Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Under Rose-Tainted Skies Book Poster Image
Mental health issues meet romance in witty, touching story.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A realistic, first-person look into what it's like to have OCD, agoraphobia (fear of going outside), severe anxiety, and the impulse to self-harm. Literature mentioned include The Picture of Dorian Gray, Pride and Prejudice, Macbeth, and the works of Sylvia Plath. Some discussion of Parisian culture.

Positive Messages

The book's biggest message is that bravery comes in many forms. For example, Norah is housebound because of her mental illness, but she still forces herself to try to make small, incremental changes to her life. Other positive messages: You can't control everything; being different is a good thing; you're stronger than you think; put trust in others; everyone has issues and problems to deal with; and the ability to forgive is crucial in getting through life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the main characters in the book are positive role models. Norah's smart and brave, even though she doesn't think she is. Luke's an empathetic, caring guy. Norah's mom is supportive and patient. Dr. Reeves gives Norah excellent advice on coping from day to day and helps Norah make progress with her illnesses.


Descriptions of cutting and the aftereffects. A character has to crawl across cut glass to get to safety, and the pain and wounds are described.


Much of the book is devoted to Norah and Luke's possible romance, so there's romantic longing and wondering about kissing and touching. Norah watches and describes videos of people kissing. A few characters kiss. Two teens watch a movie that has a sex scene, but it's not described graphically. 


Characters swear a little, mostly for emphasis, including "f--k" and its variations, "s--t," "bastard," "butt," "ass," "damn," "bitch," "God," "a--hole," and "hell."


Some products and media used for scene setting: Ford Capri, Pokémon, Google, Transformers movie, Purell, Pepsi, Sunny D, MTV, Volkswagen, Chuck Taylors, eBay, Nissan, SpongeBob Squarepants, iPod, Cheetos, Cartoon Network.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of high school kids drinking at a party, but it isn't shown. Norah makes a joke about someone acting high because he's not making sense. Norah's mom talks about smelling pot on an employee.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Under Rose-Tainted Skies tells the story of a teen girl, Norah, who's been housebound for four years due to mental illness. Norah's life takes a turn when an interesting boy moves in next door. The book gives a realistic look at the struggles of mentally ill people and how it affects those closest to them. Most of the characters are good, caring people. The book has little sex (with chaste kissing only), violence, or drinking and drugs. The characters swear a little (including "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "bastard") but not frequently. Readers will come away with a better understanding of different mental illnesses and how they affect even seemingly simple aspects of a sufferer's daily life.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8-year-old Written bymeganaking April 22, 2019

Good Mental Health Novel

This is a great novel that gives good insight into mental health. I would recommend it to more mature teens for the only reason that the author goes into great... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byJC1226 December 15, 2019

An eye opening book

I think it is good for kids 12 and up because it gives a message about kids that could be the same age as you and have a mental illness are no different from an... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCynder October 29, 2019

Great book with mature subjects

I read this book for a school project it was hard to read sometimes due to the suffering the character was going through. This book is definitely only for kids... Continue reading

What's the story?

UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES tells the story of Norah, a teen who battles OCD, agoraphobia (fear of going outside), and anxiety. She's been mostly housebound for four years, after experiencing a severe anxiety attack at school. Her solitude is upended when she makes eye contact through her window with Luke, the new boy next door. She's interested in getting to know him but thwarted by her fear and anxiety. They begin a slow, halting friendship. Norah hopes it can grow into something more but despairs over how she could ever have a relationship, given her issues. Meeting Luke also spurs Norah to think more about her future and wonder about what kind of life she'll have if she doesn't make progress in dealing with her mental health. A few other surprising events push Norah further out of her comfort zone. She learns she's braver and stronger than she imagined. Author Louise Gornall suffers from many of the issues Norah does. In writing the book from Norah's point of view, Gornall provides readers with a realistic look at the daily struggles people with these illnesses face.

Is it any good?

A witty, charming narrator and crisp writing elevate this story of a teen girl whose life is constrained by mental illness. When we first meet Norah in Under Rose-Tainted Skies, she's struggling to leave the house to see her therapist. What starts as typical teen procrastination turns into full-on terror with her body shutting down. Author Gornall does an excellent job of giving readers a realistic look at the daily internal struggles that mentally ill people face. Norah as a narrator is funny and self-deprecating. Being inside a teen's head for a few hundred pages could get repetitive, but Gornall keeps the action and Norah's thoughts interesting and engaging. We feel her sadness and anger that her illness has kept her from enjoying normal teen friendships and rights of passage, but we also see her intelligence and wry sense of humor.

When Luke, the new next-door neighbor, enters Norah's life, her anxiety ramps up. She wants to get to know him, but her anxiety and germ phobia are major hurdles. The romance aspect of the book is cute, but Luke seems too perfect. The realism of Norah's mental illness clashes with the dreamy romantic aspects of the story. He serves as a foil and catalyst for Norah, but his character could have been more realistic. In addition to meeting Luke, Norah encounters a few other unexpected events that force her to confront her situation. She questions whether she'll ever be able to survive on her own, let alone realize dreams such as traveling to Paris. It's heartbreaking to see a kid with such potential stuck in an invisible prison. But readers will be cheering her on every step of the way as she discovers she's braver than she ever imagined.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the portrayal of mental illness in Under Rose-Tainted Skies. Why do you think it's a common subject in YA novels and movies? What do you think of the way different mental illnesses are presented in books and movies? Does it match or add to your knowledge of kids with these issues?

  • Norah uses social media to see what other teens are up to, but it also upsets her to see old friends moving on with their lives while she is housebound. What are the pluses and minuses of sharing and seeing so many social updates?

  • What have you done that took courage, in a small or a big way?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories of mental illness and romance

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