Monday, December 19, 2016

DNF ARC Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall


Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Author: Louise Gornall
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Clarion Books 
Pages: 320
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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. 

Contemporary fiction is not a genre I read regularly, so you may be wondering why I'm even reviewing Under Rose-Tainted Skies. This book caught my eye because of its own voices representation of mental health disorders. As someone who has had an anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember, I was very interested in seeing how Louise Gornall would write an MC with issues I could relate to. Now I'm not sure whether she did it too well... Either way, it didn't really work for me.

Norah is a teenage girl who is confined to her home because of severe agoraphobia. She doesn't know why it happened or what brought it on, but she has been confined to home for years, is homeschooled, and has regular visits with a psychologist. She spends her days reading, watching TV, and building things out of food, but doesn't have friends... until the new guy moves in next door. This begins an incredibly awkward relationship consisting of passing notes through the mail slot, writing messages in steam on the windows, and lots of spying.

Although I definitely appreciate what the author is doing with Under Rose-Tainted Skies, I found too many things about it to be unrealistic. Most of all that a teenager suffering with these disorders to such an extreme would not be hospitalized or medicated. I understand that had she been hospitalized this story could not have happened, but I find it hard to believe that someone who has anxiety to the degree that Norah does would not be on any medication and would be left alone by her mother. Which brings me to unrealistic point number two - that her mother would not make sure there was food in the house for her child before leaving her home alone for several days. I understand that this is an important event in the story, but it seems much too coincidental.

The main reason I had to put this book down actually wasn't the unrealistic plot points - it was Norah's narration. As I said, I have an anxiety disorder of my own and Norah, frankly, was causing more anxiety. Every single page, almost every single sentence is Norah panicking over something. Luckily, I do not have this level of anxiety, but she was just way too intense for me. I definitely believe Under Rose-Tainted Skies could have benefited from dual POV, perhaps with Luke narrating part of the story. I think a break from her brain would have made this a more enjoyable reading experience. I get that it's own voices and that it shouldn't necessarily be an easy read, but I also am not going to force myself to read something that's causing extra anxiety.

I think Under Rose-Tainted Skies has good intentions and that a lot of people will enjoy Norah's story. It certainly does give some insight into these particular mental health issues, even if it requires some suspension of disbelief.