Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
|Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall|
|Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam|
|Summary: Under Rose-Tainted Skies absolutely blew me away – the writing, the characters, the romance, everything was top notch. At once heartbreaking and life-affirming, it'll take you on a rollercoaster of breathtaking emotion that'll resonate long after closing the final page. Strongly recommended!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: July 2016|
|Publisher: Chicken House Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
A crippling combination of agoraphobia and OCD confine Norah almost completely to the house that she shares with her mother. The outside world is like another planet, and a social life that consists solely of her mum and her therapist makes her feel like she might as well be floating in space. It's been over four years since Norah has really lived, but a chance encounter with new neighbour Luke has the opportunity to change everything. For the first time, she's found a person her own age who can see beyond her normal seeming exterior. Someone who listens to her without judgement or prejudice. Someone who appreciates the minefield of uncompromising thoughts that overwhelm and rule her every action. Love isn't going to solve all her problems. But Luke's kindness and understanding ignites something inside of Norah, a determination to fight, to claw back her life inch by inch from the powerful and unpredictable mental demons that have held her prisoner for so long.
Wow. I don't know where to start. Under Rose-Tainted Skies just completely blew me away in so many regards. Ten pages in, I already knew I was reading something special – Louise Gornall's writing got right under my skin and Norah's incredible voice had me completely riveted. The book only got better and better from there, with a perfectly paced plot that peaks with an incredibly intense finale; it had me trying to read as fast as humanly possible to relieve the unbearable tension, while simultaneously trying to savour every word of the exquisitely written prose. Norah's voice is very distinctive, and vivid imagery is ever constant throughout her stream of consciousness. I can appreciate how the author's style might be polarising, but the narrative clicked perfectly for me, with every comparison, every simile, every metaphor absolutely hitting the spot.
With the book set pretty much entirely within Norah's house, where she is alone for large stretches, we get an intense and penetrating look into Norah's psyche. This is the first time I've read something from the perspective of a character with agoraphobia, and it was as eye-opening as it was heartbreaking. Even as Norah can't stop contemplating the misery of her isolation and the allure of life outside the front door, she knows that there's no way that her broken mind will let her step out of her safe place. Compounded by a combination of other mental illnesses as well, seeing things through Norah's eyes is an incredibly intense and affecting experience. It could all easily have collapsed into something that was completely unreadable. However, holding everything together is Norah's wonderful personality, which shines through despite the heavy fog of mental illness. She is smart, compassionate and brave, with a wonderfully expressive and sarcastic inner voice, despite how awkward she comes across talking to other people. Being housebound means that she's had to miss out on a lot throughout her teens, but thanks to the arrival of Luke, she has the chance to experience the classic teenage staple that is first love.
I absolutely adored Norah and Luke and their beautifully developed connection. It's a wonderfully slow-burning romance, and rather different to your standard YA relationship. Norah certainly won't be going out for dates anytime soon, and as much as she might like to, she can't even bring herself to touch Luke. Yet, just hearing the two talk, while being privy to the fireworks going on in Norah's brain, was enough to make this one of the most gorgeous relationships that I've seen in a while. Everything, from the extended period of initial awkwardness, to the gentle flirting, and the eventual evolution into deeper and sincerer discussions, felt oh so relatable and heartwarming to read. The dialogue is simple but powerful, and a smart step away from the more typical YA move of sacrificing realism for the sake of constant wit. Also deserving a mention is Norah's amazing mum, who has some great dialogue, and is a veritable fountain of understanding and wisdom.
As life-affirming as it is heartbreaking, Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a remarkable debut that rockets Louise Gornall to the top of my list of YA writers to watch.
My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
The last book that had me this emotionally hooked was The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell, while the raw and beautiful This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales is another example of YA contemporary at its very best. Meanwhile, Hurt by Tabitha Suzuma and Born Scared by Kevin Brooks are both intense, gripping stories with protagonists suffering from PTSD and anxiety respectively. The lush style of Louise Gornall's prose also reminded me a lot of Jandy Nelson; The Sky is Everywhere and I'll Give You The Sun, are both breathtaking stories with wonderful characters and relationships.
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