Synopses. Spoilers. Sarcasm.
With a heightening awareness of mental disorders in literature as of late, Rose Skies blows it out of the park with a main character who suffers from both OCD and agoraphobia in a heart-touching novel that doesn’t have love as a main source of recovery. Norah is afraid to leave her house and always lets her imagination tell her every possible thing that could go wrong. With a mother who travels for her job, Norah is often left at home or forced outside for therapy sessions. When her mother ends up needing to stay away for more than three days, Norah freaks out, especially with a new neighbour moving in and a therapist who insists on making house calls. The author also has these disorders, which makes the writing extremely authentic and I believe will help people who don’t know these disorders to understand them. I give this book a 4/5, only because I feel the main love interest wasn’t fleshed out as I would like. However, I have to give a warning: as someone with anxiety, this book *stressed* *me* *out*.
I also have to stress how fantastic the descriptions of mental illness were in this book. I understood Norah like I never have another character. From worrying about breaking a leg falling down the stairs to having her mother not call and deciding she was dead in a car accident, I empathized with her. BUT… I don’t think everyone will like this book because of this issue. It might be too much for some people, or they’ll think she’s over reacting and melodramatic. Some people actually are like this, so I think it’s your mental state going into it that will determine how open you are to Norah’s issues. Most YA mental illness books are about finding a significant other and love ‘curing’ their illness, which is not how it works in the slightest. However, having the right partner who understands and helps you is also a realistic relationship. The kiss with Luke didn’t ‘cure’ her immediately; in fact, I almost cried because her Bucket List had ‘kiss Luke’ on it. Then at the end, Luke ends up going to therapy with her. It was a good balance of a relationship of one partner learning how to interact with the other.
My favourite quote is exactly how I wish I could explain my own mental barriers to people who tell me to ‘get over it’, ‘get more sleep’, or ‘it’ll go away when you’re older’:
‘Did something happen?’
The one question I wish I could answer in the affirmative. Not that I want some tragic story to tell. I just mean, it would be easier to explain to everyone else. There are no skeptical questions for the guy who developed a fear of reptiles after being bitten by a snake.
There was a great balance of funny family scenes, cute girlfriend-boyfriend scenes, and panic attacks (cause those are always fun). The new boy next door show sup and leads to a series of awkward encounters starting with the groceries and the broom handle (Of course, his name is Luke. That’s the hot guy name). Norah can’t stop washing her hands, but gets all nervous about texting a boy like a ‘regular’ teenager. The note passing through the door is adorable and hilarious, and the scenes with Dr. Reeve giving her motherly boy advice gives you warm fuzzies. There were also some horrible, anxiety-inducing scenes that drive home the fact that Norah’s brain is a dick. Her brain talks her out of sunbathing in her own back yard over an airplane crashing. No one ‘normal’ thinks about those things, but Norah’s brain does. Her disorder gets to such a degree she has to cut herself as a last resort to panic attacks, which was so heartbreaking to read about, especially when you know all Norah wants to do is study architecture in France. My baby cinnamon roll.
Just a quick final thought: I was SO PROUD of Norah in the end when that creepy dude breaks into her house and she runs to Luke’s next door. While that might seem anti-climactic, it shows how much she grew over the course of the novel – not being able to get her groceries to managing her panic and thinking hard enough to run across the lawn. It’s also sweet that she ran to Luke’s house – somewhere safe.
Rose Skies is a fantastic title that is going to help usher in a new wave of realistic mental illness fiction in the YA community that people affected by these illnesses can relate to.
*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*