Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.
For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …
So as anyone who follows me on Twitter will know, I have been very excited to read this book – when I heard it was coming out, when I spotted it in shops, when I bought it, even when I was actually reading it (and I featured it in my post on summer releases too!). I made a conscious effort to read a chapter or two a day for a while to drag out the reading process for about three weeks (I can read a book in a couple of hours so this was an achievement) and even when I was reading it, I read extra slowly to make it last long and to make sure I savoured every word, which I cannot remember ever doing before, as normally I devour books as quickly as possible. There was so much about this book that I loved because there was so much to love, and I just hope that this review will encourage as many people as possible to read it too.
First of all, I loved the characters. I loved Norah’s mother, who was kind and supportive, and seemed pretty cool, and I liked that being kind didn’t stop her from trying to challenge Norah in an attempt to help her face her fears. I loved Luke, because he was sweet and understanding, and he didn’t let Norah’s mental health problems get in the way of their relationship, but I also liked that he didn’t understand all of the time, and that his response to this was to learn and try again. I think this made it more realistic, as the fact that he made mistakes showed that he was flawed, but it was great that he made an effort to rectify this, and it also showed how much he cared about Norah. I loved Norah, who was vulnerable and fragile, but she was feisty underneath it all, and also strong for coping with everything that had been thrown at her. She was also so loveable – she was the kind of character who you just want to hug until everything’s okay (even though that would have been the wrong thing to do for Norah).
I also loved Louise Gornall’s writing. The writing was fantastic, both from the images created by the language, and in the way you were completely immersed in Norah’s life. As I read, there were constantly lines and ideas that I wanted highlight and remember. It was so raw, and not a single detail was spared, yet the book also flowed amazingly. I was blown away by the consistent quality, especially as I was gripped from the opening, and my interest didn’t wane at all throughout the novel.
Even though it was meeting Luke that prompted Norah to make steps to recovery, I felt like Under Rose-Tainted Skies didn’t portray love as the answer to mental health problems. Throughout the book, the extent of the problems Norah faced was made abundantly clear, and it would have been very unrealistic to suggest it was Luke who ‘fixed’ her. I was really pleased by the fact that this was not the case. Yes, Norah only made steps in the direction of recovery after she met Luke, but it was because he distracted her from some of the bad things her mind threw at her, and because he was a source of motivation and support, not because having a boyfriend was a magic cure. Also, their relationship wasn’t always perfect, which I thought made for a more honest situation of the situation.
The ending, I thought, worked really well, as the final climatic situation acted as a final catalyst in forcing Norah to challenge her thoughts by providing an alternative that she found even more terrifying than the alternative. I would have liked to have seen a little more of after the incident, as there was only one more chapter and an epilogue, but at the same time, it gave a nice snapshot into Norah’s progress, so even though I wanted to know more, it did satisfy my curiosity.
Overall, I think that my excitement over the release of Under Rose-Tainted Skies was completely justified. For me, it ticked all the boxes. There were great characters, and there was fantastic writing. Norah’s mental health problems were sensitively yet honestly written. I absolutely loved this book, and would definitely recommend it, as I think it would be pretty difficult to not learn something from this book (and also because I am going to be talking about this book a lot, and it would be great if other people read it too so we can discuss the characters and how brilliant it was and the gorgeous cover!). I sincerely hope that Louise Gornall writes another book, as if all of her writing is this wonderful, I will be reading her books for a long time.