Book Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skies (Standalone) Author: Louise Gornall Number of pages: 320
Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.
Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– Own voices; female MC with agoraphobia and OCD
– Setting is claustrophobic and is well-written to detail bland things to actually be scary and daunting
– Narration is an easy ead and oozes with candor and snark; quick page turner of a read
– Romance is shippable but the relationship with the love interest is underwhelming
– The conflict sparking the third act of the story and its resolutions are not justified, lack development, and encourage a sense of trauma for betterment
I may get flack for the opinions expressed below…so all I hope is that I have worded things right.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of Under Rose-Tainted Skies from Raincoast Books.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies held promise and sort-of delivered what it set out to achieve…only to run out of steam at its final chapters.
On face value, it had similarities to Everything, Everything which meant I could trick myself into reading this as a placeholder for both. So I did. And while the #ownvoices agoraphobia and OCD elements felt justly represented, the story’s ending, for me, was a missed opportunity that wove an unnecessary and underdeveloped diabolus ex machina event (opposite deus ex) into the story that didn’t do the story justice.
Because honestly, by the 90% point, Under Rose-Tainted Skies was shaping up to be a near 4-star read only to be ruined by a DNF-worthy end. Not even joking.
With the bulk of the story being set inside Norah’s home, the heightened sense of claustrophobia is not only experienced, it acts like a living character challenging every move she makes there-in. This is an important detail pivotal to the success of fairly representing the characteristics of agoraphobia and OCD. What it boils down to is a continual struggle in establishing comfort and control over the small world that Norah knows of and has lived in. The small details of evolving even the most bland of household items into the damning of anxiety-inducing descriptions is extremely value added and unsettled me as I witnessed the mind not-knowingly push the protagonist to the breaking point.
The voice in Under Rose-Tainted Skies is compelling. Nothing is easy in Norah’s life and the descriptions of how even the smallest tasks become the toughest mountains to climb is presented in an effortless whip-crack of candor and snark. This is further balanced by continual tangents of mentally exhausting neurons firing everywhere due to changes in environment.
However, even if the narration reads so effortlessly and real, the problem lies in how events are plotted. There is one specific event that not only came out of left field but was an underdeveloped spark of conflict that propels the protagonist toward a sense of trauma in order to find some semblance of betterment. It’s difficult to speak on this because I can only react with compassion and understanding. It is just that the narrative created by forcing the protagonist out of security can be a damaging thought for young readers; reinforcing that everyone will go through trauma…but at least you’ll be better on the other side.
I am not saying that trauma cannot be incorporated into any story for resolution and growth. I am of the belief that this random event that held no bearing to the whole story before is not the right one to be used to propel the MC into the final arc especially when its dismissed within pages after, as if it never happened.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the dynamics between Norah and Luke. But Luke, to no fault of his own, is a really bland guy. Do I ship them together? Yes, I do, but when I think upon the construct of his character, he’s just too good on the page. There’s a wealth of issues he’s carrying from his home life that could have been developed, but it isn’t.
Thankfully, Luke is not a cure-all for the illness in this story. However, though their interactions were handled with delicacy on Luke’s part, their relationship is met with conflict that isn’t really resolved with much substance. They kind of enter the last act due to a conflict and– just like that — the end is here and they’re…fine? It’s a bit too open for my tastes.
There’s one parental figure in this book and some of actions are pretty questionable. That’s all I have to say about that.
For Norah, her development arc is a toss up for me. On one hand, I appreciated the subtleties in how she’s owning her life and the mental illness that’s so often taken hold of her, but at the same time, I am still very jaded by the events in the anti-climatic third act of the story that was a jumble of messy resolution for all of the characters intertwined with the protagonist.
Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies had a propulsive opening built atop compelling dialogue and a claustrophobic setting…only to fall victim to an underwhelming end that does the book a disservice. Don’t get me wrong: this story has its merits. Though I don’t want to sound like the asshole who didn’t enjoy a fleshed out mental illness book because of the plot…that’s what it ultimately comes down to.