A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Louise Gornall
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Clarion Books
- Publication date: January 3, 2017
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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