Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Author: Louise Gornall
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Clarion Books
Published: January 3, 2017
Star Rating: 5 stars
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? (source)
THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW
TRIGGER WARNING: Self-harm, depression.
Where do I begin with this incredible, honest, unputdownable book?
I’ve been anticipating this one for a while, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t still a little worried about it. In the sense that I knew Norah was going to remain in her house throughout the story and that there would be very few characters and not much change of scenery.
I had no reason to be.
Louise Gornall is a true artist. Despite the fact that there were only a handful of characters and virtually one setting, I never – not once – got bored. I didn’t need a whole cast of characters, or a million different settings to fall in love with this book.
Let’s start with our protagonist, Norah. She’s pretty important, because it’s her head we’re stuck inside for the entire book. I loved her. With so few characters, if I didn’t like reading from her point of view, it would’ve been unbearable. So much of this book is just inner monologue, but it is so captivating.
As someone who doesn’t have any of the disorders that Norah lives with every day, I wondered if I’d be able to understand what she was going through. However, Gornall finds away to explain it all so well, that I was never lost, or confused, or wondering why Norah felt one way or had to do something:
See, anxiety doesn’t just stop. You can have nice moments, minutes where it shrinks, but it doesn’t leave. It lurks in the background like a shadow, like that important assignment you have to do but keep putting off or the dull ache that follows a three day migraine… Am I coping? Yes, but it’s taking a monumental amount of effort to keep the dynamite inside my stomach from exploding.
Using metaphors and similes, I was able to get a sense of what goes on in the mind of someone that has OCD and anxiety.
Now onto Luke, our love interest. He was adorable and realistic. He wasn’t always perfect, which I appreciated, but he was cute enough to make me swoon at the same time. He was just so accepting of Norah and who she was and I loved that about him! He was understanding of what she could and could not do, while also encouraging her to improve.
What I did not want to see in this book was a romance that overpowered everything. I didn’t want her crush on Luke to magically fix her disorders. And I’m happy to say that it did not. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it, but her feelings for Luke inspired and motivated her to want to improve, but they did not cure her. A big plus!
The romance also didn’t just start right at the beginning of the book – another thing I appreciate. It takes a while to start up and with the type of story this is, I thought that was absolutely essential. Norah is at first very nervous around Luke, but she slowly becomes more comfortable around him.
What I also love is the fact that despite the fact that Norah has a myriad of disorders, they don’t stop her from being a teenage girl. She’s still insecure about her looks, and worries about makeup and what Luke thinks of her, and she could still laugh at herself.
This novel also ticked one of the most fundamental Fantastic Book boxes: I couldn’t stop reading. Every time I picked this book up, I was sucked into it, which isn’t an easy feat for a contemporary.
In terms of good and honest representation of mental health in this book, I cannot personally say, as I don’t have any of the illnesses Norah does. However, I have heard nothing but glowing things. The representation is realistic and unflinchingly honest.If you have any of the illnesses that Norah does and have written a review for this novel, please let me know so I can link yours to mine! I want people to be able to find reviews from people that can really attest to the mental health representation!
As if it couldn’t get any better, this is also a #ownvoices novel!
I love, love, loved it, and I highly, highly recommend Under Rose-Tainted Skies. A solid five stars from me!
Have you read Under Rose-Tainted Skies? Did you enjoy it, if you have? And if you haven’t, have I convinced you to pick it up? Tell me in the comments! 🙂
Quick note: If I said anything offensive or insensitive in this post, be it my descriptions of Norah’s illnesses, any terminology that I used, or an additional trigger warning that should be included, please do not hesitate to let me know! I want to make my blog a safe space for all readers!