5 STARS all the way.
I couldn’t have loved this book more than if it were covered in chocolate and the pages were made of bacon.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a charming, unwavering, thought provoking, sweet, funny (like, really funny), and sad look into the life of a teenage girl caught up in the web of her mental illness. What makes this book special is that its breadth and introspection speaks to everyone in some way. The reader doesn’t have to be suffering from agoraphobia to understand and connect with Nora, because many of Nora’s fixations and phobias stem from thoughts we’ve all had on some level. Her thoughts and fears are our thoughts and fears. The only difference is that as Nora contemplates normal teenage milestones and desires: boys, high school, parties, the possibility of a first kiss . . . she knows these things are impossible for her because she’s trapped by her illness. And there’s the rub, the sad truth of Nora’s struggle. She knows these things are impossible for her, and as she lives these fantasies through online videos, dreaming of a first kiss, we see just how trapped she is “I’ve stopped sighing wistfully and dreaming up ‘Dear Diary’ moments as the romanticism dies a slow, agonizing death at the hands of my ODC.”
Given the fact that Nora is confined to her house, the cast of characters in this novel is small, but they each fill large rolls. Luke, the handsome new boy next door is a stereotype-breaking breath of fresh air (for the reader and for Nora). I found him believable and completely lovable. He shatters our expectations of him and while he shakes up Nora’s world, he’s not written as the Knight in Shining armour who will magically break Nora from her spell. That’s what makes this novel so powerful. It’s real. It feels real. And while we’re given many moments of comic relief “How’s it going?’ My voice is weird. I’ve adopted a Boston twang to my accent. I have no idea why. I’ve never been to Boston and I don’t know anyone from there,” and a handsome young man to shake up our protagonist’s world, we’re not led to believe that mental illness can be fixed by any one event, or person. The author doesn’t make any concessions when it comes to the power of Nora’s afflictions, and as the readers, our hearts break for her. We feel her struggle, and we desperately want to see her break free.
As I neared the end of the book, I wondered how Nora’s journey would end, and how her new journey would begin. The twist was something I didn’t see coming, but felt was needed in order to propel Nora forward. And the power of that last line left me stunned for a while after I put the book down.
I honestly LOVED this book, and have been zealously recommending it to friends since I finished it, especially those suffering from mental illness. But this book isn’t just for them. It’s for everyone. We have a bit of Nora in us all. That’s the beauty of her story.
The UK edition is out now: Amazon UK
The US edition will be out Jan 3rd, 2016 and it ready for pre-order: Amazon