Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall


Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

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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?

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3 stars

This book deals with a lot of heavy topics right off the bat. Norah, our main character, suffers from agoraphobia, OCD, and self harm tendencies. Reading her journey, I got a good sense of what her experience was like.

I haven’t read many books with an agoraphobic character before, so  I can’t speak to the authenticity of the story, though if the author’s note is anything to go by, Norah’s experience & treatment have some basis in her reality. Having read Under Rose-Tainted Skies now, I  think that it sounds accurate to agoraphobia and it’s a terrifying illness, which I as a reader felt along with Norah. I’m a bit surprised by the progress she made by the end of the novel, but everyone’s progress and treatment is different, so I suppose I should be happy for her?

I appreciated the author’s handling of self harm. I thought her descriptors of Norah’s thought process before and during the act were consistent with what I know and, while frightening, it felt authentic on the page.

One problem I had with the novel was the relationship between Norah and Luke. It’s beginning is very similar to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, which I read last year and mostly enjoyed. Norah and Luke’s relationship felt off to me while I was reading it, though. I wanted to believe in the simplicity of it, but it felt stilted in a way that had nothing to do with Norah’s mental illness. Luke did not seem to act in a way consistent with his age or class. Their awkwardness felt as though it was taken to an extreme that wasn’t completely believable.

Louise Gornall did a good job of writing the book and the was the thing that kept me going even when I wanted to quit the book because, another problem I had? A lot of the book felt as though it was getting repetitive. I’m not sure where I expected the novel to go, but the interactions between Norah and Luke felt like they were on a loop with only slight variations and it got annoying after awhile. I was getting frustrated with the sameness and with Norah’s over-exaggeration in her way of describing everything. The author’s skill was a bit heavy handed in these moments, adding to the frustration I had.

I’ve noticed something with books dealing with mental illness recently and I’m wondering why it is this way: there’s usually one parent present, typically the mother. Why is that? I’m curious to see what a book like this would have been like if two parents, whether mothers, fathers, or mother/father, were together in helping their child deal with their illness.

Overall, I’d say this book was intense in Norah’s experience, so you should be aware of that if you’re sensitive to vivid descriptions of panic attacks and mention of self harm . It is, however, interesting because there aren’t many books like it that I’ve read so far that deal with agoraphobia and OCD to this extreme.

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