Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
first published by Chicken House on July 7th 2016
- young adult, contemporary, mental health
- I read the 272 page ARC paperback version
- louise gornall is an #ownvoices goddess
- find out more on Goodreads
★★★★ 4.5 STARS
Thank you to Chicken House for sending me an ARC of this book! All thoughts and opinions are my honest own. Quoted excerpts liable to change in finished copy.
When I got this book through the mail a few months ago I couldn’t have been happier. Sometimes you just fall in love with covers and sometimes you fall in love with the book – this is both. Under Rose-Tainted Skies is beyond gorgeous, both inside and out, and seeing it on the shelves now makes me happier than anything.
Norah has agoraphobia and cannot leave the house without having a catastrophic panic attack. Even her therapy sessions tend to happen in the car rather than the office – if she even gets that far. When her mum has to leave her alone for two days whilst she’s on a business trip, Norah is faced with fresh new challenges. Like bringing in the groceries, which were unceremoniously left on the porch. And, of course, new neighbour Luke just happened to be watching this fiasco unravel…
“Mental health is usually the last place people go when they think about someone being sick. […] I’ve heard ‘you don’t look mentally ill’ at least a half a dozen times in the past four years.”
For a minute I was scared Under Rose-Tainted Skies was going to be filled with instalove. Often, there is a precarious balance with books that are both heavy in mental health issues and heavy in romantic subplot, but this definitely comes out on the right side of things. It does explore the central issues of agoraphobia and OCD and it does have a really fluffy, cute boy-girl relationship which blooms, but Luke doesn’t fix Norah and Luke and Norah aren’t an item fully formed. They have all the normal issues and hurdles to cross which will keep you turning pages – miscommunication, awkward yet hilarious moments, deception and lies – with a few extra on the side.
“It was nice for a second. He made the crazy feel small enough to stamp on, but that’s not enough. That is a fleeting feeling, easy to latch on to from behind a locked door.”
One of the things I love about Norah is that she doesn’t need a boy to save her – she can do it by her damn well self. Sure, Luke might rekindle the desire to get better, but he’s more of a catalyst than the actual cause. I know certain people might look at that and go ‘surely that’s pandering towards the (horrible) boy saves girl from herself trope’ but i think those people might forget that having someone who cares about you is like a little brink of happiness in an otherwise dark and scary place. For Norah, that person is Luke.
For instance, towards the latter end of the novel, Luke decides not to go to a party so he can go and spend time with Norah. As a strong, independent woman (who don’t need no maaannn) she tells him, pretty strongly I might add, that it’s absolutely not okay to let her mental health define their relationship. Would he have gone to the party if Norah was 100% okay? Yes. So why isn’t he going, just because she’s trapped in her own head? I admire Norah’s defiance on this matter so hard.
“I slam my fists into the glass and hammer hard. My other hand works the doorbell as I look back over my shoulder.
There’s a skeleton standing on my porch.”
The ending is not something you’ll see coming a million miles away. It is honest-to-god, 100% heart-palpitating stuff. For the sake of spoilers I won’t tell you what happens but my heart was in my throat and my head was spinning. Good god Louise Gornall knows how to write an ending! And best part? Norah isn’t 100% okay at the end and we have no idea if she ever will be. But that’s okay, because that’s real life, and one or two random incidents do not cure a girl of years of mental health struggles.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies really is just a wonderful, wonderful book. I can’t get it out of my head, even though I read this in May. I would whole-heartedly recommend this to everyone, whether you’re interested in mental health or not. We could all learn a little something from URTS and the cuteness of the romance lends itself to a perfect bookish escape. Buy it, buy it, buy it. You won’t regret it.
you’ll love this if…
- You liked Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything and would love something along the same veins.
- You’re tired of reading authors who get mental health all wrong… Louise Gornall is #OwnVoices. She gets it so so right.
- You just really fancy a to-die-for book on your shelf that has one of the most beautiful covers you’ve ever seen. Ever.