.
The same thing goes for her mom, although she didn’t have a massive character arc, I did really enjoy the Gilmore-Girls-esqe relationship between the pair, and that lead to some beautifully normal moments in the story.
Since this is a Miss Abigail review, I have to talk about the family dynamic. Unfortunately for me, this is yet another book that is not about families, yet includes two messed up parenting duos. Why couldn’t Norah’s dad have been present? Why couldn’t Luke have had a typical nuclear family? (
(I feel like the above paragraph has come across as quite closed minded, as it often does when I discuss this in reviews, perhaps a separate post in this will need to appear in the future…)
Anywho, let’s move on and talk about writing style. In a nutshell, the writing was simply beautiful. There were so many elegant changes of tone throughout this novel. I love how Gornall was able to find humour in Norah’s situation at points, yet heart-breaking, sob rendering scenes in the following pages. It was just amazing.
I think it would be hard to read a book like this, and not draw up some sort of personal connection. I hate people who self-diagnose, and I don’t want to do that, but I must admit I felt a deep connection with Norah and her struggles. A lot of her mannerisms and thought patterns felt like exaggerated versions of my own. Like the way I can only turn the volume on the TV up in multiples of 2 or 5, and the possible-disaster- list that runs through my head when it hits the pillow at night. Unlike Norah, I am able to control these idiosyncrasies, but I still had a deep empathy for her and her situation. I think every person will forge some connection with Norah, either through their own experience or the experience of a friend, it’s an important book to read in a bid to better understand the implications of OCD and agoraphobia in a way that illustrates the daily struggles of mental illness.
(Definitely spoilers ahead… I can’t hold it in any longer)
OH MY GOSH!
Guys, we have got to talk about that robbery. I did not see that coming at all, even as the scene started to unfold I was saying to myself ‘oh, poor Norah, she’s so paranoid’. As I read that chapter my heart was thumping, probably not helped by the fact that I was sitting alone in my house!
After that, the ending just felt a little abrupt for me, but I suppose it ultimately made sense. Even though the ending is not what I had expected, I’m glad Gornall showed that Norah’s struggle continued, an epilogue with a perfectly healed Norah would have been an injustice to her struggle.
Overall, I am happy to announce that this is my first 4/5 star review of 2017 (I can hear the trumpets in my head). It was so nearly a 5, but the ending and the few other minor issues left me a little unsatisfied, so I have to knock a star off (in reality, I only knocked off half a star, but Goodreads is very closed minded). This is such an amazing read for any person, young or old, whether they’ve suffered from mental health problems or not… I’m running out of ways to sell this… just read it okay!
What’s your favourite book about mental health? I’d love to check out more like this!