In Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall is at her best describing the physical and emotional anguish her protagonist, Norah, faces as part of her daily existence as a teenager living with severe agoraphobia and OCD. These feelings are vividly real and are intimately expressed through the use of a first person narrative. The writing is honest and open, with no shying away from describing the ugly—those moments when impulse is rationalized and takes control over reason. A simple stimulus can easily mushroom into a full blown attack of the senses, jarring reality into a kind of nightmare. Everyday situations people take for granted, like saying hello, become feats that are nearly impossible to complete. As the novel shows, developing a friendship with Norah requires an enormous amount of calm and patience; and the novel provides a fairly realistic portrayal of what could happen when the patience of a teenage boy is stretched to the breaking point. Norah’s story is empathetic and invites the reader to engage in a thoughtful reflection as the novel progresses. In this respect, because of its focus on a specific area of mental health, Gornall’s novel serves as an important addition to young adult literature.
However at times, the novel takes a few liberties in regards to plot in a way that does not seem entirely plausible, given the age and medical condition of our main character. These details are not entirely necessary and might affect some readers’ enjoyment of the novel’s realism, for instance, the long periods of being left home alone and other issues concerning time, specifically the juxtaposition of the amount of time spent on school work vs. the increased amount of time spent on other musings and obsessions, in light of the fact that Norah is an academic and wants to maintain a 4.0 GPA. The time balance here is not effectively met. Additionally, it is somewhat surprising that the shocking denouement that leads to Norah’s moment of catharsis does not develop any additional feelings of introversion or immediate fears associated with the event. The resulting ending is entirely optimistic, which is nice. A more skeptical reader, though, might not view this turn of events in such a positive light.
Despite its faults, Ms. Gornall has penned an insightful thought provoking first novel, and I look forward to reading additional works by her.
Copy provided by NetGalley