by Louise Gornall
Publisher: Chicken House
Release: 7th July 2016
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
"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 …"
Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a book that I was completely taken aback by, it puts every little thought or feeling that I’ve ever had since living with anxiety down on to paper in the most magical way. It’s a book that I have a strong, personal connection with and it has found a special place in my heart.
The book follows a girl called Norah who is housebound due to agoraphobia and severe anxieties. Louise Gornall captures those feelings of panic and fear perfectly, describing Norah’s mental health problems so eloquently to the reader but what made this book stand out to me was that not only is the anxiety and agoraphobia depiction spot on, but the author goes one step further and shares Norah’s personal thoughts and feelings towards her mental illnesses with such honesty.
Norah worries about being judged and how other people see her, she struggles with feelings of being different and weird, there is frustration there and sadness at missing out on life and also concern about her loved ones worrying about her. Under Rose-Tainted Skies not only seamlessly captures the symptoms of Norah’s mental illnesses but also what it means to actually live with them and how it affects your sense of identity – especially as a young person trying to figure out who you are and your place in the world.
I loved how Under Rose-Tainted Skies showed how having a mental illness can impact so many different aspects of your life. Norah really struggles with relationships and letting people in and I was happy to see that didn’t change and that her mental illnesses didn’t suddenly vanish as soon as she met her love interest Luke. Instead this book took a realistic approach showing how Norah struggled to maintain their relationship. Norah never did anything she wasn’t ready to and Luke respected the boundaries put in place by her illness, only ever gently encouraging her progress. I really appreciated the honest representation of their relationship, it was never smooth sailing and neither was Norah’s recovery process. As she moves forward there are still bumps in the road and setbacks to overcome yet she continues to dust herself down and try again.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an incredibly special and important book that I’m sure I’ll be raving about for the rest of the year. Unflinching, honest and quietly hopeful it’s an absolute must read for anyone living with, or who is affected by, mental health (which means all of us, right?)