Book Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

under rose-tainted skies via paper trail diary

Perfection is a feeling; you’ll know it if you’ve ever questioned the competency of your penmanship before writing on the first page of a new notebook.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall, via Clarion Books, out now.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is one of my favourite books of 2017 so far. When I first heard of it, I was hesitant, because it sounded a lot like Everything, Everything and Finding Audrey, but I’m glad I was proven wrong. While the main characters of all three books are girls who are stuck in their homes for some illness reason, only this one explains mental illness so beautifully.

Norah’s body won’t let her outside the house. When she has a therapy appointment, her mother has to drag her down the driveway to the car because she’ll collapse. Between anxiety, OCD, and agoraphobia, Norah’s hit a thousand times, every day, pretty hard. You’d be exhausted too. But she takes it, she’s grown used to it.

They, the geeks that deal in brain stuff, they’re the one who christened what I have an invisible illness, but I often wonder if they’re really looking. Beyond the science stuff. It doesn’t bleed or swell, itch or crack, but I see it, right there on my face. It’s like decay, this icky green color, as if my life were being filmed through a gray filter. I lack light, am an entire surface area that the sun can’t touch.

She knows how to handle herself, as much as she misses having a life and being outside of her house. She’s been getting by just fine until she notices that the boy who just moved in next door, Luke, has noticed her through the window. But things get a lot worse when Norah’s mom was in a car accident and has to stay at the hospital, leaving Norah all alone without any help. When groceries are delivered to the house but left on the porch, Norah tries to reach them with a broom from the front door, but thankfully, Luke comes to the rescue. From there, Norah learns how to let Luke in, and Luke learns what it’s like for Norah. Of course, it’s pretty hard to date when one person can’t leave their house without passing out. But their relationship blossoms nonetheless. And it’s friggin adorable.

What I loved most about this book is Louise’s writing, how she describes what Norah goes through. I felt like I was riding along Norah’s thought processes, feeling what it would feel like to have OCD and anxiety like hers. I was fascinated, and I’d recommend this as a way for people to learn how to understand those disorders.

Here are some of my favourite gorgeous quotes:

“I miss the days when I could have a panic attack in peace.”

“I’m more thought than flesh; a thousand questions flop down with me and make the room shake like an earthquake is running right through it.”

“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. The best you can hope for is to contain it, make it as small as possible so it stops being intrusive. Am I coping? Yes, but it’s taking a monumental amount of effort to keep the dynamite inside my stomach from exploding.”

“Whether I like to admit it or not, anxiety has become my best friend. It’s a crutch that helps me hobble through life. It’s the brassy bitch at school that I don’t like, but being her BFF makes me popular. Or the school bully that I don’t really want to be around, but being his friend means I don’t want to get beat up. I don’t know how to be safe without it. We’re buddies. It’s like they say: keep your friends close, your enemies closer.”

It’s not included in the final copy, but in the ARC, there was a note from Louise explaining her background to the story. She wrote about how it stemmed from her own issues with anxiety, and how Norah emerged from her notes of what was going on in her head. She also wrote how she believes passionately in talking about mental health, which is obviously something I really admire.

But while Norah was so strong, there were a few things in the story that could have used more fleshing out, like why Norah’s mom had to be mysteriously in the hospital for so long besides being an excuse for Norah and Luke to become closer, and maybe a bit more about Norah’s past. I also have an issue with the ending, but I can see why it went the way it did. Overall, I feel so warm and loving towards this book and Norah and I hope more people pick it up. I’m definitely interested in reading more from Louise.

[I received this book from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review; this did not affect my opinion of the book whatsoever.]

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